Syrian Disco @ Glastonbury Festival
The BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury Festival 2011 seemed to include only one “World Music” artist, Omar Souleyman from Syria. His set was a fantastic opportunity to embrace something of the spirit of the modern Syrian music format which was one guy on synths (playing both traditional melodic riffs and percussive fills) and a Setar player doubling up on the riffs, and Omar himself who was not so much the lead singer, but the charismatic front man who was the face of the music, occasionally giving shououts to himself or singing a little riff on the main melody line. Most of all he was looking cool in his shades and middle eastern attire .
The sonic spectrum of electronica that they were using are characterised by the basic and rawness that is typical of modern middle eastern popular music. Keyboards must be able to use Quarter tones in order to play the traditional melodic riffs and bigger synthesiser manufacturers like Korg, Roland & Yamaha do not market synths with quarter tone capability, so its down to smaller manufacturers like GEM to cater for the Specialist Middle Eastern / Arabic music markets. Our Moroccan musician friends have a special additional pad plugged into their GEM keyboard, that was used to shift tunings on the main keyboard, allowing them to reach all the notes they needed for each composition.
Of course, in many ways I would have preferred to hear these tunes played by a 15 piece Arabic Ensemble with Oud, Setar, Tar, Daf and Doumbak. But part of the raw charm of the music comes form being part of the typical sound of Arabic Pop.
Photos by Valerio Berdini
Buy the album from Omar Souleyman on the awesome label, Sublime Frequencies.