Gergis needed to cease visiting Syria within the early 2010s when a well-liked rebellion intensified right into a bloody civil conflict that continues to today. Now, with Syrian artists displaced and components of the nation nonetheless reeling from division and destruction, he hopes the Syrian Cassette Archives will honor an missed chapter within the nation’s musical historical past. Within the coming months, Gergis and his foremost collaborator, Yamen Mekdad—a Damascus-born group organizer, DJ, and researcher who, like Gergis, now lives in London—plan so as to add podcasts, movies, and different sources to the positioning.
“It’s vital to protect the reminiscence and the historical past of this time in Syria,” Gergis says. “It hasn’t had a highlight on it. It hasn’t been investigated and mentioned. Hopefully it could possibly assist stem the cultural amnesia that may occur on account of conflict and loss and displacement.”
Under are six valuable, plastic artifacts from the Syrian Cassette Archives. We sat down with Gergis and Mekdad over Zoom to speak in regards to the music, which spans an array of musical types, ethnicities, dialects, and synthesizer settings.
Sabah Fakhri: Mawawil Sharkawi
Aleppo was as soon as one of many main stops on the traditional commerce routes of the Silk Street, and at present it’s revered for its lengthy historical past as a hub of commerce, Sufi spiritualism, and musical expression. Sabah Fakhri, who handed away in November 2021, was some of the celebrated sons of the town, famend worldwide for his bodily endurance as a performer and for his mastery of tarab, a style of classical Arabic music that comes with many music types and poetic types. The phrase tarab means euphoria, enchantment, or musical rapture, and on this tape Fakhri’s voice shudders with agony and ecstasy. He delivers a collection of vocal improvisations in a well-liked type referred to as the mawwal, pleading along with his beloved and issuing appeals to a better energy over gradual drone tones and chic ornamentations.
The destruction of components of Aleppo was some of the surprising developments to return out of Syria’s battle, however the metropolis’s centuries-old heritage reveals by in recordings like this one. “Sabah Fakhri—the place do you begin?” Mekdad says. “He’s good in all shapes and types, and he managed to popularize this sound globally. However he’s the tip of the iceberg of a longstanding custom.”
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Houssein Al Hasan: Shammamah Choubi
Gergis grew up within the San Francisco Bay Space, however as a child, he usually visited Iraqi family members in Detroit. Any time he’d go to a household marriage ceremony, he would marvel on the sight of occasion bands taking part in songs to accompany an Iraqi model of the dabke line dance referred to as the choubi. The regal choubi beat makes an look on this tape by Houssein Al Hasan, a prolific artist from the agricultural metropolis of Qamishli in northeast Syria. Together with previous Arabic poetry and galloping runs of buzuq (a long-necked fretted lute), you’ll hear bandmate Ahmed Darwish’s synthesizer—an instrument that’s ever-present on many tapes like this one, normally that includes reedy presets and samples designed to resemble conventional wind devices.