Syrian wedding singer Omar Souleyman is from Ras Al Ain, located in North Eastern Syria near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. It’s this unique location that has been instrumental in shaping his sounds, with influence coming from Turkish, Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian music, highly percussive sounds that become something more than the sum of their parts.
It’s music that’s difficult to describe, comparisons come from electronic music as all of his sounds come from the Korg of his synth player Rizan, a man who creates specific regional patches on the Korg for numerous Arabic musicians. It’s an instrument that he’s made his own, one moment sounding like a raspy wind instrument, the next hand drums. The result is relentless energy, this insane, frenetic Arabic techno that sounds artificial but feels organic.
Live Souleyman is an excitement machine, like a cheerleader, prowling the stage inciting the audience into increasing levels of frenzy over the feverish hypnotic music. In full flight they’re cultural overload, some of the most energetic life affirming sounds you could ever imagine. Very little can prepare you for Omar.
This 7-track album brings together all new material that sounds raw, like it was recorded live. In fact it could very well be, particularly given many of his 500 plus cassette releases in Syria were live recordings at weddings. The reason it appears live is the occasional feedback and periodic subtle distortion of the vocals, both of which only add to the urgency and excitement of the music. Also Omar appears somewhat carried away by the music, seemingly feeding off the crowd, which is what he does best. It’s undoubtedly raw music, without studio spit and polish, yet somehow that conveys authenticity, and as a result you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Bob Baker Fish