Omar Souleyman‚Äôs story has now spread across the U.S., but his story should be of interest to late bloomers especially. Hailing from a small town in Syria, he began singing at weddings only at age 30. This isn‚Äôt your average wedding singer though; Syrian wedding party music carries tremendous energy, with an emcee toasting guests and working behind a blistering band. But Souleyman took this further. Along with a handful of young collaborators, he developed even more high-energy party music to go with the dabke folk dance, totally in command of dozens or hundreds of wedding guests. While Souleyman had made a name for himself as a live performer, by the mid-‚Äė90s he could also be found on hundreds of cassette releases in Syria. Many of these were raw recordings from the weddings themselves, and it‚Äôs this frenetic live energy that the original Leh Jani recording, made direct to tape in 1998, was trying to capture.
Having not been to a Syrian wedding, I think it‚Äôs pretty safe to say that they found what they were looking for here. The original 30-minute ‚ÄúLeh Jani‚ÄĚ track is fantastic: synths and guitars shredding and taking left turns at insane tempos, with endless energy. The title track is bolstered by a sidelong introduction and the track ‚ÄúSalamat Galbi Bidek (My Heart Is In Your Hands),‚ÄĚ both of which are just as great. Simply put, this is an essential addition to the western Souleyman experience.
This is actually the very first of Souleyman‚Äôs tapes to be reissued, and it‚Äôs the work of Sublime Frequencies collaborator Mark Gergis. Sham Palace is Gergis‚Äô label, and what other way to start off than with this legendary man? Perhaps or perhaps not the floodgates will open on Souleyman‚Äôs no doubt sprawling and messy recorded history, but they‚Äôre released in an ideal context here.