FUSION 8 – Secrets of the Sun

Dj Zhao - FUSION 8

Been quiet on the mixology front lately, buried in this deep Northern winter and design work, but the wait is finally over.

Start the new year correct, with the latest installment in the Fusion series of mashup albums which connects seemingly disparate musical worlds. Aimed, like other volumes in the series, at immersive listening rather than focusing on the dance floor, this one is in the vein of the very first volume.

Secrets of the Sun blends songs from the Indian Ocean, Yoruba Muslim ritual music, Ugandan percussion, Haitian Vodou lullabies, Lebanese Dabke, Tazania Taraab, Egyptian mystical jazz, music of the San people from the Kalihari, even some Kraut psychedelia, and much, much more, with contemporary bass and beats.  Richly layered tapestries of indigenous music and deep dub ebbs and flows, swelling into fiery bass and drums toward the end.

DOWNLOAD (mediafire)

01 Anugama & Sebastano – African journey X Blackdown – Crackle Blues
02 Sibeba – Ikope ye tollo Los pajaros estan dormidos X Sub Version – No Easy Solution
03 Salem Tradition – Ase X Unknown
04 Can – Fizz X Sub Version – Rubber Soul
05 Salah Regab – Kleopatra X Brutality – Red Handed
06 Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics – Cha Cha X Kromestar – Zulu           Dance
07 Guem & Zaka – Girafe X Wiley – Eskimo (Mr. Mitch Peace Edit)
08 Unknown – Chanty Africa Coke Bottle X Gantz – 10
09 Unknown (Fuji music) – J:Kenzo – Protected
10 African Head Charge – Fruit Market X Skream – Memories of 3rd Base
11 African Head Charge – Off the Beaten Track X Crazy D – Flex Ting
12 Unknown (Lebanon, Baalbak int. Festival 1960) – Dabke X Cadell – W.W.T.I (Instrumental)
13 Kidumbak Kalcha- Mabibi Na Mabwana X Maniac – Down
14 Unknown (Yoruba Muslim women) – Allahu Allahu – Eyin Anobi-Ayonfe Oluwa X Sigha – Where I Come to Forget
15 Unknown (Yoruba Muslim women) – Asalamu Alaekumu X Simple – rO
16 Baligh Hamdi – Iskandarani X J:Kenzo – Counteraction
17 Steve Reid – Lions of Juda X Ramadanman – Revenue
18 Dorisburg – 148 X Rushmore – Drizzle
19 Nilotika Cultural Ensemble – Tugifa 3 X Dj VR – Batida Tchapu
20 Unknown (Music of the !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert) – Thumb Played Metal Instrument X Danton – Gritillos
21 Rara la bel fraicheur de l’anglade – Legba nan baye-a X Unknown (Brasil Batuque – Isto É Que É Batucada) – mistura n.2 X

NYEGE NYEGE Festival Official Mix


Nyege Nyege Festival in Jinja, Uganda, is about the infinite and timeless rhythmelodic traditions from the motherland and its myriad mutations around the globe, and their sometimes difficult to perceive but indivisible connection. It is my duty as rhythm ambassador to reveal the truth about these connections between ancient and future, between the so-called “East” and so-called “West”, in a visceral way on the dance floor; and it is what i have tried to do with this mix.

