I had been away from concerts and the magazine for a while because I was preparing for the launch of my last single, Past with Loved. When my song was released, I immediately started wondering what concerts were on these days. The Dhafer Youssef concert was greatest excitement for me. The reason was that I liked his style very much and his extraordinary performance in the garden of the Archaeological Museum many years ago.
At his concert in Zorlu, on November 21, Dhafer Youssef performed songs from his latest album Street of Minarets with his band. I really missed the goosebumps-inducing effect of his trademark wide octave, tone and especially his head voice. At one point, my eyes narrowed and I passed out.
The influence of spending his childhood in a small Tunisian town with his muezzin grandfather on his music is obvious. In many of the pieces, we feel like Youssef is singing a ode or will soon start singing the prayer (ezan). We are right to feel this.
Both Youssef’s stories and the name of the album confirm what we hear and feel; his music is basically inspired by religious music. But what excites me most is how he masterfully built his current music on this foundation. There is a magnificent fusion rising on this ethnic infrastructure. It is possible to name his music with genres such as ethno jazz, fusion, world music, but to be honest, I do not care about genres and labels at all. What I hear does not sound forced or makeshift; The only criterion for me here is whether different influences are melted in a melting pot with technical mastery and heart and conveyed to the listener as a single and magnificent sound and feeling. This is exactly what happens in Youssef’s music and what fascinates us so much. A piece that he starts as if he were singing an ode or a religious work can suddenly flow like water with an effortless groove and turn into a jazz or world fusion. Youssef told at the concert that one day, while they were on a boat on the Bosphorus, drinking raki and enjoying themselves, the call to prayer was heard from one mosque after another and how it gave him goosebumps. This story seems to be an example of the influence of religious music and modes on him, and at the same time, his ability to blend it with different styles in his life. And it makes everyone smile: “The muezzins in Tunisia give bad prayer “ezan”, you are very lucky”.
After Youssef’s story, let me tell you about my own memory of Youssef. In 2010, Youssef participated in the garden of the Archaeological Museum for the Jazz Festival during Ramadan. It was a great excitement for me that his team at that time included Tigran Hamasyan on piano and Mark Guiliana on drums. Chris Jennings was on bass. I was sitting in a very pleasant place in the front and middle rows. Coincidentally, Haşmet Babaoğlu was sitting with me. It was a very pleasant summer evening with great weather. The performance was so good that we were truly enchanted.
We were blown away when Tigran’s magnificent solos combined with the taste of his own lands and Mark’s touch and energy were added to Youssef’s vocals, which lifted us from the garden of the Archaeological Museum next to Hagia Sophia on a summer evening in Sultanahmet and took us on an astral journey. As the concert continued like this, we experienced a truly extraordinary moment. At the end of one of his songs, when Youssef raised his hand to the sky and completed his vocals in awe, and the second the song ended, we suddenly had goosebumps with the sounds of seagulls and then the call to prayer (ezan) that started. I remember Haşmet Babaoğlu and I looking at each other with half surprise and half smile. Last night, 13 years after this memory, I sent greetings to Can and Youssef from 13 years ago.
There were talented and mature musicians on stage last night, who were perfect at listening to each other, acted as a whole, and created beautiful spaces for each other without ever standing out, even though each of them was very successful in their instruments. Daniel Garcia (piano), Swaéli Mbappé (bass), Tao Ehrlich (drums) and Mario Rom (trumpet) accompanied Youssef. In a few tracks, the groovy bass and drum-bass harmony that keeps the songs alive; Magnificent harmonies of piano and oud and sometimes wonderful performances as a duo; The harmonious notes of the trumpet, which sometimes continued Youssef’s vocals, and the melancholy breath that sometimes made me feel the breeze from the north, were some of the details I remembered from the night.
When we look at the whole night, I have to say that different ideas and sounds came together with great finesse and created an effortless fusion, and this single sound took me on an astral journey where I would also visit my memories and dreams. I experienced a special concert that gave me goosebumps and inspired me. Many thanks…