The Rough Guide to Turkish Café (RGNET1215CD) demonstrates that Turkish music is much more than Whirling Dervishes and efforts in the Eurovision song contest. It has inspired the styles of many Mediterranean regions and, located between Asia and Europe, embodies a vibrant melting pot of sounds. From traditional modest coffee houses to elegant venues of Istanbul, Turkish cafes boast an ambiance immersed in the voice of legendary Sezen Aksu, gypsy clarinet of Selim Sesler and a range of folk and pop talents.
Sezen Aksu is Turkey’s premier pop diva who has sold over forty million albums. Her songs are more frequently covered than those of any other Turkish artist, and each of Aksu’s releases over the past few years has turned into a huge media event, where she often performs with her famous 35-piece Oriental orchestra. Another legend, Müslüm Gürses is a landmark singer of arabesk, a Turkish style highly influenced by the sounds of Arabic music. His extensive discography, film appearances, emotive style and lyrical treatment of hard-hitting topics have turned him into a cult figure. His most die-hard fans have sometimes slashed themselves with blades during his concerts.
The clarinet has become a staple part of Turkish musical culture, loved for its adaptability to Oriental melodies and its ability to imitate the sound of the human voice. Roma clarinetist Hüsnü Şenlendirici was born to a musical dynasty and played with the famous Magnetic Band. Şenlendirici combines Anatolian melodies with jazz and funk. He has worked with local and international stars, including Athena, Mercan Dede and the Brooklyn Funk Essentials.
Selim Sesler is celebrated worldwide for his masterful clarinet improvisations, tremendous repertoire of dance melodies and original arrangements of classic Turkish folk songs. On his latest album, Anatolian Wedding, Sesler worked with producers Ben Mandelson and Rob Keyloch, and Brenna MacCrimmon, to rework classic wedding songs into a modern rendering of a centuries-old repertoire.
Canadian singer Brenna MacCrimmon has been performing and studying Balkan and Turkish music since the late 1980s. Aside from her ongoing work with Selim Sesler, she has also collaborated with Baba Zula & Mad Professor, and was featured in the 2005 music documentary Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul. ‘Semsiyemin’ offers a sneak-preview from Brenna’s upcoming album Kulak Misafiri.
Aynur sings in both Kurdish and Turkish, and performs Kurdish folk songs in front of a giant image of a fire, symbolic of Kurdish culture. Her album Keçe Kurdan (‘Kurdish Girl’) rose quickly to the top of the Kurdish music charts, and has received significant international attention. Soon after its release, the Sixth Criminal Court of the Diyarbakir province in Turkey issued a court decision to have the album removed from the shelves, under the pretext that it contained seditious messages. The decision was appealed, and overturned in September 2005.
Turkish born hip-hop artist Sultana has also resided in New York. At the turn of the millennium, she rocked Turkish audiences to the new beats and flavours of her unique fusion, lacing hip-hop beats with ethnic instrumentals, a hypnotic vibe and lyrics that range from humorous to political. Her debut album, Çerkez Kizi, was released in 2000 and Sultana became an overnight success when her video clip for ‘Kuşu Kalkmaz’ — the song featured here — was censored because of its controversial content.
Also featuring on this compilation are Orhan Hakalmaz, Burhan Öçal, Gülay, Musa Eroğlu, Ahmet Kusgöz, Şevval Sam, Cengiz Özkan, Shimal, Knar and Türkmenlar.
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