From Syria, With Love
February 23, 2018 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Björk's favourite Syrian wedding singer Omar Souleyman (previously) is now an EDM star, produced by the likes of Four Tet (previously) and Diplo, and his (longish) music videos are... something else: Warni Warni (2013) - Chobi (2017)

Both videos are directed by Cali Thornhill Dewitt. Further reading: L. Mounzer's feature on Souleyman, from a few years ago.
posted by progosk (7 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Omar Souleyman explains his moves

I suspect, if you master those moves, you can stand anywhere.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:56 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]

Somehow I wound up with one of his albums on my 80gb ipod classic (stolen this past summer, RIP) which I pretty much exclusively listened to on shuffle. Souleyman was one of a handful of artists I had on there that never failed to produce a 'What, the fuck, is this!?' whenever he popped up. Never deleted it though. If nothing else it was fun cooking music.
posted by mannequito at 4:09 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]

posted by nixon's meatloaf at 4:19 PM on February 23

So, who's Ethan? Damon Albarn?
posted by blue t-shirt at 5:42 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]

Can the Korg be reprogrammed to play quarter-tones, or is he doing that with the bending control?
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:45 PM on February 23

If you go to an Omar concert, be prepared to be pulled into a spontaneous dabke (basic version, not basic version)
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 3:04 PM on February 24

Can the Korg be reprogrammed to play quarter-tones, or is he doing that with the bending control?

Some can, but he is also laying heavy on the pitch bend. The guy playing the keyboard and Souleyman's partner for the last 20 plus years is Rizan Said. Here he is tearing it up freestyle. His album King of Keyboard is pretty good.

The music of Omar Souleyman has enriched my life in a very interesting way over the past year. A friend gave me his album a few years ago and I realized that I had already been hearing his music for a while in the Döner shops around Hamburg and Berlin for a while.

Last year a christian family of 8 Iraqi refugees from Bakhdida near Mosul moved in right next door. After getting to know them a bit, we began helping them with bureaucratic paperwork, finding local doctors, meeting the other neighbors, etc. We learned a bit about what they went through during the wars, the aftermath, escaping ISIS, and eventually making their way through refugee camps and eventually to Germany. I'm telling you, after hearing all that, hugging your loved ones has a new meaning and purpose.

We invited them over for a BBQ towards the end of last summer. Communication with some of the family members is still difficult due to the language barrier, so the exchange between us and the family was a bit subdued. The father was playing some contemporary Arabic music from his phone over a bluetooth speaker. When his battery died, I offered to play some music and put on the only Arabic sounding thing I had: Omar Souleyman. The mood suddenly changed and they started singing and dancing. Apparently, a lot of (most of?) Omar's songs are very traditional and are known throughout the Arabic world. It was kind of like that Chapelle Show sketch when they play different kinds of music in a barber shop, except it was Omar Souleyman in my back yard. It helped further break the ice between us and the other extended members of the family that were still a bit wary of us.

In December they invited us to their New Year's Eve party at their church. It was attended by many different refugee families from Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan. It was just like any other church party gathering with raffles and dancing, except everything was in Arabic or Aramaic and I didn't understand a word. And just as soon as they started playing Omar Souleyman, a dabke broke out on the dance floor.

It was a great way to ring in the new year.
posted by chillmost at 5:26 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]

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