01 Nilotika Cultural Ensemble – Song 1 (Nyegenyege Tapes)
02 Gerjke – Lothario Steeze
03 Disco Vumbi – Ukuti (Nyegenyege Tapes)
04 Disco Vumbi – Rasta Farai (Nyegenyege Tapes)
05 Dj Eddy Favelado – Afrobeat 195
06 Bekzin Terris – Ubizo Iwabamhiophe (Forever)
07 Sylvere – No Drumstick Please
08 Nilotika Cultural Ensemble – Tugifa 2 (Nyegenyege Tapes)
09 Dj Rams – Suave Kuhouse 2009
10 Black Motion – Talking Drums
11 A-City Boys – Induku (Remake)
12 Dj Taj ft. Sliick & Lil E – BBE Challenge TeamTaj
13 Disco Vumbi – Train (Nyegenyege Tapes)
14 Melé – Latifah
15 Dj Rum – DAM (Accord Remix)
16 Nilotika Cultural Ensemble – Tugifa 2 (Nyegenyege Tapes)
17 Disco Vumbi – Didi @ Night (Nyegenyege Tapes)
18 Klipar – Shout (The Town Remix)
19 Paleman – Breezeldub
20 Cedaa – Nippon (Chaos In the CBD Remix)
21 Headhunter – Chasing Dragons
23 Kelela – Cherry Coffee (MikeQ’s Almighty Mix)
24 Nilotika Cultural Ensemble – Tugifa 2 (Reprise) (Nyegenyege Tapes)
25 Zombie Disco Squad – The Cursed
26 Ogoya Nango – Ohangla II
27 Photonz – Osiris Resurrected (Palms Trax Remix)
28 Dj Eddy Favelado – Afrobeat 120
29 Disco Wombie – Noisy Conversation
30 Treasure Fingers & Basco – Names (Taste Tester Remix)
31 Makadem – Mganga Mkuu
32 ELO & FOKN Bois – Aha Aha feat Sena (URH Remix)
33 CYPHR – Girl Shake
34 Sward Man ft. Big Youth – Life Ain’t Easy
35 SPMC – Declassified
36 Mungos Hifi – International Roots (Liquid Wicked Remix)
37 Mungos Hifi – International Roots Dub
38 Lady Slyke – Tupambana
39 Taso – Bambamkilla
40 Sonido Berzerk – Coconut (El Barba Dub Remix)
41 Art Melody – …To Biiga
42 Pan Sonic – Suuntaa Antava
43 Leatherface – Ghetto Boy (Sample)
44 Addison Groove – Warped
45 Riddlore – De La Ghetto
46 Labon ft Blessed Son – We Never Give Up
47 Romare – Jimi & Faye (Part 1) (loop)
48 Sweet Inspirations – Why Am I Treated So Bad

WAYS OF LIFE 2: Another Perspective

In recent times I have seen many articles such as Europeans did NOT bring shoes to Africa, The forgotten masterpieces of African modernism, and 11 Ancient African Writing Systems That Demolish the Myth that Black People were Illiterate.  On one level I applaud efforts that dispel myths of the under-development of African cultures.  But on another level I think articles like this are missing a crucially important point: older cultures in Africa and other places developed in different ways, formed different world views, with different concepts and different methods, cultivating different ways of life, which are often, objectively speaking, much more sophisticated, efficient, and effective, than Europe techniques.  “Pre-civilized”, pre-modern, and non-Western cultures must be evaluated in their own context, on their own terms, according to their own criteria, and can not be judged according to “civilized” and modern standards, in congruence with Western definition of  “achievement” and “progress”.

I will use the subjects of the three above mentioned articles as examples and springboards to briefly illustrate this point.


“If you offer people who live in rain forests shoes, they would be puzzled: ‘Why would I want to wear these things which make my feet sweat, keep me from feeling the ground, and separate me from intimate knowledge of the earth?”


Nomads in the Sahara possess almost supernatural comprehension of the desert.  It is said , once they have seen a single plant in the middle of endless and constantly shifting sand dunes (indication of underground water), they can find the exact location again a year later.  Traditional healers in Namibia have cultivated incredibly rich ethno-pharmacological knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses which multinational pharmaceutical corporations can not wait to exploit.  In the Americas, native Alaskans developed methods for determining where to build trails in anticipation of whaling season by watching the formation of ice for months in advance.  In such enumerable cases, detailed and complex understanding of the environment, including climatic patterns, plant species, and animal behavior, informs the organization of human society, creating holistic living systems in which everything is inextricably connected.

