Wedding-singer-cum-Björk remixer Omar Souleyman is known for urban Syrian dabke dance music. But his hookahbar synths, guitar-hero electric saz runs and blazing digitized hand percussion will probably translate to most Western ravers as EDM-grade belly-dance music. And why not? Singing in Arabic and Kurdish, he pitches R&B woo, invoking camelhair scarves ("Yagbuni") and Damascus honeymoons (the Arab-world hit "Khattaba") with ferocious vocal fricatives, while producer Kieran Hebdan (Four Tet) sharpens the attacks and decays without diluting the style. Occasional Allah invocations notwithstanding, this is party music, to be sure – it's a hot, fresh and, given our domestic Arab-phobia, radical sound.
From The Archives Issue 1192: September 26, 2013