Abu Nawas Rhapsody
23 februari 2017 Plaats een reactie
Dhafer Youssef | Abu Nawas Rhapsody
By John Kelman
After two albums exploring the nexus of ages-old Middle Eastern harmony and modernistic electronics, Tunisian-born oudist/vocalist Dhafer Youssef turns to a stripped-down, completely acoustic environs for Abu Nawas Rhapsody.
Youssef’s music has always been transcendent. But here, with a trio of musicians encouraging his music to burn with a passion far surpassing previous efforts, the oudist more firmly reveres the jazz tradition even, as he finds new ways to stretch its very definition.
Dhafer Youssef’s music is rooted in the Sufi tradition and other mystical music but has always been wide open to ideas from any other musical culture as well as the jazz scene.
With his poetic approach on the oud (the Arabic lute), his complex Arab-colored compositions and especially his deeply affecting singing when humming along with his melodies, Dhafer Youssef is one of the most impressive voices to emerge in this musical field in many years.
Testifying a wide range of sound colors, stylistic facets and musical ingredients, Dhafer Youssef opens the way to a new definition of East-Western crossover…
Abu Nuwas, the first and foremost Islamic gay poet
Abu Nuwas, “Father of Curls,” so named for his long flowing hair that hung down to his shoulders, was the greatest Arab poet of his time, or as some claim, the greatest Arab poet of all time.
His full name was Abu Nuwas al-Hasan ibn Hani al-Hakami. Abu Nuwas’s mother, Golban (Rose) by name, was a Persian weaver, and his father, whom he never knew, a soldier from Damascus. The mother sold the young Abu Nuwas (b. 756) to Sa’ad al-Yashira, a Yemeni druggist, who took him from Ahvaz, the town of his birth (presently in south-western Iran) to his home in Basrah (presently in south-eastern Iraq), in those days a great seaport, and abode of the mythical Sinbad the Sailor.
In Basrah, the boy studied the Qur’an and grammar at mosque. His grace and beauty attracted the attention of his older cousin, the handsome blond poet Waliba ibn al-Hubab (d. 786).
The druggist having granted the boy his freedom, Waliba became his lover and teacher, taking his student to live with him in Kufa. A couple of year later, the adolescent Abu Nuwas returned to Basrah to study under Khalaf al-Ahmar, a master or pre-Islamic poetry. He then spent a year among the Bedouin (desert nomads) to gain purity of language.
Abu Nuwas set aside older, traditional writing forms for drinking songs (khamriyyat) and witty, erotic lyrics on male love (mudhakkarat and mujuniyyat) that resonate with an authenticity born of experience, soon becoming famous, if not notorious.
His love poems celebrate love for a beautiful boy, often embodied in the figure of the saqi, the Christian wine boy at the tavern. The theme was picked up time and again over the ensuing centuries by the best poets of Iran and Arabia, such as Omar al-Khayyam, Hafiz, and countless others who shared his tastes.
In contemporary Muslim discourse Abu Nawas (among others) is held up as an example of a civilization that exhibited a cosmopolitan ethic. He would write about imbibing in a forbidden substance, not allegorically as later mystics would, but literally. Yet he was feted as a great poet, which he is.
By focusing on Abu Nawas, Youssef suggests a different way of religious confidence, not with shrillness, but with quiet dignity.