Fri 21 - Sun 23 July

The Folk Forest. Sunday — 19:15

Omar Souleyman

Who could’ve foreseen that a wedding singer from Ras al Ayn, Syria - with over 500 albums under his belt - would become a cult hero among club connoisseurs?

But there is an undeniable bond between the legacy that the 50-year-old Omar Souleyman deals in - a synthesized version of the Levantine dance music Dabke - and so-called acid house.

In both cases, musicians cultivate undulating synths and effective rhythms, and in both cases it feels like your head is about to explode from the stimuli, while the hips take on their own lives.

Souleyman, who has collaborated with Björk and Four Tet, releases his new album, To Syria, With Love, on June 2 via Mad Decent.

To Syria, With Love is a departure musically and lyrically from his previous material, with focus on more elaborate keyboard and techno elements. Completely setting politics aside, Souleyman consciously shares this personal ode to his native country with an emphasis on his emotional connection to the land and people but not without heartache in view of the nation’s current state.

“It’s been six years I’ve been away, and I’m tired of looking for home and asking about my loved ones. My soul is wounded and it’s like having dust in my eyes,” Souleyman sings. “We are in exile, and our nights are long. Our homeland is our only comfort. Life caused us so much pain—our wounds are too many and every wound calls out, ‘We miss Al-Jazira’” (Omar’s native region in north eastern Syria).

Superimposed over complex electronic arrangements provided by Hasan Alo, the new music is joined with lyrics and poetry co-written by Souleyman’s long-time collaborator Shawah Al Ahmad. Medium to high-speed dabke and baladi styles are heavily featured throughout as Souleyman expresses his overarching longing for collective peace.

Since its founding in 2013, Souleyman has been an advocate for the charity “Our Heart Aches for Syria,” which operates in collaboration with Doctors Without Borders. In that same year, he performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Norway.

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