The Other Omar Suleyman

Bjork was the guest DJ on the NPR music show "All Songs Considered" and she chose a Syrian wedding singer as one of her favourite musicians. Omar Suleyman is apparently a phenomenon in Syria, although I couldn't find much on him online (and the Egyptian intelligence chief kept popping up instead).

The singer mixes pop and traditional folk music--his lyrics are backed by an electronic keyboard and plenty of synthesizing. They are incredibly high energy, and like nothing I've heard before. You can watch some kitchy-but-catchy videos on YouTube--I highly recommend it. Here's one: 

You'll notice that in the video, at around 50 seconds in, there is a rather grave (not to say sinister) looking man whispering in the singer's ear. Apparently (according to Bjork) that's his collaborator, a poet who suggest verses improvised on the spot.

You can also listen to two excellent songs from the album "Dabke 2020: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria" on the NPR program's web site (just scroll down), and the album is available on Amazon.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.