Omar Souleyman

Jazeera Nights: Folk & Pop Sounds of Syria

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Syrian music available in Western markets has traditionally been more classical in nature, based more or less on the dastgah systems and traditional instruments. That isn't the only music in the nation, however, as Omar Souleyman has made known throughout the Middle East. In what is his third Western release, Jazeera Nights presents a collection of pieces from Souleyman in the explosive, hyperactive dabke street pop that he's a master of, as well as additional local pop forms from northeastern Syria and nearby sections of Iraq. The album opens with a percussion-heavy stomp that uses the Arabic gutturals to good effect. Flutes and drums take over for "Ala Il Hanash Madgouga," and a bagpipe sound (likely from the keyboards) moves the pace into a fully frenetic level in "Hat Il Khanjar Bi Gleibi." There are ballads, but the idea of a lower tempo is only a relative concept. By the time the album is turning toward the end, the tempo is back to a point well over 100 bpm. This is pure unadulterated dance music with an ethnic bent, folkloric forebears, and a thick accent. With a slight polishing, it's the kind of thing that would be at home in the Middle East's urban discotheques. Without that polishing, it's perhaps even more substantial, though.

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