Thursday, February 15, 2007
Music I Liked And Didn't - 2/15/07
SOULEYMAN, OMAR: Highway To Hassake (Folk And Pop Sounds Of Syria) CD (Sublime Frequencies) - This is a compilation of material from Syrian vocalist, Omar Souleyman, who, along with his band of incredibly talented musicians, has released numerous recordings of traditional folk and modern Middle Eastern pop since the mid-90’s. Although a true scholar of Middle Eastern music forms would, undoubtedly, break these tracks down into more (sub)categories (and there is more detailed information regarding the various musical styles in the liner notes, which I won’t regurgitate here), my layman’s ears hear two basic styles. First, there are fantastic tracks which contain traditional Middle Eastern folk. The music on these tracks is very organic sounding, with steady percussion in a relaxed, swaying, desert pace providing the foundation for incredible workouts on acoustic instruments such as the kamancheh (an Arabic fiddle), oud, and saz, and, of course, Souleyman’s soulful vocals. Second, are the tracks containing modern Middle Eastern pop. These tracks are incredible whirling dervishes of hallucination inducing sound, with convoluted, psychedelic keyboard leads propelled by blazing percussion. Souleyman’s vocals on these tracks, whether nearly spoken or sung, sound much more bold and urgent, perhaps even confrontational, although I, obviously, do not have any actual knowledge regarding the lyrical content. This is a truly mindblowing release that provides an excellent overview of the music of this amazing artist, the musical traditions of Syria, and is another triumphant public service (and no, I don’t give a damn if they might actually make a few dollars on this release - it’s still a public service to make music like this available to the Western world!) from Sublime Frequencies!
Like I said a few months back, the “shrinking” of the earth due to the internet, globalization, and so on, certainly has both its “pros” and “cons”, but one of the big positives must surely be the fact that we now have access to so many cool sounds that would have been unknown to all but locals and a few hard core musical ethnologists only a few years ago!
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