Syriana

Imagine a dialogue between East and West. A dialogue of hopes and fears, similarities and differences, histories and futures; a conversation charged with emotion and balanced with respect. Imagine scenarios that bridge gaps, forge links: the great diva Fairuz sitting in a Midwest Cafe, with Dick Dale's Misirlou on the jukebox. Ry Cooder and Abdel Wahab puffing nargileh in a sunlit courtyard deep inside a labyrinthine souq.

Think of ancient civilisations and Middle Eastern aspirations vying and blending with film noir and surf guitars, spy novels and Cold War iconography. Picture the so-called American Dream – Americana – recognising the arts, culture and wisdom of the Middle East. Recognising Syriana.

Now imagine all this given musical form by an array of instruments: the qanun, the ancient 81-string Arabic dulcimer. The double bass, an instrument at home with both Arabic and Western scales. The electric guitar – that symbol of Western popular music everywhere from Beirut to Texas. Imagine oud. Viola. Accordion. Arabic percussion. Violins, seven of them, courtesy of studio outfit the Pan Arab Strings of Damascus.

"...this artfully conceived project from former Transglobal Underground bass man Nick Page sounds like the soundtrack to some Middle East-set Cold War spy drama that was never made... the lush melodies and widescreen sweep are hard to resist." The Daily Telegraph

Syriana, then, is more than just a band. It’s a concept. An attitude. A perspective. A place where themes of tolerance, liberty and hope come wrapped in Arabic rhythms and played through a Western filter. Where free musical interaction is a given – despite the ironies bestowed by political reality. It’s a project without a single dominant instrument.

In Syriana the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Syriana

Algeria, Ireland, Jordan, United Kingdom, Palestine

Further reading

Bab L’ Bluz’s Yousra Mansour guests on BBC Music Life podcast

Yousra discusses her creative processes with Derya Yildirim, Hasan Nakhleh, Merve Erdem.

Emerging dance artist Richie Blacker samples Sheila Chandra in new single ‘Beautifully Weird’

The track premiered last week on The Danny Howard Show on BBC Radio 1.

Track of the day: ‘Habibi (A clear black line)’ by Loney dear

The song is the first new music from Sweden's Loney dear since his 2017 self-titled album.

A New Year’s Resolution for 2021: Learn to speak another language

Why you should learn another language, and where to go to learn beginner Bambara, Swahili and Urdu.