But now, you need look no farther than Chicago for a solid dose of Middle Eastern music with its roots in Iraq and spanning the ages from 17th century Ottoman court music to Iraqi popular songs. On their self-titled CD, Salaam does that and more, dipping also into Turkish, Syrian, and North African themes...even a little blues and jazz, as on "Yugrug." There's some similarity to Brothers of the Baladi, though the Oregon-based Brothers are a bit more far-reaching with their Middle Eastern sound, going so far as to cover the Doors' "Paint It Black" on their Eye on the World album.
Salaam may be less brash, but their sound is growing on me, particularly the subtle fusion of "Nihavent Saz Semaisi" and the energetic "21st Century Gypsy." So far, my favorite track may the love song "Retik," with traditional music underlying some nice solos, including a buoyant, fluid trumpet solo in the spirit of Samy El Bably. Salaam may not have the slickest presentation and their CD could use a little design help (track numbers!), but their music reveals solid chops, an adventurous spirit, and a joy in performing that makes for marvelous listening.
from the album Salaam
Hear more song samples
NPR interview (direct link here)