Omar Souleyman, Black Bear Combo | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Omar Souleyman, Black Bear Combo Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended

When: Wed., Nov. 2, 9:30 p.m. 2011

Omar Souleyman has one of those stories that can make anyone love him, even without knowing his work: a small-town mason in an isolated part of Syria abandons his job at 30 to become a professional singer, produces hundreds of full-length recordings (some of which Seattle-based world-music label Sublime Frequencies has repackaged in a series of retrospective discs, including last year's Jazeera Nights), and becomes a successful performer in the Arab world while growing a cultish following in the West. (Also, his customary outfit—keffiyeh, aviators, and mustache—makes him look like every bad guy in a Reagan-era action movie.) But you don't need to know any of that in order to get hooked. Souleyman and keyboardist Rizan Sa'id play dabke, a type of folk-dance music you'll find at parties and weddings throughout the Middle East. Their interpretation of it is far from traditional—Sa'id's ramshackle pileup of synthesizers replaces most of the customary instruments, and his beats play up the resemblance between the stomping rhythms of dabke and electronic dance music. I'd probably go to more parties around here if this were the type of stuff they were playing. —Miles Raymer Black Bear Combo opens.

Price: $18, $15 in advance

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