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- Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts by Omar Souleyman
9/10 Li'l Biz Staff review, 01 September 2011
So, Omar Souleyman is a star now! He was the darling of this years festival circuit making appearances and impressing crowds all over the world. This comes as no surprise considering the fantastic work of Sublime Frequencies in bringing this man's talents to the attention of the western world. 'Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts' collects recordings from the now infamous Omar Souleyman/Group Doueh summer 2009 tour and subsequent dates in the UK in 2010. I caught him at the Brudenell Social Club (from which a rendition of 'Baghdad Araby' is included here) and was absolutely blown away by the exceptional skill of Souleyman's long-time collaborators Rizan Sa'id (keyboards) and electric saz player Ali Shaker. Omar Souleyman may be an impressive presence and possess one of the most unique voices in the history of music but it's the mad skills of Sa'id and Shaker that really took me by surprise. These guys are relentless, performing non-stop musical gymnastics throughout the set. I've been after an electric saz ever since. The combination of Sai'd's choice of keyboard (Korg PA200!, never seen anyone playing that beast) sounds and samples coupled with the super speedy fingers of Mr. Shaker and you've got yourself one hell of a group. Omar himself is on classic form throughout giving the music an emotional clarity whilst also acting as a master crowd motivator. An amazing document of a fantastic tour. This is a worthy collection not only for it's superior fidelity (easily the liveliest and loudest of his Sublime Frequencies releases) but for its outstanding performances.
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