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Middle East Yair Dalal who has been nominated in the Middle East category

Yair Dalal (Israel)

Song : Through the mist of your eyes
Album : Asmar (Najema, Israel)

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At a time when the conflict in Israel/Palestine is worse than it has been for decades, the music of Yair Dalal represents a small ray of light in a world of terrible darkness. Born in 1955 in Israel to Iraqi parents who were recent immigrants, he has worked tirelessly as both a musician and activist to promote peace between Arabs and Jews. His music reflects the traditions of both cultures as well as many others of the Middle East and beyond, all the way from India to the Balkans.

It wasn't until 1982 that he became a professional musician after the revelatory experience of playing with Bedouin musicians in Sinai. He realised how much they had in common with him and this sparked off the desire to explore his own roots after having been educated to only look westwards.

Despite training in classical European violin, he developed the ability to improvise ­ a skill which is one of the prerequisites in performing the maqamat (melodic modes) of classical Arab music. Apart from voice, his main instruments are the oud and the violin, which are complemented by his regular collaborators in the Al Ol ensemble, whose diverse ethnic backgrounds are reflected in the use of instruments from all over the Middle East and Asia. Nay flute, darbukka and daf drums, clarinet, lyre, saz, tabla and sitar all make appearances in his often delightful exploratory fusions.

Over the past decade he has released nine albums and collaborated with a wide array of musicians, including the likes of Maurice El Medioni, Ensemble Kaboul, Shlomo Mintz, L. Shankar and Hamza El Din. In 1994, as part of celebrations marking the first anniversary of the Peace Accords, he performed 'Zaman el Salaam' ('Time For Peace') in Oslo with a group comprised of fifty Palestinian children, fifty Israeli children, Norwegian children and the Norwegian Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta.

His latest album Asmar features original compositions and songs from Iraqi, Persian and Israeli traditions, drawing on both classical and folk idioms. There are outstanding contributions from a variety of guests and perhaps the most poignant of these is that of Persian singer Maureen Nehedar on Prayer For Peace (Selichot for Yom Kippur). It remains as tragically relevant today as when it was first sung: 'O Lord, see our plight / O Lord, answer our urgent plea / Give us peace, give us tranquility in our abodes/ O Lord, grant us peace in our land, let there be an abundance / in the world, grant peace to our kingdoms.'

Jon Lusk 2002

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