_Shoes 2

“Pre-civilized” cultures often employ methods which todays’ science struggles and fails to understand.  For instance, there are myriad ways in which the Aguaruna people of the Amazonas in Peru (who also refuse to wear shoes) and other indigenous groups use combinations of plants, often prepared by elaborate processes, that modern medicine can not explain.  The synthesis of many different species to unlock their profoundly powerful effects, for the specific purposes of healing and spiritual awakening, known as Ayahuasca, is one such process.  Botanists and biologists have no idea how this knowledge was arrived at: shamans maintain that it is from guidance of the plants themselves. 

More importantly, groups such as the Aguaruna have not only deep knowledge of the world, but ways of knowing which are lost to city dwellers. Over millennia, peoples in the Amazonian rain forests built vast bodies of knowledge about their incredibly ecologically diverse environment, which they have recently compiled into an Encyclopedia of Traditional Medicine.


_Arch1 Aka houses in the Congo

Dwellings made of bio-degradable materials which disappear back into the jungle after 1 or 2 seasons are not necessarily any more “primitive” than buildings made of stone or steel.  They are actually, in ways we are only beginning to once again understand with the relatively recent discourse on sustainability, more efficient, effective, and intelligent.  A temporary shelter made of branches, vines, and leaves might take only some days or even hours to construct, yet keeps the occupants shielded from weather, warm at night, cool during the day, perfectly serving their every need.  At the same time, the process produces no waste and leaves no ecological foot prints.  Similar to this type of structures in Africa, native peoples everywhere have figured out brilliant architectural solutions which provide optimum conditions while being in balance with the eco-system, sometimes completely baffling modern architects with their ingenuity.

_Arch2From left: Tuareg Leatherwork; Balla Village Archetechture in Senegal; Kitwe Community Clinic in Zambia

The use of fractals and self-organizing patterns in the architecture and design of many cultures in Africa – ideas and methods not “invented” in the West until the 1970s – has been a topic of study for mathematician Ron Eglash.  Strategic applications of these sophisticated algorithms, with geometric patterns often matching social patterns of the societies, is found all over, and is unique to, the continent of Africa.  From culture to culture, fractal structures are used in different ways, but is a common design practice and a widely “shared technology”.  For instance, non-linear scaling fences in the Sahel regions, very different from fences outside of Africa, takes into account the relationship between height from the ground and wind speed; the fence gets gradually thicker as they get higher according to a fractal algorithm.

“When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganized and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t yet discovered,” said Ron Eglash.

And the only reason things like this are impressive to us now, from the modern perspective, is because in these cases science has eventually caught up with the advancement of the old ways.


The diverse oral traditions which have sustained and enriched indigenous people in Africa and elsewhere for countless millennia are far from being any less accurate, broad, vast, varied, or nuanced than any written literary tradition, in fact, much more so.  The written word, until recent always been an elitist technology guarded by the literate aristocracy, and favoured centralized, hierarchical, and one-way communication. Printing further institutionalized the problem. Versions of history of the rich and powerful- who controlled the printing presses- which almost invariably did not reflect the perspectives of the people, were disseminated as objective truth. But in oral traditions, egalitarian social fabric sown together by the intimate passing of verifiable first-hand knowledge protects communities from pandemic lies and propaganda. The incredible accuracy of verbal accounts have been proven time and again. There are Australian aborigines who convey specific geographic information about ancient floods which took place many tens of thousands of years ago, facts only verified by geologists in the past few decades.  Similarly, Native Americans, Polynesians, Sami people of Finland, and “pre-civilized” people everywhere (the ones who care to) have preserved amazingly detailed accounts of events stretching far back into history.


