Omar Souleyman - Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts 2xLP
Label: Sublime Frequencies
We're not sure how a live Omar Souleyman record differs from any of his other records, which were all essentially recorded live. But these shows are distinctive for one reason in particular - they all took place in the West, in front of audiences outside of the Middle East, who most likely had never seen anything like it. And we were lucky enough to see Souleyman perform here in San Francisco, and we were blown away. The sound was incredible - that tangled Eastern psychedelic sound which is already so propulsive and rhythmic and mesmerizing. To see a whole sweaty throng of SF hipsters, punks and metalheads losing their shit, and dancing wildly to these weird and wonderful sounds, it was pretty inspiring. We couldn't help but wonder how Souleyman felt, performing in these big dance clubs, maybe it just seemed strange to us, cuz really we can't imagine any crowd, no matter how big or small resisting these incredible grooves. So here are a handful of live performances, from America, Australia, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the UK and Denmark, all of the tracks here finding Souleyman in fine form, the music lively and wildly chaotic, psychedelic and groovy. One thing this live record does gives us the chance to focus on is Souleyman's keyboardist / percussionist, Rizan Sa'id, who when we saw Souleyman, almost stole the show. Sure, Souleyman was the master of ceremonies, pacing the stage, clapping and singing, hyping the crowd. But off to the side was Sa'id, going totally nuts on the keyboard and providing all of the music. He's a veritable one man band, playing wild melodies, looping rhythms, triggering big rib-cage rattling beats. The best part was that all of those flurries of Middle Eastern percussion, those are actually being played live, his hands a blur over the keyboard's drum pads. We literally could not take our eyes off him. On these tracks, those two are joined by an electric saz player, who adds another glorious layer of psychedelic buzz, and as you might imagine, this is incredible, and fantastic and totally and utterly transcendent. Fans will want this for sure, and it's definitely a perfect introduction to Souleyman's spiritual sonic magic, and by all means, if you get the chance to see this stuff live, you won't be sorry.