Fun Fun Fun
FFF6 in review: Omar Souleyman's wild ride
First of all: How exactly to dance to Syrian pop star Omar Souleyman's music is a personal choice, and no one will judge you, because the spectacle itself is the equalizer. In town this past June for Chaos in Tejas, Souleyman's appearance in Austin felt like a not-so-secret handshake, as he played for an enthusiastic crowd of local underground music nerds at Antone's. Friday afternoon's Fun Fun Fun performance saw a different crowd, one that nonetheless took dabke—the traditonal wedding music of Syria—and tried to move around its snakelike charm.
It's sort of a big deal that Souleyman, 20-plus years into his career, is performing in America. Sun City Girls guitarist Alan Bishop, with his Sublime Frequencies label, has helped the musician go from wedding singer to underground hero. With last year's Jazeera Nights, Souleyman made the jump to pop culture curio, collaborating with Bjork and playing All Tomorrow's Parties. Live, there's something sort of perfomance art about it: His maniacal keyboardist Rizan Sa'id supplies the whirring, winding beat, triggering Arabic rhythms thick with revved-up muzak pleasure; Souleyman, dressed in aviators and keffiyeh, is the stoic mouthpiece, almost as if he's translating in staccato bursts, repeating the phrase “Yeeeeaah” (or some variation) several times during the course of a song, clapping his hands. A trancelike pattern emerges, and you suddenly don't have control of your neck muscles.
Viral video star Sexy Sax Man even came onstage for a sax solo, making sure no culture was left unclashed. It is, after all, party music, and was certainly interpretated as such. Hopefully Souleyman will stick around the States and do a few more collaborations. Lady Gaga? Lou Reed? The posibilities are as endless as those crazy beats.