In many places like Somalia, India, or regions in China where ethnic minorities still thrive, stories are often told in poetry form, sometimes sung, accompanied by gestures, rhythm, even elements of theater and dance.  Use of language in these traditions is at once extremely compact, expansive, multi-layered, and powerfully expressive.  The affinity of phonetic communication, with all of its complex dynamics of extra-lingual and non-verbal cues, engages the listener in a more actively participatory role.  Face to face organic transmission of knowledge is able to have both psychological impact as well as cognitive depth, conveying meaning with both more immediacy and profundity.  The free jazz musician William Parker once noted that recorded music is “canned music”; similarly, oral traditions transcribe living, multi-faceted images, stories, understanding, and insight, as opposed to reading impersonal information on a page, which more likely remains one-dimensional and superficial in the brain.


No, i am not suggesting that we should stop wearing shoes, live in hand made dwellings, and burn all books. But with these examples, I i hope I have provided glimpses of another perspective which is largely missing today, suppressed by prevailing ideology. And i hope i have shown that in many ways it is the modern, globalized, and dominant value systems which are backwards and upside down. Besides Euro-centrism, which has had a pervasive influence on our understanding of ourselves and of the world, there is another, perhaps more harmful prejudice in which we may be even more entrenched: Modern-centrism. Our society endlessly describes the ways that technologies give, and completely ignore the ways that they at the same time take away. It is of critical importance, for the future of mankind, to examine with sober, objective eyes, both what we have gained as well as what we have lost, with the advent of things like shoes, permanent housing, and the written word.

Maybe what is needed now, if we are interested in solving the many urgent problems we face as a species, is a re-evaluation of the criteria of valuation: what should be on the list of things we value.  “Pre-civilized” non-western cultures invested their energy in projects other than steel making and weapons engineering, and have sets of priorities and goals other than wealth accumulation or expansionism.  From them we can learn lessons not only beneficial, but which just might save us from disaster.



Baauer and RL Grime trapping fraternity kids

On a train going through the Czech Republic, random young Swedish travelers enthusiastically told me of their love for Trap music.   Kids in Ho Chi Minh City are turning the f*** up to Trap.   Vice magazine has made a documentary about Trap music and the ghetto streets from where it came.  

“Trap” used to be slang for crack-houses where dealers “trap” their clients, as well as the business of selling cocaine, as in the “trap game”.  By the mid-2000s, the word had come to also refer to underground Southern Hip Hop about drug-dealing, from poverty stricken neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta.  Related to and often interchangeable with Crunk and Dirty South, some of the earliest, biggest, and best proponents of this sound are Three Six Mafia, UGK, Geto Boys,  Lil Jon, and Master P.  Later came artist/dealers such as T.I., Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka Flame, who further defined the genre, and consolidated its now classic signature elements of distinctively slowed down boom-bap, extended bass lines, frenetic 808 hi-hats, ominous synths, sluggish and menacing rap, and of course lyrics about gangsterism and thug-life. 

But the term did not gain mainstream notoriety until a new electronic offshoot came on the scene.  This was largely an instrumental, polished, beefed-up, and very bassy version of Trap: an over produced and bro-ified overground mutation of ghetto music with the black voices often omitted or consigned to mere decoration, made for rich kids to blast in the new cars daddy bought them.  New EDM-Trap is entirely based on the musical structure and sound of Southern Gangsta Rap, but grafts onto this template the machine muscle of Bro-Step, stadium Electro-Rave sound effects, and often the epic emotional moments of commercial Vocal-Pop.

As i hear this cartoonishly pumped up sound of sublimated aggression quickly spread and blow up all over the world, I think of the slums in US cities where black lives are cheaper than cocaine, and don’t matter at all.  As i look at the biggest EDM-Trap Artists in the world today (nearly all white) making millions, I think of prison sentences, of broken families, of single mothers raising kids alone on minimum wage jobs.  As i watch videos of Trap parties in stadiums full of students drenched in Tequila “raging” hard, I think of the impoverishment, marginalization, and criminalization of African Americans from which this music comes.

