Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Omar Souleyman 

Highway to Hassake (Sublime Frequencies)

Omar Souleyman may not be a household name in Cleveland, but he's a pretty big deal in his native Syria. Since 1994, Souleyman has released some 500 cassettes, most of which can be purchased in just about any Syrian music shop. Highway to Hassake -- compiled from said tapes by filmmaker and sound recorder Mark Gergis -- provides a solid overview of Souleyman's oeuvre.

Souleyman takes the folk music found in Hassake (his hometown near the Turkish border) and gives it a hyper-avant-tronica twist: galloping Middle Eastern melodies built from phased-out keyboards and more traditional stringed instruments like the saz and oud. The album starts with the faster stuff -- racing out of the gate with "Leh Jani" (where you learn that your beloved is engaged to another man) -- then hurtles into the breakneck "Jani," Souleyman's first hit. Eventually, Hassake dials back the pace a bit, with midtempo ballads singing tribute to everything from Syria's leaders to the beauty of a bride's ornamentation. This sort of info is gleaned from the album's substantive liner notes, which in addition to making for a more fun and insightful listen, help put a human face on a culture we could all stand to better comprehend.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of CD Review

More by Mike Rowell

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 5, 2022

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Open Turntable Tuesday @ The Winchester

    • Tuesdays
  • Dustin Nickerson @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Thu., Jan. 20
  • Clayton English @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Fri., Jan. 21

© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation