Omar Souleyman: Wenu Wenu (Domino)
21st October 2013
Omar Souleyman has built up quite a following outside his native Syria over the years due to his much loved live shows and literally thousands of cassette recordings (he performs at many a wedding and gives the bride and groom a tape of the performance as a wedding gift). His first album sees Four Tet in the producer’s chair. Simon Tucker reports.
With his mixture of Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish styles, Omar Souleyman’s music is at once traditional and futuristic with some labeling his music as Syrian Techno (this writer can vouch for the power of his music to make people dance after witnessing one of his gig’s at ATP). So for his first studio album proper it made perfect sense that the man chosen to be producer should be electronica maestro Kieran Hebden (Four Tet).
Recorded in New York with regular collaborator Rizan Sa’id, the album is one of Omar’s most personal works. An album seeped in love and longing, Wenu Wenu swings from dancefloor killer to achingly beautiful in the space of a track with the title track being a prime example of this. Although the track is very much in the dance style there are moments when you hear Omar’s voice crack with emotion showing the audience a vunerabilty and a window into the soul of the artist himself.
On tracks Khattaba and Mawal Jamar, the true depth of this album is revealed with Omar’s vocals being much higher in the mix. It is here that Hebden’s production skills really shine allowing more space into the song and using Souleyman as an anchor instead of letting the music dictate proceedings.
Wenu Wenu is a good album and a worthy addition to the Omar Souleyman catalogue, however, there are some negatives. The fact the album was recorded in a studio has taken out some of the happy little accidents than can be found on other Souleyman albums. The album can feel a bit too polished loosing some of the distortion and that rough sound that is part of this music’s appeal. Having said that, the bass sound is superior to previous recordings making this album, more than any other Souleyman release, a must have for any progressive DJ wanting to get the crowd bouncing.
All words by Simon Tucker. For more of Simon’s writings for Louder Than War visit his author’s archive or follow him on Twitter @simontucker1979