Bora Yasar was born in 1973 in Gaziantep, Turkey. He studied Alevi music and played saz for a semah group. He studied and applied classical Turkish music maqam and sufi music on the fretless classic guitar with neyzen Sezgin Bademli (University of Gaziantep Conservatory). In addition to his musical studies, Yasar studied Agricultural Engineering at Ankara University (1992-1994), Environmental Engineering at Mayis University (1994-1997) and Mechanical Engineering at University of Gaziantep (1997-21).
He has been researching Mesopotamian and Anatolian (which contains Turkish, Kurdish, Suryani, Armenian, and Laz) music and their similarities.
He plays saz, kopuz, yayli, mizrapli, tanbur, and fretless guitar.
Currently, he lives in New York and is working with different musicians from all over the world.
“Our goal is to musically combine the traditions of the different ethnicities, societies and tribes of Asia Minor throughout history beginning from Greeks and including Romans, Ottomans, Armenians, Jews, and Kurds,” says Bora Yasar. Along with Olcay Sesen, he makes up Sounds From Anatolia, a group they founded several years ago in Gaziantep, an ancient city in the South-East part of Turkey.
Sounds From Anatolia utilizes classic scales and local instruments to create a fusion of modern day sounds that bear traditional forms of Classical Turkish,Folkloric and Sufi (Tasawwuf) music. Played in the Anatolian maqqam (mode system), these songs include a wide range of styles from songs of mystical love (ghazal), to hymns (ilahi) and music of the Ottoman court. By fusing this musicwith their own improvisational compositions, they become archivist of the traditional repertoire while molding old forms into a new form. Their music isnot East meets West, more than it is ancient meets today.
Their mission of introducing the indigenous music of their ancestors to the world brought them to the US last year. Here is a short excerpt from our conversation with Bora:
How did you start working together?
Everything started organically. We met in college, had long conversations about music and gradually started playing together. In time we realized that there were more people around us listening to our music than we had initially thought.
How would you define your sound?
We are very interested in ethnic sounds. Every major society that resided in Anatolia left a distinctive sound and style. That’s why the region is so rich today. Lift a stone from the ground and you can trace the marks of different cultures that have existed there. The music of Anatolia is a mosaic and so is our sound.
What kind of instruments are you using in your music?
I went to school in different parts of Turkey and was introduced to different sounds inherent to those regions. I played with local musicians at family fests and gatherings and was introduced to a myriad of local instruments. I play classic and fretless guitar, tanbur (a long-necked plucked lute with frets),flute, cura, and kopuz (a short-stringed lute with three strings). My partner Olcay accompanies me with the classic guitar.
Musically speaking, who influenced you?
We are influenced by a wide array of artists but most importantly I would say Erkan Ogur. He is the pioneer of the fretless guitar and an extremely experienced musician in the field. Other than that the Armenian duduk player Jivan Gasparyan, Goksel Baktagir, 13th century poets Yunus Emre and Asik Veysel. We also buy almost everything Kalan Music puts out in Turkey; all their releases are superior.
In your shows you mention the story of Mississippi and the blues. What is the real story?
I read an interview with Erkan Ogur and he was saying that in order to be able to play the blues or jazz you had to cross the Mississippi river 4-5 times.Ogur was drawing a comparison to Turkish folk music and explaining how difficult it is to master it. So, we decided to come here and see if we can cross theriver.
Are you really going to do that?
We don’t know, maybe. We’ll begin with the Hudson River, we live in New Jersey. [laughs]
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Needless to say, Erkan Ogur is our biggest influence and we would give anything to play with him. I also found out that Omar Faruk Tekbilek lives in New York and we would like to collaborate with him as well.
What is your goal for the future?
We would like to play as much as possible to introduce our sound to the American people and at the same time learn their ethnic sounds.
[Interview courtesy of Bora Yasar].