Seems it was "culture weekend" for this east coast hick boy. Last night, Rachel and I went with Rachel's dad Mike to see a show at the Jazz Festival. Dhafer Youssef (pictured left taking a whiff of his musky manliness), a Tunisian vocalist and oud player, was accompanied by three violinists, a bassist and a percussionist. It was a pretty cool show, although Youssef's between-numbers patter got a bit irritating. The best pieces were totally mesmerizing. Youssef has this incredible vocal range and can create quite startling effects, enhanced slightly, but effectively, by an echo mic. Really dug the percussionist, too. He sat cross-legged in front of three small drums that he played with his hands. He also did a vocal duet with Youssef in one piece, which was amazing. The vocals, near as I can tell, weren't verbal, but instrumental, but still one had the sense of an intense contrapuntal dialogue going on.
A strange thing happened towards the end of the show. After the band was called back out for an encore, Youssef was talking and a guy at the back of the room started heckling him in Arabic. He explained to the audience that the guy was telling him to "hit his oud." He continued talking and the guy heckled him again. Youssef stopped, looked out towards the back of the room and asked the guy if he paid to be here and then asked if the staff could remove him because "he is real asshole." People kind of laughed uncomfortably (Youssef's demeanor had to this point been exclusively jocular, so no one expected such a turn); then he said, "no, I'm serious, get out of here and leave more room for us. Motherfucker. You should say in English what you just said so everyone can understand. You bring shame." Then apparently the guy left (I was in the second row, so I couldn't see what was going on at the back) and they did their encore set. I overheard someone saying afterwards that the guy had said something about how Youssef should hit one of the violinists. Crazy.
Anyway, you should check out his music if you ever get the chance. Made me think of Rumi a lot, so I wasn't surprised to learn that it has roots in Sufi mysticism.