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Syriana – “Black Zil”
The Road to Damascus
Syriana is an incredible cross-cultural collaboration that began as an idea between Greek/English producer and musician Nick “Dubulah” Page and Syrian musician Abdullah Chhadeh. Page is well-known for his contributions to Trans Global Underground and Temple of Sound. He also works as a traveling producer for the likes of Los de Abajo and Dub Colossus. Chhadeh is a master of the ancient 81-string Arabic dulcimer called the qanun. In addition to his qanun proficiency, Chhadeh is a talented composer and lyricist.
After putting their minds together, Page and Chhadeh began to recruit musicians to form the Syriana group. Irish double bass player and MD Bernard O’Neill worked with Chhadeh prior to Syriana and seemed like a natural fit. Egyptian percussionist Sherif Ibrahim, Syrian accordionist Mazin Abu Sayf and the Jordan-raised Palestinian singer and oud player Nizar Al-Issa round out the band’s dynamic sound. Page is known for his attention to detail, so he took the group to Damascus to embed themselves in Syrian culture.
“You need to spend some time with musicians in their own lands to get a true flavour of their musical traditions, culture and styles. Recording with Dub Colossus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was proof of that. The Syriana album idea was a logical next step.” – Nick “Dubulah” Page
While in Damascus, Page, Chhadeh, O’Neill and sound engineer Toby Mills set out to record a string section for the record. Working with seven of Syria’s best string players, Page and company’s vision for The Road to Damascus became clear. As the liner notes state, “Syriana is where imagination and reality overlap.” Here the East meets the West in a meaningful cultural exchange with Arabic and Western scales working in unison.
With powerful, swooping strings, spy-meets-surf guitar, and passionate vocals from soprano Lubana Al Quntur, Syriana’s The Road to Damascus is an overwhelming success. While the CD was released in the UK in 2010, it was finally released in the US in April on Real World Records. Page does a great job sitting back and letting the music take it’s natural form. An array of instruments, including qanun, oud, double bass, piano, accordion, viola and guitar, give this album a strong backbone. While all of the instruments are part of the whole, Chhadeh’s qanun playing stands on its own. His dexterity and discipline is outstanding. Throughout the album the qanun ties together the Eastern and Western elements, but his solo performance on “Al Mazzeh” is exceptional. Look out for The Road to Damascus wherever fine music is sold.