5 Reasons to go and see... Omar Souleyman
1.) He’s Syria’s biggest star
In the cassette stalls of Damascus, Omar Souleyman is king, with over 500 releases to his name. He plays around 20 weddings and parties a month and is also popular in parts of Turkey and the Gulf. His biggest hit, the frankly awesome ‘Leh Jani’, has over 500,000 views on YouTube.
2.) It’s the street sound of Damascus
Souleyman has modernised the Syrian hand-holding party dance, the Dabke. Keyboardist Rizan Sai’d sticks to traditional Arabic riffs and scales, but uses darbouka drum loops and samples of mizmar reeds.
3.) You’ll dance!
From Glasgow’s Stereo, to Barcelona’s Sonar Festival, dancefloors went wild for Souleyman’s 2009 tour, and he’s probably about to do the same thing at the upcoming ATP festival, curated by Pavement. It’s not hard to see why: the relentless rhythms, wailing synths and dizzying lute solos create a joyous, energetic setting for Souleyman’s powerful vocals.
4.) The poetry
Souleyman is immersed in Syrian poetic tradition and performs ‘the Ataba’ – a style of folk-poetry – with his lyricist Mahmoud Harbi standing nearby (often chain smoking). The poet whispers his improvised lines to Souleyman, using the singer as a conduit.
5.) The shades
With his 70s bad cop aviators, keffiyeh and djella robe, Souleyman is, quite simply, the coolest man on the planet.
Stereo, Glasgow, Wed 12 May.