Omar Souleyman: Erbil Album Evaluation

It’s been a turbulent few years for dabke-techno king Omar Souleyman. In 2021 the Syrian singer was arrested in Urfa, town in southeastern Turkey the place he had been dwelling and working a bakery since escaping Syria’s civil warfare in 2011. Accused of being a member of the Syrian Kurdish Individuals’s Safety Models (YPG) militia, which authorities in Ankara contemplate a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Staff’ Get together (PKK), Souleyman was held for a bit of over 24 hours earlier than being launched with out costs.

Other than pertaining to themes of exile on current albums, Souleyman’s music has by no means been overtly political (a selection that has typically drawn criticism from fellow Syrians). However rising up as a Sunni Arab in Syria’s culturally numerous al-Hasakah area, he absorbed Kurdish, Assyrian, and even Turkish and Iraqi influences, typically singing in Kurdish and collaborating with Kurdish artists, resembling his former longtime keyboard participant Rizan Sa’id. Since leaving Turkey after his arrest, Souleyman has discovered a brand new dwelling in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish Area, and it’s to this historical metropolis—which, in distinction to the repressive regime in Turkey, provided him solace amid its numerous cultural milieu—that he dedicates his fifth studio album.

Erbil, his third full-length for Diplo’s Mad First rate (and one among over 500 albums general, when you consider the lore), celebrates the brand new experiences and friendships that Souleyman encountered there. For non-Arabic audio system that’s arduous to know, as a result of the label provides no lyrics or translations—a notable omission, contemplating Souleyman’s worldwide viewers. However in a manner this follows the identical patterns which have characterised his trajectory since he was first plucked from relative obscurity in Syria and offered to the remainder of the world. For a lot of, Souleyman would be the solely dabke artist they ever come throughout. Decontextualized and inscrutable behind his darkish sun shades, he initiatives an aura of unknowability and distance.

Since Souleyman’s worldwide breakthrough in 2007 with Elegant Frequencies’ compilation Freeway to Hassake, he’s amassed tons of of thousands and thousands of YouTube views and change into the face of dabke within the Western world, collaborating with a assorted bunch of artists, from Björk to Gorillaz and 4 Tet. On Erbil, he sticks to the time-tested components that has propelled him so far: his emotion-filled baritone gliding over a cascade of whirling saz traces, (principally) digital simulations of devices resembling oud, mijwiz, and arghul, and rock-solid, trance-inducing beats.

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