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Awards for World Music 2006
Dhafer Youssef (photo - Phillip Ryalls)
In this post 9/11 world, with its centrifugal drift to extremism, a new breed of North African and Middle Eastern musician has been in the vanguard of attempts to promote cultural tolerance and an alternative vision of Arabic and Islamic culture. The Tunisian oud player Dhafer Youssef is living proof that, despite the bleetings of Salafist and Wahabi imams, music still holds pride of place in the Arab and North African heart.

It has always been emblematic of that culture's willingness to tolerate and interact with other cultures. Youssef doesn't need to ride a camel or wear a djellaba in order to prove his point. He only needs to be what he is: a vocalist and oud virtuoso of rare ability, a defiant cosmopolitan and a declared modernist who reserves the right to go where his muse takes him, and collaborate with anyone he might meet there. Growing up in the Tunisian port town of Teboulba , where he was born in 1967, Youssef absorbed the sounds he heard clandestinely on the radio, 'without a filter' as he himself recalls. He had a special penchant for jazz and he soon realised that Tunisia would never give him the freedom to explore that particular path. So he left for Vienna, without a dinar to his name. His peripatetic life then took him to Barcelona, Berlin, New York, Dakar and back again to Vienna, meeting, playing and collaborating. A debut release 'Malak' on the Enja label in 1999 sowed the seeds of an international reputation and Youssef moved to the Barbès district of Paris.

He developed some perennial musical partnerships, notably with the Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and the Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset. Youssef feels a special bond with Scandinavian musicians, which is fortunate, since Norway and Sweden are now widely regarded to have the most fascinating and dynamic avant-garde jazz scenes in the world. Youssef has also performed with Uri Caine, Jon Hassell, Markus Stockhausen, Nguyên Lê and the cuban pianist Omar Sosa, to name but a few. In 2001 recorded the 'Electric Sufi' CD with the ex-Sugar Hill Gang and Tackhead rhythm section of Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbush and followed it up recently with 'Digital Prophecy', another multi-layered, multi-faceted marvel. With walls, boundaries, barriers, labels and frontiers becoming ever more rigid and impregnable, Dhafer Youssef reminds us that any composer or musician of worth must be free to roam, with his body, his mind and his spirit, or music itself might end up being the biggest casualty.

Ivan Chrysler

Official website
BBC Music album review
Hear Dhafer's concert at the London Jazz Festival


khaled , cairo , egypt
i cant explain any thing about the great dhafer

Mariam Sami - Cairo
I bought his CD, Electric Sufi, on the strength of the name alone. I did not regret it. Dhafer has one of the better trained and purest voices in the Arab world. He needs more recognition at home. He needs to be embrased as an emissary of purity and tolerance.

Simon, Hitchin
Met him on an aeroplane en route to France. Great bloke - and very tidy!!

nigel birmingham england
dhafer is super cool.....i feel like im in turkey

Daniel Gutiérrez M. Mexico
Very nice compilation. You give desire to acquire the albums in the originals versions!!!

This man is a winner. Pure liquid gold. Superb in his craft. Dermot from Tramore S.E.Ireland

Carmen Palmer - Perú
Dhafer is really deep!!!!!!!!!!

Mohamed from Valencia, Spain
Dhafer´s music has an ethereal touch, and his voice exceptionally stands out. Good luck!!

Desiree, Brooklyn, NY
This was my first hearing. I found this song deeply moving. Hafer is an amazing vocalist. Thank you.

Vince Millett
Dhafer is a most incredible musician and composer and his voice is beyond superlatives; this man deserves to be the winner of this category. It's almost painful having to choose between such great artists but Dhafer Youssef's music truly transcends the ordinary.

Tony London
Dhafer is God!!!!!!

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