Syrian dabke artist Omar Souleyman's latest album (number 500-and-something if you count all of his live releases) arrives on Modeselektor's Monkeytown imprint with production credits from Four Tet, Gilles Peterson and of course Modeselektor themselves. Aside from Legowelt's trippy bonus track, 'Bahdeni Nami' stays pretty true to the Souleyman sound. Kieran Hebden's touch on the title track is particularly delicate and wouldn't feel out of place blasting out of a taxi in Aleppo, despite the fact it'll more likely be heard emitting from a pulled pork festival stand in the home counties.
Souleyman's remarkable leap over into the European market over the past few years, has garnered a lot of interest in a genre often overlooked. For the majority of 'Bahdeni Nami's listeners it's a curiously fresh sound. For those lucky enough to have grown up on dabke and Middle Eastern music as a whole, it's a polished piece of nostalgia.
The joy of this album is that it doesn't try to be overly modern or westernised and yet, in a subtle manner, it is. It's only when you go back to Souleyman's earlier work do you notice the change. That being said, if you were to put your money on a track that had definitely received the superstar producer treatment it would probably be 'Darb El Hawa', the only track that doesn't come with stellar production credits. This slower, more considered effort has a more atmospheric, less frenzied edge.
Needless to say, this record isn't really comparable to any of Monkeytown's output, but it still stands up alongside it - and not just as a novelty. We fully admit that we haven't heard all 500 or so albums of Omar Souleyman's back catalogue but we'd hazard a guess that this might be one of his best.
Words: Jack Dolan
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