Dhafer Youssef is a Tunisian Oud player, vocalist and composer born in November 19th, 1967 in Teboulba. Descendent of a modest family from this Center-eastern fishing village, he comes from a long line of muezzins. For him mastering vocal performances is a heritage. At an early age, his grandfather initiated him to quranic recitals. Thus, he started discovering the potential of his voice. He found his vocation. Far from the quranic school and from his grandfather’s hard discipline, Dhafer Youssef tested his voice singing the songs played on his mother radio set. Far from rigorist methods, his mother’s kitchen became his first experimental laboratory. At the age of 6 years old, he discovered inside these walls the echo of his voice and its resonances. He remembers spending hours singing in the Hammam of the local village.
Dhafer left Tunisia for Austria with the ambition to complete his musical training. The creative exaltation provided by multiculturalism in Vienne opened for him the gate of a new world with various possibilities. He made multiple encounters. After he’s started musical studies, he realized that he was not interested in academic training anymore. Seduced by Jazz and other musical genres such as Indian music, he multiplied Jam sessions and encounters at different bars and clubs playing live music until he met Gerhard Reiter.It is along with this Austrian percussionist that he formed his first band “Zeryab”.In 1996, his multiple discoveries and experiences in Vienne gave birth to his first album “Musafer” (The Traveler, in Arabic).
This album was the result of an atypical encounter with Anton Burger, Achim Tang, Jatinder Thakur and Otto Leichner. He presents his project to Porgy & Bess, a renowned Viennese club. After a successful first night at the club, he is offered a carte blanche and starts a series of monthly concerts. Over the concerts, Dhafer gains in maturity. The confirmation comes with the release in 1998 of “Malak” under the Label Enja Records. Along with the European jazz melodic structures, the Mediterranean groove takes a particular form. This marks the beginning of an authentic musical identity which is impregnated with the artist origins without getting into typical Orientalism. Accompanied by Nguyen Lê on guitar, Markus Stockhausen on trumpet, Achim Tang on Bass and Patrice Heral on Drums, he was propelled towards an international career. Acclaimed by the critics, he successfully went on a tour over Europe before going back to studios with a new project. In 2001, he recorded “Electric Sufi” his second album with Enja Records.
Since then he has released several albums, all see his trade mark blend of Middle Eastern meets European sound, and in 2014, Dhafer Youssef released his latest creation “Birds requiem”. Constructed as movie music, this new album was a very personal album prepared at a turning point of the artist life. In this album, Dhafer Youssef’s voice accompanies Hüsnü Senlendirici‘s clarinet and Aytaç Dogan’s Kanun. He resumes his collaboration with guitar player Eivind Aarset, trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, pianist Kristjan Randalu, Double bass player Phil Donkin and drummer Chander Sardjoe, thus creating a jazzy atmosphere.
Dhafer has also collaborated extensively with larger groups, including a performance of several of his works by his band with London Symphony Orchestra in April 2014.