2. Drumming 1
3. The Massage
4. In Sky
5. Objects Resist
6. The Irrepressible
7. Clickity Clang
8. French Teacher (Live)
9. Drumming 2
10. Hit And Squeak
11. Repetitious Iden...
There is no other Syrian dabke musician that has enjoyed the local, regional, national, and international recognition that Rizan Said has, and for that, the world is lucky. Rizan is a musical ambassador from a disappeared Syria, and this is not to be taken lightly. Once upon a time, not too long ago, Syria was a culturally diverse country possessing a certain unity. A place not synonymous with barbarism and savagery. Far from the capital of Damascus, the northeast of the country, known as the Jazeera, was rich with history and culture.
Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Yezidis, and Arabs had lived together for centuries in this largely agricultural region. The area is closer to Iraq in proximity and culture than the rest of Syria – evident in the dialects, clothing, food and music. In the mid-1990s, in the small northeastern town of Ras Al Ain, Rizan Said – maverick pioneer of the Syrian Kurdish electronic synthesizer was getting his start. Rizan was a musical prodigy from a young age – a gifted player of percussion and reed instruments before a wealth of synthesizers began flooding Syria in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Steadfast on the Syrian cassette album circuit at the time, Rizan the boy wonder was already sending his signals out from the Jazeera frontier, thanks to a partnership with local producer Zuhir Maksi.
Live and studio cassette tapes from the region were distributed with frequency across the country, and Rizan was the man behind many of these regional releases. His compositional and improvisational prowess shone both live at wedding parties, and in the studio where he began producing with more frequency over the years. It can be said, that without Rizan Said, a good number of Syrian singers from the 1990s onward might never have been heard – most notably Omar Souleyman, a collaborator with Rizan for two decades. Where synthesizers can bring a certain artifice and death to the sound of music, Rizan’s torrential speed and flair on the keys bring new life to Syrian and Kurdish sounds – lightning fast as required – respectfully forcing the component sounds of folkloric dabke into the next level.
Once exposed to the west via Omar Souleyman, these swirling synths atop accelerated electronic beats easily seduced the "west" – and the world soon began celebrating the dabke sounds of Syria.
What has often been overlooked is the very specific context and vibe of northeastern Syria, where this music originates.
These sounds were indeed designed for dance, but when you’re at a Syrian wedding party, you begin to understand that this has been going on for centuries, before electro, disco, hipsters, and orientalists. This is the updated sound of the ages, where hand drums and reed flutes are now emulated and pounded out on Korg keyboards.
Run it through your favorite amplifier, and keep it in the red for authenticity. – Mark Gergis – April, 2015
1. Electric Mawwal I
2. High Tension Zamer
3. The Impossible Arab Kurd
4. When Vans Turn into Clubs
5. Cosmopolitan Hacha
6. The Man Who Toured The World
7. From Mandal to Mandal
8. Electric Mawwal II
Alan Bishop is a true musical maverick, who spent years playing, touring and recording with Sun City Girls, one of the most thrilling and versatile bands to emerge from the American post-punk, post-hardcore scene.
Based in Seattle, constantly going off in several directions at once, Alan Bishop (bass), his brother Richard (guitar) and Charles Gocher (drums) celebrated musical freedom by diving headfirst into wild improvisations, world music explorations or rocking noise. They fully embraced the traveling lifestyle, too, and it was during travels through Africa and Asia that Alan Bishop laid the foundations for his label Sublime Frequencies, by recording hours and hours of music, announcements and static from local radio stations and collecting countless tapes and records from stalls, taxis and stores along the way.
Now nearly 50 releases into its existence as a label, Sublime Frequencies represents a musical parallel universe where Thai surf music and Burmese radio stations meet Syria’s folk/pop hero Omar Souleyman and Sahara giants Group Doueh. It is through his work for Sublime Frequencies, that Bishop met and became friends with Lebanese improvising musicians Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet), Raed Yassin (double bass) and Sharif Sehnaoui (electric guitar), who have operated collectively as free jazz unit “A Trio” since 2003. In 2012, during a trip to Beirut to participate in the annual Irtijal Festival for Experimental Music, Bishop entered the studio with Kerbaj, Sehnaoui and Yassin, to lay down the first rough sketches of the “Burj el Imam” album. The album was eventually completed a year later, during another one of Bishop’s frequent visits to the Lebanese capital.
Entirely recorded at Tunefork Studios, a highly esteemed recording studio located on the outskirts of Beirut, “Burj el Imam”’s five tracks include three largely improvised numbers, a loose reworking of early Sun City Girls track “The Imam”, and a cover of traditional Americana song “Gently Johnny”. The album displays remarkable coherence, for 4 musicians coming from such different backgrounds. True to their habits, Kerbaj, Sehnaoui and Yassin create acoustic improvised drones that range from insistent, chiming resonances with emergency alarm bells, to low thrumming hums – evoking helicopter gunships hovering overhead, or bulldozers demolishing bomb-blasted apartments.
The three musicians largely avoid conventional technique, instead using what sounds like motorized devices to generate rattling, metallic vibrations, building a mechanistic backdrop out of which the instruments’ true voices occasionally arise. Perched above the ambient din, Bishop is in fine form, and alternates between gentle crooning and malevolent whispering.
1. Howling Sheep
2. Burj al Imam
3. Smoking Elevator
4. Folk Machinery
5. Gently Johnny
Malayeen is a trio of Lebanese musicians Raed Yassin (a founding member of A-Trio, one of Lebanon’s most renowned free improv outfits), Charbel Haber (from experimental rock bands Scrambled Eggs, XEFM and BAO), and Khaled Yassine (a member of Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem’s oriental jazz ensemble).
Malayeen was born from Yassin and Haber's love for the music of quintessential Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid, and their desire to create a contemporary trio that would study, revisit and modernize his music, and bring it full circle into the 21st century.
Master percussionist Khaled Yassine was added to the project at a later phase, creating in the process a Lebanese experimental “supergroup” of sorts. The final result consists of original and unique trio music, as the 3 musicians’ varied backgrounds collide and coalesce in subdued and restrained fashion, not actually playing Khorshid's music, but inspiring themselves from the cult guitarist’s genius to create something completely new, modern and unexpected. “Malayeen” is released by Lebanese experimental label Annihaya.
The aim of the label is to revisit and displace various forms of popular culture, whether from the realms of oriental folk music, jazz or electronica, branding them in the process with a resolutely contemporary twist.
Previous Annihaya releases have included works by Japanese turntablist DJ Sniff, Swiss/Lebanese electronic duo Praed, a selection of North African-inspired Sun City Girls ditties, and an album of “noir electronica” by Lebanese techno producer Rabih Beaini aka Morphosis. As such, it was only natural that the label would be interested in releasing the music of the Malayeen trio!