Damon Albarn

New Music Alert | Africa Express Presents: The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests Live Release

New live album release today (now streaming and available via Google play) December 9th, 2016

The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests
Transgressive Records


Sisters Dissonance, as you may or may not already know, first became a thing almost 10 years ago when Ady and I combined our travels to see live music performances with our desire to document those experiences and the adventures that occurred along the way. Our driving force is and always has been to make our own fun together.

A beautiful and somewhat unexpected natural byproduct of this thing called Sis Diss, we discovered, has been the human factor. It is the connections we continue to make with people all over the world in the process of our endeavor–the artists and musicians, the fellow fans and music heads, and all of the other people whose orbits have crossed paths with ours one way or another–that is the most rewarding part of Sis Diss of all.

And so, in a world that alarmingly feels like it is becoming more and more closed, increasingly divided and in turmoil, Ady and I strive to find our place among another reality that exists. This is a reality populated with a contingent of human beings around the globe that are steadfast in countering negativity, prejudice and division by purposefully reaching out, by bringing others together, and by working toward breaking down barriers not creating new ones. A reality filled with those who are mindful of their fellow humans. Often music and art is at the center of these efforts. This is the world we at Sis Diss seek to dwell in.

It is this mindset that brings to mind a show we saw last summer, The Orchestra Of Syrian Musicians in London England. No, I was not there in person, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, through a live broadcast on YouTube, I was able to watch virtually with my sister in Philly and my friend Gina in Minneapolis, from my own living room in Cleveland as together we live tweeted and texted during throughout show. We felt part of it. London/Cleveland/Philly/Minneapolis joined in along with the thousands of others across the globe tuned in together, interacting with the folks at Africa Express themselves, who made it feel like a global party. We were there for another beautiful coming together – something that Africa Express has a knack for doing on a grand scale, this time through the collaboration of Syrian musicians and countless others who joined them.

Flash forward to three days ago when I received a message from Africa Express to say that I had won an album from Benin artists Poly-Rhythmo in yet another effort by Africa Express to connect the world through music and spread it to the world. Thrilled to bits to be a recipient, as a rabid fan of music from all over the world thanks to the introduction by a professor in a ethnomusicology class I took in college back in the early 90’s, I anxiously await expanding my musical horizons even more, and I thank Africa Express for the opportunity! I will share my thoughts on that album soon to continue the spiral of positive energy.

This brings me full circle to today, and the point of this post . . . to  continue the reciprocity and join in spreading the musical love as Africa Express celebrate the release day of the resulting album of the The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians and Guests.

Following a series of acclaimed dates in the UK and Europe this summer, Africa Express today announces the release of a live album entitled Africa Express Presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests. The recordings were made in June when The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, featuring current and former members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, came together for the first time since the conflict in their country flared up five years ago. They were joined by artists from Britain, Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Turkey, Tunisia and the United States including Bashy, Bassekou Kouyaté, Bu Kolthoum, Damon Albarn, Eslam Jawaad, Faia Younan, Julia Holter, Malikah, Mounir Troudi, Noura Mint Seymali, Paul Weller, Rachid Taha and Seckou Keita.  


Africa Express Presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests will be available on CD, with a digital download/stream available via Google Play Music beginning today. An LP vinyl edition will follow in 2017.

Full tracklisting here:

1          Intro  – The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

2          3azely – The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

3          Wild Wood – Paul Weller & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

4          Yah Mahla El Fus’ha – Faia Younan & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

5          Out Of Time – Damon Albarn & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

6          Rakeb 3al Hamra – Mounir Troudi & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

7          Feel You – Julia Holter & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

8          Al Ajaleh – The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians feat. Bassekou Kouyaté & Seckou Keita

9          Blackbird – The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians feat. Damon Albarn & Paul Weller

10        Old Damascus – The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

11        Richa  – Noura Mint Seymali & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

12        White Flag – Damon Albarn & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians feat. Eslam Jawaad, Malikah, Ceza & Bu Kolthoum

13        Ya Rayeh – Rachid Taha & The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

14        Oghneyat Men Baladi – The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians

For more information visit www.africaexpress.co.uk and   www.transgressiverecords.com


The full concert from the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre London from June 25, 2016 can be viewed here:




PART 2 of the Portal of Fun aka | Jamie Hewlett’s Suggestionists Exhibition Reception at The Woodward Gallery NYC June 11, 2016

Pt 2: Tarot

{you can read Pt 1 here}


Before I take you further into the exhibition, I want to give you a little background about what tarot cards mean to my sister and I, who grew up alongside a deck of them. They were our mother’s, and they were soft and well worn. She had a knack for reading them, and her reputation among her friends was that, more often than not, she made accurate predictions while reading the cards. She never read for money, and she never read for strangers. It was a hobby that was rooted in the spiritual and the psychological, and one that caused my sister and I to do some serious deep thinking while growing up. We also learned the ins and outs of every card and the universal symbolism and meanings of each. My favorite was always the Sun.

