Last week, dabke crossover king Omar Souleyman was denied entry into Sweden due to the government's ban on issuing visas to Syrian citizens. He was set to play the Stockholm Music and Arts Festival, which runs August 2 to 4, before the country refused his request apparently out fear he would love it so much in the Scandinavian kingdom that he'd apply for residency and permanently move there.
Promoters behind Gothenberg's Way Out West festival took it upon themselves to respond. They've not only offered him a spot in their own lineup (August 8 to 10) but couched the invite amidst an appropriate air of ire and condemnation:
"Omar Souleyman has fell victim of stupidly strict interpretation of a general rule It's obvious that Omar Souleyman is a professional touring artist who does not intend to flee to Sweden ... It's outrageous that Sweden is the first country in Omar's career to refuse him a visa. Given the situation in Syria it feels even more important for artists to be able to express themselves freely ... Omar Souleyman has a slot waiting for him at Way Out West in Slottskogen next week. Omar has already said yes if he is admitted in to the country. We say - welcome Omar! And to the Swedish authorities we say; here is your second chance."
Souleyman added his own voice to the conversation via statement. "I could not believe the reason for which my visa was denied — that of Sweden being afraid that I will want to stay there and apply for a residence permit when I arrive. I am a musician who travels all over the world and to all western countries to sing for people and to make them dance ... I have a family in Syria and I have no intention of ever abandoning them."
The seasoned performer has found international popularity thanks to his infectious, electronically enhanced brand of dabke, a traditional folk dance intended for special occasions. He's set to release his first proper full-length, the Four Tet-produced Wenu Wenu, on October 22 via Ribbon Records. Read his full statement below:
I could not believe the reason for which my visa was denied - that of Sweden being afraid that I will want to stay there and apply for a residence permit when I arrive. I am a musician who travels all over the world and to all western countries to sing for people and to make them dance.I have never ever had any wish or intention to remain in any country that has issued me a visa that enables me to perform for people there. It is clear to anyone who will take a look at my extensive touring history for the last 5 years in the western world - where I have been and how many borders I have crossed. Hundreds and hundreds.
I have a family in Syria and I have no intention of ever abandoning them. The Embassy had the information clearly of all my children, wife, brothers and sisters, parents, who all live in Syria. I support them and give my life for them. I have never had nor will he ever have any intention to defect into Sweden. I love my home as troubled as it is right now, more than anything.
The decision of the Consulate is very wrong but I have accepted that; now I hope that my management will do everything together with promoters in Sweden to correct that.
Omar Souleyman's tour dates:
August 24 - Katowice, PL @ Nowa Musyka Festival
August 25 - Los Angeles, CA @ FYF Festival
August 29 - Austin, TX @ Red 7
August 31 - Brooklyn, NY @ Issue Project Room
November 1 - Reykjavik, IS @ Iceland Airwaves
November 2 - Paris, FR @ Pitchfork Festival Paris
December 1 - Tokyo, JP @ Hostess Club Weekender