Omar Souleyman brought his Syrian folk to 24 Kitchen Street and Getintothis’ Sinead Nunes was there to feel the vibes.
Its not often that you see cultures collide in such a beautiful way, but Saturday night saw a real mix of savvy students and keen musos dancing to the sounds of the Syrian wedding singer alongside an ecstatic middle eastern community.
Opening the show was a DJ set from 24 Kitchen Street and Kazimier regular Jacques Malchance. Playing a heady mix of Arabic and Middle Eastern inspired electronica, the room was filled with gyrating bodies, from pogo-ing middle aged men to young gig-goers discovering this unique music for the first time. Our main thought as the energy in the room continued to rise: this is going to go OFF!
Omar Souleyman has become a cult icon since war broke out in Syria in 2011. Previously writing and performing love songs for couples tying the knot (with a back catalogue of over 500 albums) his music has reached a new western audience since he was forced to move to Turkey and subsequently signed to Sublime Frequencies, before current label Monkeytown.
Whispers travelled quickly around the outdoor smoking area as Malchance’s set started to wind up and word spread: Omar is in the building.
Rushing back inside, it was impossible to get a worthy viewing spot as bodies filled the space, but it didn’t matter, as the crowd made their own visuals with some of the most unexpected and impressive dance-offs and spontaneous solos we’ve seen in the Baltic Triangle.
From the minute he graced the stage, his 75 minute (or longer?) set inspired a party atmosphere, and he reacted with a constant stream of uninterrupted “Syrian folk-techno”. Riotously upbeat, with fluttering keyboard melodies, hand claps and pounding synthesised beats, he performed a range of songs from his much loved albums Wenu Wenu, Bahdeni Nami and To Syria, With Love.
Inspired in part by dabke, a sort of Middle Eastern line-dance seen often at weddings and other familial occasions, the crowd reacted to his music in kind, and the atmosphere will be unforgettable.
Being part of such a night, where dancing, unity and ear to ear grins trumped the queue for the bar felt truly special – a real coup for independent venue 24 Kitchen Street, and a brilliant experience for anyone who made it. Here’s to more as Souleyman continues his non-stop party of a European tour.
TONIGHT!!! Can't believe I'm opening for this legend! Beyond honoured and excited! New Date – 23 Feb, Omar Souleyman – 24 Kitchen Street – 24 Kitchen Street https://t.co/JoLu5ZTZaM
— Jacques Malchance (@jacquemalchance) February 23, 2019
Images by Getintothis’ Marty Saleh