But all of this begged questions. What was this ability? Was it real? Lucky guesses? What power do the cards have? Do they have any at all? Was it our mom who had an ability, and not the cards? Was she just really good at being in to touch with people? We learned to accept that we would never know the answer to any of these questions, and that was part of the mystique (though, in tune with people? We know the answer to that is a huge YES). Our mom no longer reads tarot cards anymore (though she still has that same deck), but that aspect of growing up had its fair share in developing inquisitive minds for my sister and I. (I should add, I used to try to read the cards, but almost always failed, getting caught up in the literal too much, perhaps. My sister on the other hand seemed to have shared the tarot gene our mom has). It is through this lens of experience that Ady and I moved forward into the gallery to view Jamie Hewlett’s vision of these iconic images. We had already had a chance to investigate L’ Empereur, La Rove du Fortune, Le Maison Dieu, and the unnamed card XIII up close earlier in the day outside Ghost, where the four hung, harbingers of the remaining 18 cards, and couldn’t wait to see the rest.

We poured over them, each one of the Major Arcana as envisioned through the artistic lens of Jamie Hewlett—silly and sinister, thought provoking, demented and giggle inducing, all at once. Ady and I split up and wandered so that we could, at our own pace, investigate the tarot cards, each one paired with a written interpretation in Jamie’s own words, which were every bit a piece of art in their own right. In fact, I enjoyed reading them just as much as I did viewing them. {And fear not, if you weren’t able to make the exhibit, you can happily view all of them up close here via Jamie Hewlett’s The Suggestionists online}

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With a buzz of excitement, as we and countless other fans reveled in the exhibit, Jamie finally arrived, and drifted about freely, spending time talking to his visitors. But eventually the crowd grew so dense that a queue necessarily formed to give everyone a chance to say hello.

While this was happening, we continued to finish looking at the cards and I found it interesting that Ady and I were both most drawn to the same image, La Force (aka Strength)—in part because of the gorgeous illustration of a white-gowned woman in a funky hat (I want one like that!) fearlessly leading an insane looking lion like it is nothing more intimidating than a docile lap dog—but also because of its corresponding interpretive description.

Le Soleil once again was one that I was particularly drawn to, though each card was full of beauty and meaning. Together all 22 cards that adorned the walls of the gallery made for a festive backdrop in which fans of Jamie’s and of Gorillaz were able browse with the artist at close hand.

Before we were able to finally get our chance to say hello, about an hour into the reception there was some stirring and word got round that Damon Albarn would be arriving imminently. Ady stayed in line and I went over to investigate. Sure enough, a few moments later, with a warm greeting by some of his friends and musical cohorts gathered at the front of the gallery, Damon walked in, and suddenly the two geniuses behind Gorillaz, possessors of relentless talent, were there united together celebrating Jamie’s art.



I got back in line with Ady and this is how it went. The line we were in to speak to Jamie was split in two for a brief moment amidst the chaos of the excitement, and then finally the two joined up to meet with fans together. During this time while waiting, Ady made the acquaintance of a talented local artist, Kid Lew, who we chatted with about the exhibit and Gorillaz. We offered to take one another’s photos when the time came. By the time they reached us in line, Jamie went for a much needed break, which left us to chat with Damon Albarn.

Regular readers of Sisters Dissonance and friends and family will know what this means to me. I really wasn’t sure what I would do or say to make a fool of myself (card 0, Le Mat, anyone?), or if I would faint (I didn’t!) if this day ever came. Instead, somehow it managed to turn out to be one of the best comedic moments I could have ever hoped to share in meeting one of my heroes (which did not happen when I was reduced to a babbling idiot when I met Mick Jones).

It was pushing 90 degrees in NYC, and while the gallery was well air conditioned, the amount of bodies and the extreme humidity combined to raise the temperature inside. When Damon reached Ady and I, he spun around to grab a water from the reception table, confiding in us that he was extremely overheated. Ady instinctively started fanning him with her exhibit postcard, and since it provided relief, he grabbed the card so he could keep cooling himself. Ady, being Ady, playfully grabbed it back and we offered to fan him while he signed, and I joined in doing the same. We proceeded to fan him on both sides and as we talked he signed our Blur NYC tickets from last October (click here for an insane moment via Instagram that Ady caught of “Trimm Trabb” during that show!) that thankfully never made it back out of my wallet.

