The rise of Omar Souleyman in the western musical world is a kind of cross-cultural fairy tale. A Syrian performer known for raucous dabke improvisations at weddings, Souleyman achieved international recognition in 2007 on an American compilation and now, exiled from his conflict-riven homeland, tours the world’s music festivals and collaborates with some of the dance scene’s brightest stars.
This ascent has born two albums, ‘Wenu Wenu’ in 2013 and last year’s ‘Bahdeni Nami’, the first produced by Four Tet and the latter with a range of producers including Modeselektor and Gilles Peterson. Thus far these European names have steered clear of changing too much of Souleyman’s sound, tidying the production here, beefing up a kick there, elongating the track times to suit western dance tastes. This is perhaps due to respect for the artist and the conventional role of a music producer, but the fact that the crème of European DJs didn’t leave any fingerprints on Souleyman’s sound also feels a little like an opportunity missed.
"It's sweaty party music that shows exactly why ‘the other Omar S’ has gone down such a storm at western clubs."
When real remixes have emerged, rather than production credits, from the likes of Legowelt or Crackboy, they’ve worked well, and hinted at new avenues in the emerging exploration of Arabic sounds in European dance music. Enter The Trilogy Tapes and their shadowy lo-fi militia Rezzett, who, in a willingness to rip the original apart without respect for its fidelity or structure, have made something exciting and new.
The Souleyman original takes up the A-side, and it’s as good as the best cuts on his 2015 LP. On Heli Yuweli (“let him leave”) Souleyman wishes somewhat cruelly for the departure of a girl who has hurt him, accompanied by a slamming 4/4 and some typically dextrous keyboard workouts by affiliate Rizan Sa’id. It’s sweaty party music that shows exactly why ‘the other Omar S’ has gone down such a storm at western clubs.
"The most interesting results of artistic collaboration often come from a willingness to tear it up and start again."
On their first remix, Rezzett lay the acappela over a crushed rhythm and grainy synths that bubble to the surface, showing just how well the duo pair a punk approach to audio fidelity with curiously emotive chords. They do one better on the Rerezz, which turns Souleyman’s voice into distant radio crackle as wistful synthwork haunts the snare-heavy drumwork like mist. It’s spacey, mesmerising, and totally Rezzett. More confirmation, as if it was needed, that the most interesting results of artistic collaboration often come from a willingness to tear it up and start again.
Rough translation of lyrics:
“Let him leave / he filled my heart with wounds / I’ll let God punish him, he deserves it / I gave him my heart and my soul / let him leave, I haven’t seen him (so I don’t see him) / my hand doesn’t touch his (so my hand doesn’t touch his) / let him leave, I haven’t seen him / let him live the rest of his life crying noisily / regret is useless / why does he want to cause me more grief and pain, let him leave, let him leave”
NB: the ‘he’ Souleyman addresses is his love for a woman. This is common in traditional Arabic music, as the word ‘love’ is masculine.
A1. Heli Yuweli
B1. Heli Yuweli (Rezzett Remix)
B2. Heli Yuweli (Rezzett Rerezz)