New Internationalist

Road to Damascus

September 2010

By Syriana

In which three friends come together in one of the oldest parts of Damascus, and play – to the city, to its fantasies, to its metaphorical position as a place between East and West. At just over 20 minutes, Road to Damascus is an album that sketches a musical picture so bold that it deserves to be heard as widely as possible.

The trio who have come together as Syriana bring with them a diverse range of experience. Abdullah Chhadeh, maestro of the zither-like qanun, is a Damascene whose 2005 album Seven Gates won praise for its mix of virtuosity and invention; Nick Page has already, as the guitarist of Transglobal Underground and Dub Colossus, been heard doing his own crossover styles; while double-bassist Bernard O'Neill, a long-term collaborator with Chhadeh, has seen action on many projects coming out of Real World. In terms of musical texture, Road to Damascus combines the qanun’s skittering, metallic microtones with unobtrusive, rhythmical bass and the lurching leaps of Middle Eastern string sections. But what really pulls you in are the sultry vocals of Lubana al Quntar on ‘Gharibb’ (Stranger), or the ripples of sound – surf qanun? – that trill through the second track ‘Syriana’. And if the tremeloed string work calls to mind the wilder excesses of US veteran guitarist Dick Dale, it’s meant to.

This column was published in the September 2010 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Road to Damascus

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Road to Damascus Fact File
Product information Real World Records RWEP15 CD
Star rating4

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Music

All Music

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 435

New Internationalist Magazine issue 435
Issue 435

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.