Monday, 31 May 2010

Konono No. One + Omar Souleyman

If you’re not a devoted follower of Sublime Frequencies or a regular visitor to Syria you probably not accustomed to the hypnotic sounds of Omar Souleyman.
Making an appearance in the city in which he first played outside Asia, Omar delivers his second performance in less than a year at the Metropolis He stands, barely moving, delivering his vocals over aggressive, frenetic electronic synthesized bouzouk and wild keyboard melodies. His music is hypnotic sending the crowed into a kind of trance. Described as Jihadi techno Omar takes you through a journey of Syrian pop folk sensationalism The Metropolis came alive with Omar’s classical Arabic mawal-style vocalization gives way to high-octane Syrian Dabke (the regional folkloric dance and party music), Iraqi Choubi and a host of Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish styles, among others. Dressed in typical Syrian fashion wearing a red and white hatta and black sunglasses, this amalgamation is truly the sound of Syria. I consider myself somewhat conditioned to the sounds of fast beats but this was like being transported into Syrian Berghain but I felt my brain was going to explode from the intensity of his music. The crowd responded by dancing erratically it hard to dance consistently when the rhythm is so broken. With some of the track titles translating to ‘All the Girls Are Engaged’ and ‘The Bedouin Tattoo’ it anchors the music in lo-fi techno infused rhythmic vocal mastery. This veteran vocalist and his band will be performing at Pavement currated ATP on 14-16th May. If there is a more surprising convergence of cultures I’d like to see it. Being hailed as sounding like Lee Perry to Velvet Underground, Konono No.1 There was something very professional about their stage presence even against the backdrop of their DIY equipment. Two large bullhorn speakers emit their distinctive out-there organic beats that propel the band to the edge of the electronic avant-garde and ultimately won over their western fans. Having a prestigious catalogue of performances from Womad to ATP Konono No.1 do not jeopardize their original sound. Performing to promote the release of their new album ‘Assusme Crash Position’, Konono No. 1 were back with the raw matching percussion against chanting vocals in lengthy pieces that echoed traditional trance songs, driven on by improvisations of rapid-fire riffs and hypnotic solo work from Augustin, son of the bands founder. There are six members in the current lineup, although there was only one drummer tonight and two of them providing the driving, insistent percussion, and the other three holding likembe thumb pianos – ancient African instruments constructed from a wooden box and metal tongues jutting out, massively amplified. They held the crowd rapt with their crisp clear traditional notes. This decades old act have certainly have come along way from being whisked from small village in Congo.

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