Dhafer Youssef was born in Teboulba (Tunisia), in a modest family with great musical tradition. His grandfather initiated him to quaranic recitals and little by little he began discovering the potential of his voice and thus found his vocation. He recalls spending hours singing in the “Hammam” of the local village. The ehoes & sounds that resonated in the walls of this cavern fascinated him, feeding his youthful curiosity.
Aspiring to explore new horizons Dhafer left his home town for the capital city. In Tunis, he joined the Musical Conservatory of Nahj Zarkoun. Dissatisfied with the standard of teaching there, he moved to Austria with the ambition of completing his musical training.The creative exaltation provided by the multiculturism in Vienna and the multiple encounters he made there opened for him a new world of possibilities.
After starting his musical studies, he realised that he was not interested in academic training anymore. Seduced by jazz and other musical genres such as Indian music, he particpated in a number of jam sessions and encounters at different bars and clubs, Wolfgang Pusching for example. Finally he met Gerhard Reiter, an Austrian percussionist with whom he formed his first band, Zeryab. In the year 1996, his multiple discoveries and experiences in Vienna brought about the release of his debut album, titled Musafir (The Traveller, in Arabic).
Dhafer began a series of monthly concerts and through these acquired a certain maturity, which resulted in the release in 1998 of Malak on the “Enja Records” label. In this album, the European jazz melodic structures and Mediterranean groove take a particular form. This marked the beginning of an authentic musical identity impregnated with the artist’s origins without falling into typical “orientalism”. Acclaimed by the critics, he successfully went on a European tour before going back to the studios with a new project.
In the year 2001 he recorded Electric Sufi with Wolfgang Muthspiel (guitar), Markus Stockhausen (trumpet), Deepak Ram (bansuri), Dieter Ilg (bass), Mino Cinelu (percussion) Rodericke Packe (electronics) and also Will Calhoun (drums) & Doug Wimbish (bass). It was his first experiment with electronic music. Due to his interest in undulating vocal sounds & resonance, jazz music was an opportunity for him to experiment with his voice and use it as an instrument. And Dhafer’s distinctive sound was solidly confirmed during an inspired tour.
His extraordinary career has covered a number of collaborations: he mixes musical projects & such colloborations, such as a duet with the legendary tabla player Zakir Hussain, with whom he went on a tour of Europe & India, a duet with Dave Holland and the project Digital Africa featuring the virtuoso of kora, Ballake Sissoko & Eivind Aarset …
In 2016 he returned to New York, the city where he he had resided for a period of a few years when he was starting out, and it was there that the long awaited album of the year was born, titled Diwan Of Beauty and Odd, recorded in the prestigious “Sear Sound” studios, featuring some of the best jazz musicians on the New York jazz scene had to offer; namely Aaron Parks on piano, Ben Williams on bass, Mark Guiliana on drums and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet.
Dhafer Youssef – Diwan of Beauty And Odd
Dhafer Youssef: Vocals & Lute.
Aaron Parks: Piano.
Matt Brewer: Bass.
Ferenc Nemeth: Drums.