Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts (Sublime Frequencies, 2011)
Omar Souleyman’s Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts, out on the Sublime Frequencies label, is a bright, bold, badass take on Syria’s dabke music scene. Chocked full of blazing vocals, driving rhythms and fiery electric saz playing, Haflat Gharbia is ferociously good. With a devoted and ever growing following and the recordings Jazeera Nights: Folk & Pop Sounds of Syria, Highway to Hassake: Folk & Pop Sounds of Syria and Dabke 2020: Fold & Pop Sounds of Syria, folk and pop singer Omar Souleyman has traveled far from his performing at weddings days. Kicking up Syrian dabke, Iraqi choubi and Arabic shaabi music traditions with his particular explosive sound, Mr. Souleyman has now taken the West by storm and Haflat Gharbia is incontrovertible proof.
Teamed with keyboardist Rizan Sa’id and electric saz player Ali Shaker, Mr. Souleyman blazes bright from Haflat Gharbia’s opening “Mawal Hejaz” through to “Kaset Hanzel.” Full-throated, passionate vocals are woven through potently worked tracks fashioned out of astonishingly complex rhythms and dizzyingly intricate saz work. Tracks like “Gazula/ Shift Al Mani,” “Lansob Sherek” and “Haram” entrance with their deliciously savage energy, while tracks like the slyly seductive “Baghdad Araby” and wickedly good “Kaset Hanzel” are just fiercely cool.
Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts is dabke ravishment at its best.