Omar Souleyman Bahdeni Nami Monkeytown
You should be able to get a PhD on what Omar Souleyman’s unprecedented success in the Western festival circuit implicates for Orientalism. Here he is, slipped comfortably into Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label with his second proper studio effort. And there he is too, pottering about amongst house DJs throughout Europe, raindrops slowly trickling over his dark sunglasses as he mulls over past years spent in the heat performing at weddings throughout the Middle East.
The closer, a shuddering and squelchy techno remix of the title track by Legowelt really clears the fog as to how Souleyman has such a passionate following in European dance music. The same heavy 4/4 thud, the winding and evolving acid squelch matching the quickstep dance of flanged Syrian folk simulacra; Souleyman’s vocal lines are extended but their simple rhythms and movements are not so far from vocal samples in western techno-slanted repetitive music. The basic elements are common even if it does seem unfamiliar at first.
There is a real yearning sorrow inspiring the husky vocals and this echoes over the landscape of the whole album. Throughout is a level of emotion that was impossible in the frenetic fantasy of Wenu Wenu. It’s a better album, but it still takes time and commitment to become intimate with. Can he maintain this niche? If you one day hear someone that sounds like Omar Souleyman in a UK dance tent and it turns out not to be Omar Souleyman, that’s when you’ll know his influence.