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Syriana – The Road To Damascus, Live with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
July 7, 2011

Conductor: Clark Rundell 
Syriana  The Road To Damascus, Live on stage with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic OrchestraArranger: Ian Stephens
Films: Niccolo Piaazza
Syriana are Nizar Al Issa, Kalia, Sherif Ibrahim, Nic ‘Dubulah’ Page, Bernard O’Neill

Running Time:  2 hrs.

There is something quite liberating in listening to the absolute joy with which Syriana play their fusion of Middle Eastern and East European music. Something that lifts the soul and lets the listener bask for a short while in a wave of optimism in these troubled times.

Of course, having the superb Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as a backing band and the evocative images of Niccolo Piaazza is going to help, but nevertheless from first to last Syriana display nothing if not an overpowering passion for what they play.

Nizar Al Issa on Oud and vocals is quite simply mesmerising, particularly during The Great Game during which the energy of the band is demonstrated for the first time.  The beautiful nay and flute playing of the equally beautiful Kalia comes to the fore during Al Araby, a piece which flows like warm chocolate across a sea of colour. Added to this is the relaxed guitar of Nic Page, who has played with Massive Attack and Ladysmith Black Mambazo amongst many others, the forceful Double Bass of Bernard O’Neill and the Arabic Percussion of Sherif Ibrahim, which gives a completeness to the sounds being created as a whole.

It is a something of a pity, then, with so much talent and musical capability on stage, that for some pieces, such as Black Zil which is inspired by the former Soviet transportation method of choice for its dissidents, the band rely on recorded rhythm sections. Whether this is because of time constraints or simply because this is clearly a one-off gig played with one of the world’s finest orchestras it is difficult to understand. Yet live performance should – by anyone’s standards – be 100% that.

This said, however, Syriana nonetheless deliver the goods and have set up the tenth Liverpool Arabic Arts festival 2011 to be yet another astounding success.

Chris High  

Liverpool Philharmonic website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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