As we fanned more and more dramatically, as the poetic moment dawned on me, I jokingly exclaimed to him, “I am literally your fan!” seizing the opportunity to make a pun while also finally finding the right words to express what I had wanted to be able to express to him without sounding like a giant dork. To this he stopped short what he was doing, turned to look at me with a huge Damon-toothy grin and repeated bemusedly, “You literally are my fan!” then, further encouraging the silliness asked Ady and I, “…can we do the photo like that? Keep doing the fan thing.” Kid Lew was thankfully snapping away for us during this entire exchange, resulting in this:


Jamie by this time returned and resumed his position in line, noting that it was the second time we got bumped from talking to him, but the gallery owner needed to move the line to a different location (it continued to grow as time went on) so she kindly grabbed Ady and I and led us, as she was leading Jamie to a new spot.

Finally! It was our turn. Our conversation with Jamie Hewlett was every bit as fun as the last time we crossed paths with him after the Gorillaz Live on Letterman performance back in October of 2010. As before, he was extremely approachable, witty, and the silliness that bleeds through his artwork is no doubt a genuine reflection of the artist.

Ady and I had talked about how much we both enjoyed reading the written portion of the Tarot exhibit as much as we did viewing the artwork, and we told him this. He seemed very pleased that we had taken notice, saying in all sincerity, “Did you like them? I wrote those,”—as if it were possible that we might not have recognized who the brilliant mind behind them could be!

As a fun side note, while I am sure he probably did not recall meeting us before, I mentioned what he had done to us behind our backs when we had our photo taken with him in 2010 {chronicled here in a prior post, Gorillaz Live On Letterman Odyssey, where we believe we can trace the existence of that thing called the Portal of Fun).


Shan, Jamie, Ady in 2010

so this is what we ended up with this time.


It was now Kid Lew’s turn to meet the master and Ady took photos while he did, including this photo of his sketchbook which was graced by both Jamie and Damon.


As the evening wound down and it approached closing time, we stopped went around the corner of the gallery into the final segment of the exhibit, Honey, a series of saucy faux vintage 70’s style back lit posters for imaginary soft core films, complete with fake titles (Honey puns!) and credits.

It was truly amazing to spend an evening stepping into the mind of Jamie Hewlett and celebrating his artwork.



At this point, our story continues when our master of fun, Ady, checked her watch and said, it’s 7:40. Without discussion we hightailed outside and into another portal of fun (a taxi cab this time). Within 20 minutes we found ourselves in an entirely different world at an outdoor music festival, heat still pounding and a threat of rain looming in the air. Conor Oberst was on stage with The Felice Brothers at the Northside Festival and we somehow managed to catch the last two songs.


They left the stage and we wandered for a moment, then decided to explore Brooklyn on foot. If the night was not already jam-packed with excitement and a flurry of getting to meet heroes, as we walked outside the festival gates and around the corner, we walked smack into Conor Oberst. I offered to take a photo of Ady with him, and she said to him just as I was about to take the photo, “We missed your set!” To which he replied, “Aw, shit!” Then I snapped.



JHSuggestionists043Thank you Woodward Gallery for a wonderful evening and bringing the Suggestionists exhibition to New York City so we could enjoy it and thank you Jamie Hewlett for sharing your talent and creativity with the world. You have a rabid, loyal following and I know we are all waiting eagerly for what is yet to come as we watch hints of Gorillaz 2017 burbling to the surface!


{Click here to view full-size images from this post via slideshow}


PART 1 | Wheel of Fortune! And other FUN turns of events -or- An Evening with Jamie Hewlett at the Suggestionsts Exhibition Reception at The Woodward Gallery NYC June 11, 2016


Images from the Tarot series in Jamie Hewlett’s Suggestionists exhibition, displayed outside Ghost, across the street from the Woodward Gallery, NYC

By Shan
Photos by Ady and Shan


My sister has a super power (actually two, but we will focus on this one). She has the incredible ability to roll with things, so much so that she miraculously, and very often, coaxes the Portal of Fun to open way more than it probably intends to (The Portal of Fun, something we discovered together when Sisters Dissonance came into existence, is a very real thing, and it’s there if you know where to look!).

For this outting, there was a bit more jockeying of plans and things left to chance than we normally encounter, including where to stay (giving up an originally booked hotel for one chosen by Hotwire, a spin of the wheel gamble encouraged by Ady . . . point #1 in coaxing the portal of fun to crack open), and even a false start during our journey into the city. when she had taken a wrong turn on the highway, a route she knows well, she mused why in the world she she could have done that. “Who knows what disaster we may have missed by delaying us,” she had said when she realized her mistake.

Earlier this year, Ady had purchased tickets for the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, and initially I wasn’t going to be able to join her. She was looking forward to it very much as a way to kick off her summer, and after time went by I realized there was no way in the world I would miss being there with her. I made some shifts in my schedule late in the game so that I could be, and our adventure awaited.

About a week prior to our trip, I came across the exciting news that the Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz co-founder and artist/creator of Tank Girl and one of my favorite artists) art exhibition, The Suggestionists, would be opening at the Woodward Gallery in New York City. That very same weekend we were planning to be there. What Fortune!

