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.