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On the Road with Rupert
Rupert with Yair Dalal at WOMAD

Yair Dalal is a gentle looking man with his grayed curls tied back in a ponytail. Plain steel-framed glasses sit against a clean-shaven face below a high forehead. He seems almost divinely relaxed in his loose white cotton shirt.

Yair Dalal speaks in a gentle baritone. He cracks jokes at the audience while setting up for sound remarking that one of the universal truths he has come across is that sound systems will give you problems.

“So while at the workshop you learn about sound systems,” he quips as the bustle behind frantically tries to locate a problem with the microphones and he tweaks the pegs on his beautiful oud.

The oud is a gentle but homely looking instrument. Intricate Moslem based mosaic designs cover the front of Yair Dalal’s oud. The name comes from the Arabic word for wood. It was invented in the 7th Century in the north of Iran and the Moslems brought it throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It evolved into the lute in Europe and the loutar, which eventually became the guitar.

“This is the secret of Oriental music,” he adds as percussionist Avraham Shaked Agababa beats out a tentative rhythm for the benefit of the sound crew, “There are no frets on the oud and you can play every note, microtones and quartertones.”

As the sound crew finally feels ready to begin, Yair Dalal makes an introduction for his music and his percussionist who he affectionately calls Avi. “We will try to give you some spices of Middle Eastern music that we share and we play.”

The oud starts off at a jogging pace, the strings striking out a dynamic rhythm - a running tune with chemistry that can be felt between Yair and Avi. There is an almost tangible line of communication between the two. A smile conveys a change in rhythm, a nod takes it to a higher scale, and the two men speak in a language as old as music itself.

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