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omar souleyman - Dabke 2020: Folk & Pop Sounds of Syria
Syria's finest export after crude oil, Omar Souleyman is the impassioned singer and leader of the Omar Souleyman Band, one of the gleaming jewels in the Sublime Frequencies crown. His 'Highway To Hassake' album for SF released in 2007 was easily one of the records of that year, rousing acclaim from The Wire, various corners of the blogosphere and ourselves over its shockingly exotic sound and direct emotive rush blended into the ultimate party music. 'Dabke 2020' follows on from that seminal set with a diverse display of Souleyman's repetoire, including one-of-a-kind Dabke party tunes, regional Atabat-style crooners and stunning Iraqi Choubi jams culled from dozens of cassettes recorded in Syria between 1999-2008. The album opens with 'Atabat', a regional style of sung folk poetry set to a dramatic backdrop of droning synths from the musical genius behind the band, Rizan Sa'id, intertwined with Hamid Souleyman's intricate bouzok. 'Lansob Sherek (I Will Make A Trap)' follows with a properly rude drum machine workout complemented by Sa'id's microtonal synthline complexities, before 'Shift Al Mani (I Saw Her)' rushes into party styles with an uptempo rush of drums. 'La Sidounak Sayyada (I'll Prevent The Hunters From Hunting You)' betrays a Western influence with pumping 4/4 house rhythms married to snaking Saz motifs, while 'Jamila (Beautiful Woman)' takes a more reflective moment with swirling downbeats matching Omar's pained croon. With no shortage of deadly party tracks up their sleeves, 'Qalub An Nas (People's Hearts)' adds another percussively driving dance cut, before the magical 'Laqtuf Ward Min Khaddak (I Will Pick A Flower From Your Cheek)' truly cuts loose with the high drama keys and features Omar in full flow. To anal audiophiles the quality of the recordings, taken from cassettes of varying quality, may not be top standard, but for the rest of us it only adds to the psyched mystique and Arabesque spirit of Souleyman's sound. This is another extraordinary release from both artist and label and comes with our unreserved recommendations - ESSENTIAL PURCHASE!!!