When Samer "Zimo" Saem Eldahr was young, he did what many aspiring musicians do: He played in pubs around town and made electronic music in his bedroom. His city was safe, with lots of good food and an emerging hip-hop scene.
That city was Aleppo, Syria. When Eldahr left to work in Lebanon, he was fully intending to go back. But the city he left behind would soon be consumed by war.
Now Eldahr, known on stage as Hello Psychaleppo, makes his home — and music — in Minnesota. He creates electronic songs in part by sampling Middle Eastern musicians.
"When it comes to sampling old Arabic music, I feel like there's a purpose," he said, reflecting on the political situation in Syria. "We're losing our heritage every day, a tiny bit day by day. It's just fading out."
Some of the old songs are dying, Eldahr said, because young people don't know them. He combines Arabic rhythms with hip-hop in an effort to keep them alive.
"Especially the last six, seven years, with all the migration happening, lots of kids were born outside of Syria," he said. "So it's really good to have them connect to their heritage."
Eldahr came to the MPR studios to talk with Tom Weber about his work and to perform a few songs. The session was part of our Summer Music Series.