The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

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.