OMAR SOULEYMAN (SY)
Thursday 2.3.2017 @ Helsinki, Tavastia-klubi
+ Noah Kin DJ Set
Omar Souleyman is a Syrian musical legend. Since 1994 he and his musicians emerged as a staple
of folk-pop throughout Syria, but until being released by the Sublime
Frequencies label they were little known outside of the country. To date, they
have issued more than five-hundred studio- and live-recorded cassette albums
which are easily spotted in the shops of any Syrian city.
Born in rural Northeastern Syria, he began his musical
career in 1994 with a small group of local collaborators that remain with him
today. The myriad musical traditions of the region are evident in their music.
Here, classical Arabic mawal-style vocalization gives way to high-octane Syrian
Dabke (the regional folkloric dance and party music), Iraqi Choubi and a host of
Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish styles, among others. This amalgamation is truly
the sound of Syria. The music often has an overdriven sound consisting of
phase-shifted Arabic keyboard solos and frantic rhythms. At breakneck speeds,
these shrill Syrian electronics play out like forbidden morse-code, but the
moods swing from coarse and urgent to dirgy and contemplative in the rugged
anthems that comprise Souleyman's repertoire. Oud, reeds, baglama saz,
accompanying vocals and percussion fill out the sound from track to track.
Mahmoud Harbi is a long-time collaborator and the man responsible for much of
the poetry sung by Souleyman. Together, they commonly perform the Ataba, a
traditional form of folk poetry used in Dabke. On stage, Harbi chain smokes
cigarettes while standing shoulder to shoulder with Souleyman, periodically
leaning over to whisper the material into his ear. Acting as a conduit,
Souleyman struts into the audience with urgency, vocalizing the prose in song
before returning for the next verse. Souleyman’s first hit in Syria was
"Jani" (1996) which gained cassette-kiosk infamy and brought him
recognition throughout the country. Over the years, his popularity has risen
steadily and the group tirelessly performs concerts throughout Syria and has
accepted invitations to perform abroad in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Lebanon. Omar
Souleyman is a man of hospitality and striking integrity who describes his
style as his own and prides himself on not being an imitator or a sell-out.