Diwan of Beauty and Odd Dhafer Youssef

Cover Diwan of Beauty and Odd

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  • 1Fly Shadow Fly05:18
  • 2Of Beauty & Odd07:00
  • 3Delightfully Odd06:44
  • 4Al-Akhtal Rhapsody Part I06:01
  • 5Al-Akhtal Rhapsody Part II01:56
  • 6Al-Akhtal Rhapsody Part III03:47
  • 7Longing & Saltation Journey06:45
  • 8Cheerful Meshuggah04:52
  • 917th Flyways06:05
  • 10Ode Melancholia03:36
  • 11Diving in the Air04:20
  • Total Runtime56:24

Info for Diwan of Beauty and Odd

The Tunisian singer and oud-player Dhafer Youssef once said quite spontaneously “There is no prototype for beauty”. This disarmingly unconditional statement is in fact sufficient to sum up the motivation and sound of his new album Diwan Of Beauty & Odd.

Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to savour the Tunisian’s passionate, yet peacefully dreamy soundscapes will on this album instantly recognise his temperament and instinctive feel for transcending musical boundaries. As Youssef’s voice soars to increasingly lofty heights, all earthly things are left behind. Unlike most other musicians, who are tempted to keep adapting their music in accordance with the changing currents of the times, his idiom is strictly consistent; only the content of his idiom is variable and brought into line with the ever-changing backdrop against which the music is set. Had it been released five years earlier, the same album might well have had a completely different effect to that felt today, now that beauty, hope and steadfast optimism seem to be receding ever further from our everyday lives.

Dhafer Youssef runs counter to past practice: the positive energy inherent in his songs now beams far more brightly than ever before. He sees music as an elixir of life, a religion — but not in any obscure, esoteric sense of the word. For him it is a tried and tested means of granting people (regardless of their socialisation, ethnicity or convictions) a gift that they would otherwise never have. “There are no barriers as far as I'm concerned,” he exclaims in a mix of inner cheerfulness and visionary seriousness. “Music is transparent. Music allows everything that previously felt stiff and impenetrable to become permeable, soft and lighter. We live in an age of contrasts that keep emerging ever more sharply. It does not bother anyone if a politician holds one opinion today and says the complete opposite tomorrow. My music and the title of this album are intended to point out contrasts and thereby resolve them. The beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad, the ingenious and the stupid. But no matter what happens, I can always return to music, as can most other people. This is why I make this music.”

The main contrast on Youssef’s album draws on differing perceptions of “beauty”, ideas that are at odds with one another and clearly set apart. After all, what one person finds beautiful may be perceived in a completely different light by someone else. “Only those who have seen ugliness can appreciate beauty,” declares Youssef with the wisdom of a thousand-year old philosopher. “Odd metres can be played by anyone nowadays. It is just a question of practice. However, the challenge is to use these odd metres to produce beautiful sounds that can be enjoyed not just by experienced musicians but by everyone.”

Dhafer Youssef, oud, vocals
Aaron Parks, piano
Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet
Ben Williams, double bass
Mark Guiliana, drums

Dhafer Youssef
Born in 1967 in Teboulba, Tunesia, cosmopolitan composer, singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef has been living and working in Europe since 1990. With his deeply affecting vocal style, a straight approach on the oud, charming Arab-coloured compositions, spacey electric lounge vibes and a variety of fusion sounds, he is among today's shooting stars on the electronical/world music scene. World beat magazine Songlines read: "This man is pushing the roots-digital envelope like no-one else can."

Dhafer Youssef recorded two previous CDs in 1993 and 1996 before he started his collaboration with ENJA. Over the years he has been working with Iva Bittova, Mino Cinelu, Tom Cora, Paolo Fresu, Renaud Garcia-Fons, Jamey Haddad, Patrice Heral, Dieter Ilg, Nguyên Lê, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Sainkho Namchylak, Wolfgang Puschnig, Deepak Ram, Carlo Rizzo, Linda Sharrock, Markus Stockhausen, Jatinder Thakur, Arto Tuncboyacian and other great individual improvisers influenced by world music concepts. He always kept finding new soundscapes to go with his intense vocals and his poetic oud playing and finally started adding electric and digital sounds. With the support of Nils Petter Molvaer, Bill Laswell, Doug Wimbish, Eivind Aarset, Bugge Wesseltoft, Rune Arnesen and others, Dhafer Youssef has become one of the most imaginative artists on the crossroads of electronic, acoustic and ambient musics.

Rooted in Islamic traditions, Dhafer's singing is dignified with an aura of spirituality. The Guardian read: "Every time Youssef opens his mouth we are treated to a soaring sound that seems to echo back through the centuries (…) evoking images of dark and ancient temples." When his dark, haunting baritone voice leaps into a hair-raising falsetto, listeners feel "the earth move" below their feet. As an inventive oud player and composer, Dhafer Youssef creates original music both majestic and refined. "Youssef's oud sometimes evokes Bert Jansch's mournful brand of scary folk, at other times it takes on the measured bombast of heavy metal," Time Out read.

Taking world/jazz fusion into electronic trance music with trip-hop elements, Dhafer Youssef is at the core of current cutting-edge trends heading for a bright future. Says the Evening Standard: "No question about it, Dhafer Youssef is a major new voice."

Booklet for Diwan of Beauty and Odd

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