Review: Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis Returns Us to a Lost Era (March 9, Vancouver Fan Club)

(Thanks to winning a ChutziPack from VancouverScape.com, I saw this show, among several others.)

The Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis musical ensemble has a fascinating backstory. Dudu Tassa’s grandfather and his brothers were musicians in 1930s Baghdad. This was a cosmopolitan and liberal era; think of the Baghdad of Agatha Christie’s Orient Express. The Al-Kuwaiti Brothers, as they were known, became famous to the extent that they were King Faisal’s favorite entertainers. Times changed, and the Jews of the region left en masse in ensuing decades, many to Israel, where Dudu Tassa was born. The family history is described on the group website: http://dudu-tassa.co.il/al-kuwaity/  (A YouTube perusal revealed that Dudu Tassa also has Yemenite heritage, another culture with an amazing musical tradition.)

As always when I attend a performance where I don’t understand the language of the singers, I have more space to feel the emotions underlying the music, both vocal and instrumental. The Arabic influence is always present, but the group has incorporated many contemporary elements into their work too, including rave-like bits. For one performance, they wore what looked like pink and blue headlamps.There’s no mistaking the rich and multi-layered Middle Eastern sound 

Egyptian woman singer Umm-Kultum, a superstar in Egypt during her career from the 1930s to her death in 1975, specifically asked the Al-Kuwaiti brothers to compose a song for her. I had vaguely heard of her, and YouTube came through again, so you can see her wonderful performance (even allowing for antiquated recording technology). Sadly, I don’t know if it’s the Al-Kuwaiti’s song or not.

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