Ain’t no party like an Omar Souleyman Party ‘cuz an Omar Souleyman Party don’t stop. Literally! Cult Syrian musician Souleyman is a star in the Middle East, thanks to the fascinating melodies and wild grooves he’s been laying down in both Arabic and Kurdish since 1994. This is a man with over FIVE HUNDRED recordings. Damn. And you thought Miles Davis was prolific. Now, about 80% of these releases are live recordings made at the weddings where Souleyman performs, which are then given to the happy couple. These recordings are later copied and sold at local kiosks in the area. So, if you’re gonna be an Omar Souleyman completist, it’s probably pretty likely that you also live with like 3,000 cats.
The wonderful Sublime Frequencies label introduced Souleyman’s music to Western audiences in 2007 with the release of Highway to Hassake: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria. Since then Souleyman has released three more records on the label — 2009’s Dabke 2020, 2010’s Jazeera Nights, and this year’s Haflat Gharbia (The Western Concerts) — and appeared in enviable slots at Glastonbury and Austin’s Chaos en Tejas. Caribou invited him to perform at ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas festival this winter in England, and Björk asked him to do some remixes of her upcoming Biophilia. So he’s a busy man.
And now Sublime Frequencies’ friend/collaborator Mark Gergis’ vinyl-only label Sham Palaces is releasing Souleyman’s legendary Leh Jani on November 22. Back in 1998, Leh Jani was released as a cassette in Syria as a 30-minute track with two additional tracks. It was recorded by producer Zuhir Maksi to emphasize the feeling of his live wedding performances à la the hundreds of releases mentioned above. “Leh Jani” appeared in shorter form on Souleyman’s Highway release in 2007, and will soon be available for the first time in the US in its original full-length Syrian cassette version, thanks to Sham Palace.
• Omar Souleyman: http://omarsouleyman.virb.com