Maghreb Voices: Birds Requiem by Dhafer Youssef

A Thousand Ways to Kneel and Kiss the Ground

Wanda Waterman
Volume 22 Issue 14 2014-04-04

Album: Birds Requiem

Artist: Dhafer Youssef

“Today, like every day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t go to the door of the study and read a book. Instead, take down the dulcimer; let the beauty of what you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, there are a thousand ways to go home again.”
– Rumi

Here we have one of the most remarkable recording achievements of 2013. This decade’s masters of world-classical-jazz musical syncretism have been amazing (Ludocivo Einaudi, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Kinan Azmeh, to name a few), but Dhafer Youssef is near the top of the heap.

Oud maestro Youssef comes from a humble family of muezzins (men who make the calls to prayer) in a small Tunisian fishing village. His amazing voice (I’m guessing a five-octave range) was first tested by Quranic recitations and gained proficiency when he became fascinated with listening to the resonance of his own singing in his mother’s kitchen and in the marketplace.

When he was old enough Dhafer himself gave the call to prayer, showing himself to be every bit as vocally proficient as his ancestors. He soon started studying the oud (a pear-shaped, stringed instrument), joining a number of musical groups and attending music school in the capital, Tunis. Eventually he felt compelled to continue his musical education in Europe. (Read the rest here.)

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