These are the thoughts on my mind as i witness the music of people neglected, robbed, tortured, and exterminated by mainstream society stripped of its original context, reduced to meaningless swagger, and even becoming soundtrack for the corniest Disney-Pop: perfectly retrofitted for mainstream society.  Gavin Mueller articulates this well in his piece for Jacobin Magazine:

By dispensing with the rapping, EDM-Trap effectively silences the black voices that kept the style connected to the stories of the American lumpenproletariat. It’s the auditory equivalent of kicking out a poor family so you can live in their classic brownstone.

But I also love Trap music, both the original Dirty South variety, and even a very discerning selection of the new school, for some of the same reasons that rich white kids do.  Here I would like to defend this vicarious consumption: many critical theorists have extensively described how modern society deprives citizens of both a sense of adventure, as well as of intimate social connections within closely knit communities.  To people locked into a predictable life of school, employment, and retirement, their everyday existence a dull cycle of work, consumption, and sleep, the life of the criminal is the exact opposite, and captivating in ways their own lives can never be.  This is why suburbanites mimic the style, language, attitude and posture of inner city gangsters.  Similarly, listening to Trap music reproduces a feeling of danger, of intensity, of life and death urgency, and allows people who live safe and boring lives to briefly approximate a feeling of adventure.  Hood music is also a narrative of clandestinity, of trust, of honor, of unbreakable familial bonds, of real friendship and real enmity with very, very real consequences — a sense of true community which the comfortable classes entirely lack.  When a real loss of agency and immediacy is assigned to the middle and upper classes, whose existence consists of tedious complacency and suffocating security, it of course isn’t morally wrong for them to try to fill this emptiness.  This is why in ultra-wealthy and squeaky clean Zurich, Switzerland, a city with virtually no crime, there is a popular club-night called “Trapped”, with themes such as “Prison Break”, where Djs play only Dirty South Hip Hop songs about incarceration.

Additionally, there are concrete reasons why this music has such world wide appeal in 2015, and resonates with youths everywhere.  Trap is perhaps the most direct reflection of our times, where young people face grim personal prospects in a diminishing job market, amidst escalating economic, political, and environmental crisis.  Trap Music exactly mirrors the coldness, meanness, brutality, abjection, dehumanization, and desperation of late capitalism.  Extending what Young Jeezy said about the rap game being the same as the trap game: the trap game (selling drugs) is a microcosmic facsimile of macrocosmic capitalism.  Reality in the hood, a vicious cycle of addiction, suppliers, gangs, crime, police, and prisons, is a perfect miniscule model of reality around the globe, a larger vicious cycle where powerful states administer political and physical violence, destabilize resource-rich regions, manufacturing terrorism, while arms dealers make trillions, and corporations exploit the global South. Trap music comes from a visceral experience of survival on the love-less streets, but is a mirror image of the world at large: a neo-Darwinian nightmare in its rawest form.

Mainstream white appropriation of underground black music is nothing new, but at this historical juncture, “Trap” uniquely takes on a much larger significance, and becomes a perfect metaphor for capitalism itself. “Trap” encapsulates both capitalisms’ ruthlessly competitive aspect, as well as its alienating effects, where consumers are completely disconnected from the context, origin, and meaning of cultural products.  From the same Jacobin piece cited earlier:

listeners… don’t always understand the history or sociology of their genres. They don’t have to: when music becomes a commodity, it can travel worldwide, as all commodities do, severed from any knowledge of the conditions of its production. Genres cease to be grassroots social worlds, and instead become something more like brands: mere sonic surfaces rather than deep historical processes.

So, we are all locked in this perverse consumer capitalist trap, where the art of society’s victims provide an outlet for the frustrations of those who benefit from the same system of victimization.  It is not necessarily a problem in itself for the middle and upper classes to enjoy or take part in the culture of the disenfranchised, because both groups are caught in the same trap, only positioned at opposite ends.  But there is a certain amount of responsibility for those of us who do, to at the very least acknowledge the disenfranchisement, the inequality, and the tragic social circumstances the music came from.  We should try to connect the hidden dots and gain a degree of understanding of the racist, oppressive, and exploitative realities that gave rise to Trap Music. Further, we must strive for ever deeper understanding of how this systemic trap called capitalism robs some of us materially, the others spiritually, and allow this understanding to inform the life decisions we make.

