Dabke 2020: Folk & Pop Sounds of Syria
US: 12 May 2009
UK: 15 Jun 2009
Omar Souleyman’s first release through Sublime Frequencies sounded harsh, and this second one sounds harsh too, in the same cassette-sourced way. That harshness is a large part of his charm. It poses the question: Will you keep listening when the system is so overloaded that it blats with static? Even the keyboard seems scraped and bleeding. Souleyman is a Syrian pop-dabke singer. Beneath the fritz of the reproduction, his music is looping, eager, Middle Eastern, sentimental, sometimes cheesy, nudging you and twirling its fingers, punctuated with violin swishes. That sentimentality is the camp cherry on the harshness cake: the music may seem exotic to a non-local audience, but the swimming coils of its passing are enough to convince that audience that there’s nothing threatening in it. Someone, somewhere is having a good time. The first four tracks on Dabke 2020 are the most relentless, therefore the most exciting. After that the album calms down, the cheese comes out, and the sentimentality becomes more pronounced.