Thursday, 29 December 2011

Omar Souleyman - Leh Jani

Omar Souleyman - Leh Jani (Sham Palace)
This time I am reviewing a Syrian record - I am doing it in my bedroom at home rather than The Gate because I fell over and had to go to hospital where they x-rayed me and said I had a fractured pelvis. I fell over on the stage during rehearsals for the show I spoke about last time so I never got to sing my songs which is a shame. I was in the hospital for nine days and then they sent me home but I am stuck in a wheelchair so can't get out. I was lucky really because I got out of the hospital in time for Christmas - I had a lovely Christmas; I got a token off Alfie who I live with and a dressing gown off Wayne who is another of my housemates. It was okay in the hospital and the nurses were nice to me but I am glad to be home and doing my reviews.
        This record I am reviewing this time is called Leh Jani and is by Syrian singer Omar Souleyman who started off by playing wedding parties in Syria but now plays concerts all over the world and has recently done some remix stuff with Icelandic singer Björk who I like very much and have reviewed before. Here is a video somebody has made for the song they did together:
          This Leh Jani record though doesn't have Björk on it and is just Omar Souleyman and his band playing the songs that they would play at wedding parties, the songs are very long (two are 15 minutes each and the third lasts half an hour) and on this double LP record there is just one song on each side on the first record and the third song is split over both sides of the second record. The first of these songs is called Introduction and it starts off with a few minutes of fast music played on Syrian instruments but this slows down and Omar starts talking in Arabic (or maybe Kurdish which Omar also sings his songs in). I don't understand any Arabic (or Kurdish) but if this was recorded for a wedding then maybe he is making a speech about the bride and groom and telling a few jokes. It is very popular in Syria to hire a band and have a big party, this is quite different from english weddings where you normally just have a disc jockey playing records. If I had of got married i'd have preferred a band to a DJ, maybe The Rolling Stones, I never got married though and I don't suppose I will now I'm 67. After Omar makes his speech the music starts to speed up again and the singing starts properly. The music is made by very talented musicians that Omar always works with called Rizan Sa’ id who plays keyboards and Hamid Souleyman who is a saz and bazouk player and it is quite different music to the music i am used to but in this song it sometimes reminded me a bit of the psychedelic music from the sixties that the hippies used to listen to when they were taking drugs and meditating.
          The second track Salamat Galbi Bidek is quite a bit faster than the last one and would be very good to dance to especially at a wedding. I imagine Syrian weddings must be loads of fun. There are loads of keyboards on this one and sometimes they sound like fanfares of trumpets and sometimes like bagpipes, there is also an electronic noise made by the keyboard which pops up occasionally that sounds like a group of women squealing with joy, it is a very funny noise but Arlo (who helps me with these reviews) tells me that Middle Eastern party music often has this noise in it. When Omar sings on this one it sounds like he is chanting the title of the song over and over again - In English the title means My Heart is in your Hands so maybe he is singing it to his wife or girlfriend. I liked this song very much because there are loads of different things to listen to in it and it is very fast and exciting.
           The next song is the very long Leh Jani and before I knew the title of it I thought Omar was singing about Laurel and Hardy but he wasn't he was just singing "Leh Jani", this made us all laugh and it was nice to be reminded of Laurel and Hardy because they were very funny and I liked them a lot. This song is the song that is half an hour long and split across both sides of the second record and I think it might be the longest song I have ever heard. When I was listening to this song to review it Mary and Clare my friends from The Gate came to visit me and Wayne came into my room too and we all listened to it together - Clare and Mary both liked the song and I think Wayne did too; he doesn't speak much so we couldn't ask him but he was dancing along by bobbing up and down on the bed. This song is another very fast song and I think the musicians must be very talented to play this fast and for this long, I think Omar must be very pleased to have musicians this good working with him. I enjoyed this song very much and didn't mind that it was half an hour long because I think that if you have a good song it makes sense to play it for as long as possible.
          Overall I would say that I like this record very much - it makes me wish I could go to a Syrian wedding or to one of Omar Souleyman's concerts one day and have a dance because I think it would be a lot of fun, that would have to wait I suppose though till my pelvis gets better and I can get out of this wheelchair. I liked the songs a lot because they are so different to what I'm used to hearing and even though the songs are very long they never get boring because they have some many different things going on in them. I would give this brilliant record 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Pharoah Chromium - Electric Cremation

A very nice picture of Pharoah Chromium meditating.
Pharoah Chromium - Electric Cremation (Grautag Records)
Electric Cremation is a double album by a Berlin musician whose real name is Ghazi Barakat but he calls himself Pharoah Chromium after a song by the very good Chicago band Chrome which you can listen to here.
          This record is split into four themes, one for each side of the records, and the first theme is "A musical reflection on the nuclear disaster of Fukushima." - I think this means he is playing music about when the disaster happened at the Japanese nuclear power plant after the earthquake there on 11th March. It was a terrible tragedy what happened in Fukushima because it just happened without warning and nuclear power kills people - I don't think we should use nuclear power stations to make electricity because they are too dangerous. When the disaster happened everybody here had a benefit concert which went alright because we raised £1000 for a Japanese charity - This week we are doing another concert, this time for Somalia, where I will sing a song i've written called Soho, here are the words to my song:

Soho by Peter Kemp
I got up in the morning and i was yawning,
I put my clothes on and had my breakfast,
And left the house quiet as a mouse,

I went to Soho.