Sat: Savane / Sun: Rename

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.06.57 PMJoin us for ECK IM SAVANE at Promenaden Eck on Saturday night for a special night of Cosmik Grooves from the Motherland and beyond. The collectiv Tropical Timewarpwith BestMate? and Bela Patrutzi will heat things up with their impressiv vinyl collection and will give service with an Afro beat – Afro funk mix then Léon Leon from FINOW ZOO and dj zhao will take us deep into the night with their multi-dimensional drum science.

8:00pm – 5:00am
Promenadeneck Schillerpromenade 11, 12049 Berlin, Germany

Mstr.RenameAnd on Sunday, we come together for Umbenennungsfestival (renaming festival),on the block where the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 took place, to enjoy the afternoon and agitate for refugee rights, against Pegida, and the changing of the historic “Mohrenstr.” (N***er Street) to “Nelson Mandela Strasse”. There will be many speakers and artists, and like last time i will contribute with a dj set and a talk on Culture as a Global Process and Dismantling Eurocentricity.

2:00pm – 8:00pm
mohrenstr, berlin 10117 Berlin, Germany

First meme ever / Autumn in Uganda


So that’s the first meme i’ve ever made, hope it goes “viral” :)  What do you think?  GF thinks it’s too “polarizing”, but i think it’s kind of a necessary illustration of the false dichotomy.

Also, for the entirety of the month of October I will be touring in East Africa:  mostly Kampala and Nairobi, playing at festivals and clubs, and working with local musicians. Super excited!!!


Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 16.57.01

Expanding the boundaries of club music, CLUBLAB explores borderless poly-rhythms and infinite bass, and investigates the fragmented soul of the polymorphous planetary underground.

in the Function-One equipped cave of our favorite Kreuz-Koln dive we swim in the most crucial vibes of today and tomorrow: Chicago, London, Joburg, Jersey, Luanda, Berlin.

Bass, Juke, Club, Jungle, Acid, House, Kuduro, Dub.


Words (Futurisms, Berlin)
dj zhao (NgomaSound, BeiJing)
Special Guests (Surprise)

Friday // July 24 // 11:00pm
Normal Bar // Forsterstrasse 46, 10999 Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

FREE before midnight

Working Links / Afro House Xperience / Fusion Photos

Big thanks to all who have generously donated toward getting the Soundcloud back up, but i will need a bit more time…  Soon hopefully!  In the mean time, I’ve updated all the posts with working Mixcloud streaming and download links.  Let me know if i missed any!

This Friday is the AFRO HOUSE XPERIENCE! we will bring the freshest, funkiest electronic music from the Motherland! (I don’t even like calling it “house” because in terms of form most of it doesn’t actually have much to do with Chicago at all — much more polyrhythmic and groovetastische)AfroHaus

And Fusion was as epic freaky fun as ever!  (but this year seemed to feature even more music from the global south).  P1040959 1658263_10153027829528546_3259819137898563999_oP1040962P1040979R P1040994Q P1040972

Acid Machine Temple


I’ve always loved Acid. Not only due to the squelchy palette of the misused TB303 being, for reasons i can not articulate (related to liking the smell of petroleum??), so endlessly delicious, sexy, and addictive, but also because Acid House and Acid Techno, ever since the beginning, have always been more overtly and unabashedly polyrhythmic than their bigger stylistic cousins.


The 303 lines often hit the spot in the 4/4 rhythmic pattern left missing in most other House and Techno, but which is a focus point in African House: the 3.5 or thereabouts. Add to that the basslines often emphatically replicating the Clave pattern (signature of Afro-Cuban music) and hyperkinetic snares flying everywhere, we have probably the most percussively rich genre of “Western” contemporary electronic music.