This initiated the hotel move that made logistical sense for us to be nearer to the exhibit, so that we had time to drop in the gallery and take in the art for a couple hours, before making our way into Brooklyn later that same evening. What fun!

One day prior to our arrival, I learned with even more excitement that not only was the exhibit opening, but that there would be a reception at the gallery with the artist on the day we arrived in the city. What Fortune again! I thought as I read the news. I read on. Time of reception: 6 to 8pm. Time of show in Brooklyn: 7pm. A piece of my heart sank when I realized the conflict, but I was there to be at the festival which Ady had originally planned, and which I was also looking forward to.

So, torn, we resolved to do a bit of both and check out the exhibit around 3 to make time to get to McCarren Park. I was still elated to be able to see the works of Jamie Hewlett in person that I had only had glimpses of through photos from the exhibit when it was showing in London.

After checking in to our hotel, a very nice spot (our Hotwire gamble was a big win, scoring a room at the Indigo in the LES, one that was adorned with a very fitting piece of artwork that agreed with our mantra, proclaiming “FUN Gallery!”), we were on our merry way to see one of our favorite artists in a city we both have grown to love so much. I was as excited for this as much as any concert I have counted the days down for. We hoofed it down the scorching three blocks—a piercing 87 degree day with no breeze or clouds in sight to take off the edge—eager to see the artwork awaiting.

When we reached the front doors of the Woodward Gallery, an unassuming frontage on Eldridge Street, the doors were sealed shut. Shoot! I had checked the hours, I had thought, how did I not foresee this? A bit disappointed, we walked across the narrow street to look at the four massive, colorful Hewlett Tarot card prints that were displayed on the exterior wall of Ghost, the bar also owned by the Woodward Gallery, to at least get a peek at what was contained inside the gallery. I would be returning  here tomorrow before we headed home to see the rest, I assured myself, and so we were both content, swept up in a moment of awe looking at the crazy wonderful artwork that lay before us. We then walked back over to the gallery to pick up a couple postcards from the exhibit to tide us over.

As fate would have it, the owner of the gallery happened to be coming in from across the street, and he noticed us trying the door one last time and taking the postcards. “The gallery will open back up at 6 for a reception with Jamie Hewlett!” he said happily, encouraging us to be there. “Damon Albarn will be here, too.”

As a believer in going with the flow and allowing things to happen, Ady is truly a master of fun with an ability to completely change her plans when something just seems right and like it should be happening. She doesn’t flinch when making snap decisions, and in that moment, Ady firmly pushed that damn Portal open. “I’ll just need to find a better pair of shoes to wear at the reception,” was all she said walking back toward our hotel, letting me know that in

Cooling down before hitting the exhibition!

Cooling down before hitting the exhibition!

that moment she was giving up her initial plans, plans she made months and months ago and looked forward to, so that we could be there for this event. It also seemed that my sister, in making her wrong turn earlier in the day, had not caused us to miss anything with the delay, but rather, inadvertently put us right in the path of what was most certainly point #2 on the road to the Portal of Fun.

In the end we wandered aimlessly, dazed by the heat and humidity looking for shoes, but soon realized  what we really needed was to just change clothes into what we already had, and go gaze out over the sunlit city from the rooftop bar at our hotel, and grab a drink down the street.

At 6:05 pm we finished our drinks (a refreshing handmade watermelon margarita for me) and back down to Eldridge Street. This time the door to Woodward Gallery was not closed (“the Portal is now open!” it almost seemed to say), revealing a brightly lit, festive gallery filled with an eager and excited crowd of people already gathered to see what wonders awaited us.

One of the "Pines" illustrations by Jamie Hewlett in the Suggestionists on exhibit at the Woodward Gallery in NYC

One of the “Pines” illustrations by Jamie Hewlett in the Suggestionists on exhibit at the Woodward Gallery in NYC

As we entered and two friendly gallery workers welcomed us in, we made our way up the steps and the first piece of “The Pines” (one of the trio of installations in the Suggestionists exhibit) came into view. The rest of the series lay beyond further in the gallery, set against a vibrant green backdrop, showcasing the beautiful illustrations of pine trees from the south of France. I marveled how even though these were stark black and white line drawings of pines, seemingly fairly removed from his colorful work for Gorillaz, one could tell with ease that they were forged from the very same hand. The line work is distinctly Hewlettian—beautiful in its simplicity, elegant, bold, and yet still conveying that overriding sense of playful menace that is typically present in the rest of his artwork.

Illustrations from Jamie Hewlett's Pine series in his Suggestionists exhibition at the Woodward Gallery, NYC

Illustrations from Jamie Hewlett’s Pine series in his Suggestionists exhibition at the Woodward Gallery, NYC

We poured over each of the illustrations, then turned our eyes to the Tarot section.

{End Part 1}

Continue to Part 2