Speaking of Syria and avoiding the current civil war seems to be inappropriate. But on the other side wouldn’t it be too close-minded to reduce such a cultural rich country to this harsh conflict that’s constantly tearing these people apart while we – the Western society – are watching? We’re paralyzed by the media coverage and unable to differentiate between the fighting parties. And above all this we forget about the rest of Syria. The rich cultural life and all the possibilities within it. Here to remind us of this tradition and bringing it to the future is OMAR SOULEYMAN, a 47-year old former wedding singer who’s now ready to become the traveller between two musical worlds that have more in common as you might suggest.
OMAR SOULEYMAN has been musical active for years, plenty of bootleg live recordings have been released. But ever since American label Sublime Frequencies started releasing his music in the Western world he slowly became something like a big insider tip. BJÖRK, Damon Albarn and Dan Snaith aka CARIBOU are already big fans. And Kieran Hebden – the man behind FOUR TET – is yet another one. He produced SOULEYMAN‘s latest longplayer Wenu Wenu which is out these days. It’s a clever move to open up Hebden’s fans for the Arabic sound. Wenu Wenu is a record that is able to bridge musical and cultural gaps. Although the musicians probably never had such an ambitious plan when they start recording the album.
In the end the new OMAR SOULEYMAN record is still more Syrian than Soho. What Hebden basically did was adding a few sound ideas and making the beats a bit slicker. But sill, its mainly the hypnotic voice of the singer that marks the main element of the music. Plus the Bouzouki, a traditional plucked string instrument, which is heavily featured throughout the album. Hebden added electronic distortion to the traditional sound which makes it sound even more spaced out. Same goes for the Zurna. These exotic elements team up with quite basic dance beats which really sound like Hebden had fun producing them. It’s less about the complex electronica of FOUR TET here, more about basic, very old-school-like house and dance beats. It’s about keeping it simple and effective by giving the traditional sounds a maximum of space.
The first half of the album is quite energetic. From the epic title track, to the powerful Ya Yumma (and a fulminant Bouzouki finale) and the disco-like Nahy. OMAR SOULEYMAN and Hebden keep it wild and furious. After all, this is a dance record. Still, in the end with the tunes Mawal Jamar and Yagbuni, they are slowing down the pace which is quite helpful. Otherwise it could have been a bit too much of everything. Especially when your ears might not be used to these sort of music. Wenu Wenu really is a record that works as a mixture of different musical words. It’s not just a dance record of Western standards with a few Arabian elements, it really takes the best of both universes. And with Western pop music stuck in a retro spiral it might be finally time to look beyond our normal cultural boarders and embrace the excitement of the unknown. Come on, people… let’s be a bit wiser than our political leaders here.