There was a glorious moment during Syrian singer Omar Souleyman’s 2011 Glastonbury set. Having just opened to a crowd of sedate, sun-baked West Holts revellers with the trilling saz lines of ballad Saba, he gives one waft of his hand and commands the entire crowd into a dabke-fuelled frenzy.
His keyboard player starts hammering out electronic drums on the keys, while Souleyman wails deep-throated entreaties to his audience; it is a joyous encapsulation of his music and appeal.
Souleyman was on the cusp of mainstream recognition in 2011, releasing compilations Leh Jani and Haflat Gharbia – made up from his more than 500 bootleg recordings made during weddings and local concerts. In 2013, he released his Four Tet-produced debut LP, Wenu Wenu, marking him out as a dancefloor staple rather than an obscure novelty. Now, eight years and two more LPs along, not to mention a self-imposed exile to Turkey due to the ongoing civil war in Syria, and Souleyman can be found on almost every major festival lineup come summer.
Read the column in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 29/11/19]