September 11, 2011

Omar Souleyman | Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts

ARTIST:  Omar Souleyman
TITLE:  Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts
LABEL:  Sublime Frequencies 
REVIEW:  Syria’s Omar Souleyman is the undisputed king of electronic dabke music. In demand for weddings throughout Syria and captured on hundreds of recordings (mainly bootlegs of his wedding gigs), Souleyman has crossed over from cassette stalls to Western concert halls thanks to Seattle-based Sublime Frequencies Records, who have released three CD compilations of his work.  For their fourth project, the label has compiled nine live performances from his European, American and Australian tours in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Souleyman’s music is distinctly traditional and definitively contemporary at the same time -- mostly traditional minor key melodies, sung in Arabic and Kurdish, played on electronic keyboards and and electric saz (a Turkish lute), and backed by electronic drums at house to drum-and-bass tempos.  Omar himself stalks the stage in a red-and-white checked kaffiyah and aviator sunglasses, intoning words written on the spot by a poet who (shades of Cyrano De Bergerac) whispers in his ear.  It’s powerful and compelling, and must be heard and seen to be believed. 
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