Birol Topaloglu is one of the foremost folk musicians in Turkey today. He was born to a Laz family, in the small village of Apso, which is on the North Eastern shore of the Black Sea coast of Turkey, near the Georgian border. He grew up speaking the Lazuri language at home.
He started to sing in both Turkish and Lazuri, as well as his experiments in instrumentation drew serious attention. After having worked as an electronic engineer, at home in Turkey and abroad, he chose music as his primary career. Birol Topaloglu started by collecting the lullabies, and the ballads sung by his mother.
In 1997 he recorded the music of the Laz highlanders in Turkey. Later he traveled to Georgia to study the music of the Laz and the Mingrelians there. He used, for the first time among the laz in Turkey, a string instrument called the ̶chonguri and a wind instrument called ̶Philili. Birol also helped to develop a percussion instrument, ̶guni, inspired by the wood used to build beehives, adding to the repertoire of Laz folk instruments. The Laz Ensemble he formed was the only traditional Laz group in the world coming directly from Laz regions of Turkey and Georgia. Birol and Selim are from Turkey, Lily, Neli and Liana from Republic of Georgia. Their language, music and culture are under threat of disappearing.
The instruments in the Topaloglu live band are the traditional kemenche (a narrow, long bowed 3 string instrument), the tulum, called guda in Lazuri (double chanter polyphonic bagpipe), various drums and piano.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.