Videos » Syriana - The making of 'The Road To Damascus'

The Road to Damascus begins in London, when guitarist/ producer Nick "Dubulah" Page (Dub Colossus, Trans Global Underground and Temple of Sound) and Syrian virtuoso Qanun player, Abdullah Chhadeh, begin work on a collaborative project discussed some years earlier. Nick and Abdullah were soon augmented by Irish double bass player, composer and musical director Bernard O'Neill, who had worked with Abdullah prior to Syriana. Syriana would go on to draw further similarly minded musicians from London's multicultural melting pot: multi-talented Egyptian percussionist, Sherif Ibrahim, the mighty Syrian accordionist, Mazin Abu Sayf and Jordan-raised Palestinian singer and oud player, Nizar Issa. In order to get the flavour of the album just right, Page, Chhadeh, O'Neill and sound engineer Toby Mills upped and went to Damascus, the 7,000-year-old capital of Syria, Their ten-day stretch in Damascus left an indelible mark. The oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (and the Arab Capital of Culture in 2008), Damascus's weight of history overwhelmed the visitors, and rendered the Cold War decades insignificant by comparison. It is said that old Damascus is a bit like a veiled woman who keeps her beauty hidden. Get close, and you're dazzled. In this labyrinthine city whole worlds of activity exist behind closed doors. Sights and sounds are imbued with an almost sensual power. Calls to prayer echo alongside music that has sweeping scope and epic punch; music that keeps the past alive as it surges, wave-like, into the future. Eastern music, Western music, and a compelling fusion of both. The thirteen tracks on the album include the title track The Road to Damascus, with its call-and-response vocals and swelling strings, Syriana, which nods to movie themes and Fifties Arabia, to the great diva Fairuz and superstar Abdel Halim, and Al Mazzeh on which Chhadeh displays his astounding virtuosity. Black Zil is a rollicking ode to a Cold War icon: the car favoured by the KGB in Soviet Russia, while Checkpoint Charlie is a noir-ish rendering of East/West tensions that hauls The Spy Who Came In From the Cold into the modern day. The Templehof File takes a Greek-influenced melody (both Chhadeh and Page are Greek Orthodox) to the Arab world: a Damascene street scene meets Athens in spring.
20th Sep 2010, 12:29pm
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