I caught the bus, the 94, to piccadilly like i'd done before,
then i walked to Soho square, I always have a good time there,

I went to Soho.

I went past the strip clubs and all the sex shops,
I walk past some prostitutes, but i don't stop,

I went to Soho.

I go to a coffee shop and i get a coffee,
They charge £2 and it is very frothy,
I say hello to the people there,
At the coffee shop in Soho square,
I sit outside and have a smoke,
I am a most contented bloke,

I went to Soho

Then I go home, the way I came,
And next week i'll do it all again.

          The music on this Side one of the record then starts of with a sound like planes flying overhead and then a church organ comes in and it all sounds very eerie and spooky. This is a short track and is followed by a sad sounding song in french, the music on this one sounds like music you would hear by the sea-side except it isn't very happy sounding like sea-side music. I think the music is sad because it is about the Japanese disaster so it has to be sad because it was a very terrible thing that happened. The next track is strange electronic noises like bubbling and birds squawking which is very interesting. After this is a tune that starts off with sounds that remind me of air raid sirens so maybe it is the sound of the alarms in the power station after the earthquake, then there are strange electronic noises that sound like a violin played badly, it sounds a bit like the music from a horror film and I like it a lot. The last track on this side is a piece of music that starts quite quiet but gradually gets louder and louder  with noises joining in like a bugle or elephants crying - it is very sad sounding like all the rest of this music about the disaster in Japan. I think it is a good thing to write music about things that happen like this so that people think more about stuff and try and make things better so there will be no more tragedies in power stations.
The Barbican - Horrible.
       Side two of the records is called Feral and the letter I got with the record says it is "five vignettes that deal with Neo-brutalist idea's, science-fiction, after-life and the occult." - I didn't know what some of these things meant so we looked them up and a vignette means "a small piece" and neo-brutilism is a style of building made of concrete like The Barbican in London; some people don't like these types of building and I think they are horrible too. I do know what science fiction, the after-life and the occult are; science-fiction is stuff like H.G. Wells's world famous War of the Worlds, the after-life is when you come back to life after you die like Jesus did and the occult is stuff like devil worship.
            The music on this side starts off with electric guitar and strange talking which sounds a bit like a robots voice repeating the words "Pharoah Chromium" over and over. After that is a track which sounds like the music for a film where the world is ending, maybe because of the sun crashing down or blowing up, which would be terrible because everybody would be dead and that would be the end of us. After this is track which made me think of monsters coming to attack people after an atom bomb has been dropped, it is quite spooky music and I suppose some people might not like it because it might scare them but I liked it a lot. The next piece of music sounds a bit like digeridoo music except it is electronic; it sounds like music that would make you go mad if you listened to it too much because the electric noises makes your ears feel funny but I still liked it. The last song on this side sounds to me like the world waking up again after it has died, I think after the world dies everything should come back again and be happy and laugh and dance like after the war but I don't think that can happen really.
           The Third side of the two records is called Ghost and is "Pharoah Chromium's interpretation of new age and world music with strong Kraut influences." We did some research about these things and new age music is music for hippies, world music is music from around the world and Kraut is a rude word for a German but here means a type of music called Krautrock made by German people in the sixties and seventies - we listened to some Krautrock on youtube and here is a video of Faust performing a song called Krautrock for you to listen to:
           The music on this side starts off with lots of space-age electronic noises like the noises you might hear on a extraterrestrial's flying saucer so perhaps this is music made for aliens to listen to, it is very strange music. The next track on this side has noises on it that sound like a spade hitting something and more noises like an air raid and noises like wind blowing and lots of other noises all mixed up and after that is another track that sounds very synthetic but reminds me of a ship coming into land because there are lots of overlapping sounds like a ships funnel…at this point we got a bit muddled up with which track was which because the CD of the record I've got is divided into the sides of the record and not into the separate songs but the rest of this side is very good if a bit peculiar and would be good to relax and sit down and listen to at home or at a concert - it is very slow droney music and that is why i think it would be good to relax to.
            The last of the record is called Arabic and the letter says it is about  "The stereotypical fears of Islamophobia" - Islamophobia is prejudice against Muslims and I don't like prejudice at all because I have a learning disability and some people with learning disability have a hard time because people stare at us and don't like us and are not very nice. Some people don't like Muslims because people think they are all terrorists but this isn't true and most Muslims are just getting on with life like the rest of us. 
           The music on this side is based around Arabic music and features an Instrument called a Saz which is a lovely Arabic Instrument a bit like a guitar. Here is a video clip of somebody playing a Saz in a barbershop:
          The side starts off then with the Saz music and electronic whooping and fizzing noises in the background and it reminds me of a busy market place; Shepherds Bush where I live has a very good market that I like very much, you can get Cd's and DVD's and falafel and fish and clothes there and it seems like a very happy place. After this fast song things slow down a bit and the next track starts of with mainly just Saz music which is very nice to listen to and then there is the sound of a man shouting, I don't know what he is saying because it's in Arabic but it sounds like he is very angry about something. The last track on this side starts of sounding a bit like a band rehearsing for something and then it starts sounding less like a rehearsal and you can hear somebody singing in the background it is a very interesting track and a good way to end the record.
         Overall I would say this record was a very good record to listen to and I learnt a lot while I was listening to it, I am glad my friend Ed sent it to me. I would give this record 10 out of 10.