Tonight's trendy Hackney audience is especially youthful for a Syrian wedding singer, a sign that few have comeout of sympathy alone. Exiled in Turkey, Omar Souleyman has honed an east-west fusion that gives a club-friendly boost to his homeland's celebratory dabke style far more engaging than European turbo-folk.
Last month, Souleyman released his first studio album, Wenu Wenu, and it is immediately clear producer Kieran Hebden has captured their live verve. Most infectious are those tunes carried on sturdy techno chassis, with the singer's declamatory vocals bordered by bursts of sampled percussion and snaking synth lines, played by musical collaborator Rizan Sa'id, that evoke a squawking Levantine flute. On slower numbers, rumbling bass augments a riot of metallic clangs, hand claps and drums.
With string stabs adding extra punch, the pair evoke the unruly rough edges of Basement Jaxx or early eighties Detroit. In shades and keffiyeh, Souleyman cuts a striking figure, with limited English simply raising his arms to draw cheers. Otherwise, the duo bring to mind the pop pairings of eighties Top Of The Pops, the wry Sa'id playing the role of Soft Cell's Dave Ball. With such a winning combination of the exotic and familiar, a busy summer awaits.