Syria is the latest in a growing succession of Middle Eastern or North African countries rumbling with civil unrest. In Syria’s case, unfortunately, protests are being met with especially violent suppression.
In my dream world, whenever a country or culture pops up in the news, I want a mob of concerned American citizens to come to the library demanding books, journal articles, and documentary films about that particular place. On top of that, I want that enthusiastic and friendly mob to also explore a country’s art, literature, films, and my specialty, music.
Syria is a country at a complex crossroads of ancient civilizations, major religions subdivided into sects, climates ranging from the Fertile Crescent to desert, and a population that ranges from nomadic camel breeders to sophisticated city dwellers. So I simply offer you four CDs to start exploring Syria’s fascinating musical culture:
- Souleyman, Omar Highway to Hassake: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria — The intrepid folks behind the Sublime Frequencies label collected cassettes to release this disc by sunglasses-wearing Syrian star Omar Souleyman.
- I Remember Syria — If you really want to hear what Syria sounds like, this Sublime Frequencies double disc is made up of recordings from the radio, city sounds, music, interviews and more.
- Muezzins d’Alep Syrie: Chants Religieux de I’Islam — The Muezzin is the person who calls Muslims to prayer from the top of the minaret. They may also specialize in singing hymns as these Muezzins from the city of Aleppo do.
- Eastern Churches Collection: Chants from the Holy Land — Syria also has some of the most ancient Christian traditions and this disc has a few tracks of Syrian hymns and chants.