GIG Review: Syriana at The Assembly Hall, Islington October 2nd, 2010

SYRIANA

Album Launch concert

Islington Assembly Hall 02/10/10

 

 

There was a time back in the 70s when it was essential and “hip” to be able to reproduce on stage the self-same music the listener had enjoyed at home on “vinyl”. Nothing else would do.   

Syriana, who have just released their 1st album, after the success of their WOMAD performance this summer, celebrated its launch with an exclusive concert; another chance for us to find out how they would fare without the help of the album’s Qanun virtuoso, Abdullah Chhadeh.  However, change is central to guitarist Nick “Dubullah” Page‘s musical career.  He leads the Syriana project with the powerfully rhythmic double bass of Bernard O’Neill.  And Syriana did not disappoint. With the help of backing tracks featuring the Pan Arab strings of Damascus, the album’s highly evocative and atmospheric pieces were transcribed very effectively to the stage with the addition of three talented musicians of various ethnic origins, all hailing from Arab countries.  The fast driving beat of the darbouka was played very skilfully by Iba Abu Khalaf from Palestine, especially on the gutsy “Black Zil”.  The melancholic strains produced by Algerian –born Mounir “Moon” Baziz‘s electric violin intensified the dramatic excellence of many of the pieces.

Shades of Film Noir and spy stories, fighter planes, black and white photos of the Middle East in the 50s, desert landscapes and Cold War memories were all used to great effect in the thought-provoking and striking visual backdrop of the specially commissioned film and animation by Italian-born film maker Nico Piazza. The two songs “Gharibb” and “Al Araby” were revisited by oud player Nizar Al–Issa with his velvety yet intoxicating tenor voice. The melodic lines of the oud complemented perfectly the Ennio Morriconesque touches of Nick Page’s surf guitar most notably in “Galatian Bridge”. 

Three new numbers were played which clearly demonstrated that Syriana are here to stay and deliver their special brew of East meets West music. Let’s hope so and wish them well!

Joel Roszykiewicz

Published in SONGLINES Issue 72 Nov/Dec 2010