Monday, June 8, 2009

This is something else...



Some of you may have seen the piece in the Guardian on Friday, about the amazing Syrian singer Omar Souleyman, and his band (Read it here). I was lucky enough to be at the concert in Brighton, and it was an incredible set. He is the Syrian Bob Dylan, in that he has taken Syrian folk songs (dabke) from the Bedouin tradition, and sexed them up with electric instruments. This is dance music from the Arab world, and not surprisingly most of Omar's gigs are at weddings and other celebrations. The YouTube clip gives you a flavour, and I attach a track (Shift Al Mani (I saw her)) from the latest album released in the west (on Sublime Frequencies).



The beats are laid down by keyboard man Rizan Sa'id. The bouzok player, Hamid Souleyman, is a virtuoso (a bouzok is a sort of big mandolin with no frets). The concert was played in the incongruous surroundings of a church (see the picture which was the best my iPhone could manage), but this had the advantage that there was plenty of room for dancing, which is just as well because the hyper rhythms meant you couldn't sit still. The sight of a leather jacketed poet on stage whispering lyrics to Omar is surreal, like watching a horse-whisperer hexing Colonel Gaddafi. I have never been to a Cairo nightclub, but this distinctive Arabic party music transported you to somewhere similarly exotic. It's pretty much the Arab equivalent of the wonderful East European brass bands that nilpferd extols, like Fanfare Ciocarlia.







Give it a try...


4 comments:

ejaydee said...

I remember when GU posted this video (or one quite similar) a couple of years ago, there definitely is something magnetic about the music and him, with his stoic, almost expressionless singing, a kind of coolness if you will.

FP said...

Is that first photo the Paradiso in Amsterdam?

Japanther said...

Just out of curiosity as a Brightonian, which church was it in?

I saw Sigor Ros in a church up in Kemptown that I can't remember the name of (St. James'??) and the whole sound and atmosphere was incredible.

Anonymous said...

FP, the ├╝ber trendies in B-Right-On might wish it was, but it's actually where Japanther saw Sigur Ros: St. George's, Kemptown. A beautiful & quite plain church with a barrel vaulted roof & plain glass windows (except behind the altar).
GHE