African music lovers, if you doubt what i am saying, just jump to minute 22:00 mark, and if in the next 15 minutes you are not convinced, all money back guaranteed.

Techno heads, let this mix remind you that techno and house are indirect but unquestionably descendants of ancient rhythmic traditions, drawing from the bottomless well of African sciences of the drums.

01 Etcher – Pelican Nebula (Afro Augmentation)
02 Kenneth Kirschner – 070798
03 Nax Acid – Flying Higher
04 Underground Resistance – Electronic Warfare (Oz Speaks)
05 Luigi Acid Machine – Improbable Concept
06 Versatile – Before The Interrogation
07 Photodementia – Synovium
08 Emmanuel Top – Foreigner
09 Redshape – Goom (Bonus Beats)
10 Emmanuel Top – The End
11 Innume – Right Down
12 Snuff Crew – Joy of Jealousy
13 Basic Soul Unit – Rhythm No.1 (Justin Longs Acid Peel Version)
14 Jack Murphy – 4MT
15 Willis Anne – The C Track
16 Matrixxman – Stop It
17 Levon Vincent – Love Technique
18 Sendex – Just Dance
19 Mantra – What Do You Call It
20 Hieroglyphic Being – Inconsistent Measure
21 Jared Wilson – Detroit Tracks 7.5 (Polykicks Edit)
22 Close – Beam Me Up (feat. Charlene Soraia) (Scuba Hercules and Love Affair Remix)
23 Syntheme – XWC
24 Snuff Crew – Control
25 Jerome Hill – Dustbin Acid
26 Swere – Swere
27 Cassegrain – Task (TM404 Remix)
28 Alien Rain – Alienated
29 Function – Psychic Warfare
30 Donato Dozzy & Say Dj – Titto Positivo
31 Function – Variance (Ch-Signal Laboratories Edit)
32 Eomac – Yóu Hún Ye Gui

NGOMA 21: دبكة — Syria For Ever


In Gaziantep, an old Turkish city on the Eastern and Southern Most part of the country, bordering Syria, i had the fortune of meeting 2 Syrian young men who were involved in the initial student and popular uprising, part of the so-called “Arab Spring”.  They were among the most charming, intelligent, funny and friendly guys i’ve ever met, and had become wanted men and refugees, one of them with a price on his head, hiding out in Turkey.  They told inspiring and harrowing stories of the spontaneous peaceful demonstrations against the oppressive Assad regime, how it kept going in the face of brutal repression by police and military.  And of how the government, in 2011, released thousands of jihadists from prison, while the revolutionary political prisoners stayed in captivity and continued to be tortured, in order to dilute the rebellion, to brand the opposition as extremists, and create a false choice for the population, of either government or fundamentalism.  Shortly after that, the US backed jihadist group known as ISIS or ISIL infiltrated, and the country has been steadily torn apart by violence, its infrastructure crippled, its glorious ancient cities destroyed, creating multiple and massive humanitarian nightmares.

In addition to first hand accounts of these events, one of these guys also gave me a collection of amazing contemporary Syrian Debkah, a modern dance music with ancient roots, very popular in many parts of the Middle East.


In these extremely trying times, and when news media coverage of the country is filled with nothing but tragedy, let us never forget the incredible cultural wealth of Syria, and the powerful, beautiful majesty of Syrian music.


The only exposure to Dabkah in the West in recent years has been Omar Suleyman, whose popularity might be due to the rough and simplistic aspects of his music being appealing to “alternative” music fans, or maybe it’s just luck.  In Syria he is considered an unimportant and low level musician, something like an ignorant redneck.  But he not only makes sub-standard Dabke (I’ve realized after listening to the music on this mix), but has also dedicated one of his songs to the Assad regime, and never once spoke or sang about the struggles of the Syrian people, living a wealthy life in Turkey.  Even though one of his tunes appeared in NGOMA 04, I will likely not be playing much of his music in the future.