As one of Turkey’s leading and versatile clarinetists, Husnu Senlendirici has worked with major stars domestically and also internationally, taking the listener on a musical journey whether he is solo or accompanied. Senlendirici combines the evocative and enticing melodies of his Anatolian heritage-particularly his Aegean homeland’s musical traditions-with the jazz sensibilities of the west.
After forming his present band, Laco Tayfa and collaborating with the famous American ensemble, Brooklyn Funk Essentials, to record their interpretations of traditional melodies and funk/acid jazz for the album, ‘In the Buzzbag’. Following that first release on Doublemoon records, Senlendirici has continued to play his snaking eastern melodies with lavish ornamentation or wild improvisations against complex drummed rhythms to release ‘Bergama Gaydasi’ and ‘Hicaz Dolap’. Working with such Turkish pop icons as Athena and Kibariye and world music master Mercan Dede to the delight of music aficionados everywhere.
His recording ‘The Joy of Clarinet’ focuses in on the instrument itself, which with a sound resembling the human voice, is the medium for expressing musically hopes and yearnings of centuries. Soothing listeners with its fusion of ancient gypsy soul and modern chillout, the album is evocative and enticing, displaying exactly why the clarinet has become a much-loved part of the Turkish musical landscape.
This recognition has afforded him the opportunity to perform internationally at concerts like EXPO-2001 in Germany, supported by the Turkish Ministry of Tourism; New York, Central Park concert within the framework of Mayfest festival 2002; and the concerts he gave, in July 2002, with his 35 member Laco Tayfa Big Band during Istanbul Jazz Festival.
Light in Babylon – “Yeni Dunya” (indie release, 2016)
“Yeni Dunya” (new world) is the second album by a world music ensemble from Istanbul called Light in Babylon, who combine a wide-range of musical influences. On “Yeni Dunya” you’ll find original compositions inspired by Turkish and Sephardic music along with traditional Turkish folk music songs and reworking of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” that reappears with a fabulous Turkish beat as a bonus track.
The band is characterized by the spirited and charismatic vocals of Israeli (with Iranian roots) vocalist Michal Elia Kamal, the mesmerizing work of Turkish santur virtuoso Metehan Çifçi, Middle Eastern percussion, and the guitars of Frenchman Julien Demarque. These three artists are the composers of the original material and are supported by bass and drums.
The lineup on the album includes Michal Elia Kamal on vocals and darbuka; Julien Demarque on guitar, oud and vocals; Metehan Çifçi on santur and sansula (thumb piano); Jack Butler on bass; Stuart Dickson on percussion; and guest musician Ceyhun Kaya on clarinet.
Light in Babylon’s Yeni Dunya represents the diverse sounds of the Istanbul melting pot, with its fabulous mix of Middle Eastern musical traditions.
Baba Zula was founded in 1996 by Levent Akman (percussion, rhythm machines, toys), Murat Ertel (saz and other strings, vocal) and Emre Onel (darbuka, sampler, vocal) in Istanbul, was joined by Oya Erkaya (bass guitar, vocal in 2003.
With its specifically unique sound created by melding traditional Turkish musical instruments with electronic elements, Baba Zula has brought a brand new dimension to Turkish Folk Music. Baba Zula’s music is basically an amalgamation of recorded natural sounds with both traditional and modern acoustic and electronic musical instruments, a culmination of disparate electronic effects. Starting out by improvisations, later fixed into musical elements which make up their music such as theme, tune, style and sound, reached through recordings and rehearsals, the group has carried this method of ‘defined improvisation’ into concerts, movies, theatrical plays, use of video, slides and films, prepared by the additional members who have joined forces with the core group in its live performances.
The group, which from the very beginning has shown great interest in featuring guest musicians and players in concerts and albums, has been accompanied by stars such as the Thracian Selim Sesler (clarinet master), the Canadian singer Brenna McCrimmon (specialized in Balkan folk music), Fahrettin Aykut (drummer), Tuncel Kurtiz (movie star and player), Ahmet Uğurlu (movie star and player), Ralph Carney from San Francisco (saxophonist) and the diva Semiha Berksoy (first Turkish opera singer and painter).
Baba Zula’s debut album, ‘ Tabutta Rovasata = Somersault in the Coffin’ (Ada Music), including the original soundtrack for dervis Zaim’s first movie with the same title about a car thief who returned the cars he stole to their owners and fell in love with a peacock, was released in 1996. The album also includes four songs in which the movie stars Ahmet Ugurlu, Tuncel Kurtiz and Aysel Aydemir contribute in vocals.
Their album, ‘ 3 Oyundan 17 Muzik’ (Doublemoon) comprising music created for the plays ‘ The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint Exupery, ‘ Frog Tales’ by Arnold Lobel and ‘ Kitchen Accidents’ by Perihan Mağden, was released in 1999. Apart from a number of other artists, Ralph Carney, Brenna McCrimmon and Selim Sesler have also taken part in this album as guest stars. Baba Zula, who has also made the music for the film ‘ Renkli Turkye = Colored and in Turkish’, directed by Ahmet Cad#rc# and about a movie mechanic falling in love with an ex-pornstar, has also taken stage in Britain and Macedonia. Baba Zula also opened Manu Chao concert which took place in June 22 during Efes Pilsen Summer Festival.
Levent Akman and Murat Ertel of Baba Zula were invited to Cologne, Germany to perform with two German musicians Gerard Doeke and Norbert Torzik at the Mediteranneen Film Festival on the 6th and 8th of December
In April 23, Baba Zula did a concert at the Festival of ‘Printemps de Bourges’ in front of fifty thousand spectators.
Zen, Baba Zula members former band (Levent Akman and Murat Ertel) received the ‘best original score’ award for ‘Dokuz / Nine’ (Turkish Cinema Writers Association) and Ankara International Film Festival in January 23.
Their third and latest album ‘Psychebelly Dance Music released in May 23 was mixed and mastered by the British musician and producer Mad Professor who previously worked with Massive Attack , The Orb, Lee Perry and alikes. Their fourth album ‘ Duble Oryantal’ which is released on Doublemoon Records by the end of May 25, is again mixed and mastered by Mad Professor
The band played at Roskilde Festival on 3rd of July, 24. The band also appeared in the Golden Bear award winner, film director Fatih Ak#n’s new documentary on the sounds of Istanbul, played and recorded with Einstuerzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke.
Tabutta Rovasata – Somersault in the Coffin (Ada Music, 1996)
The Secret Trio is set to perform at Roulette on Saturday, December 3, 2016. The Secret Trio is an ensemble featuring three remarkable musicians rooted in Turkish, Balkan Roma (Gypsy) and Armenian music. The three artists came together to create a new form of chamber music. Not bound by a single tradition, they perform original pieces and traditional melodies that incorporate the microtonal modes and improvisation of the Middle East, dance rhythms of the Balkans, and elements of jazz, rock, and classical music.
The trio includes Ismail Lumanovski, a virtuoso clarinetist and member of the New York Gypsy All-Stars; Tamer Pinarbasi, a master kanun (zither) player and a member of the New York Gypsy All-Stars; and Ara Dinkjian, one of the world’s finest ud (fretless lute) players, who is best known as the founder of the highly influential and groundbreaking instrumental group Night Ark.
The Secret Trio was formed in 2010 and has two albums on the Traditional Crossroads label: Soundscapes (2012) and Three of Us (2015).
Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave at 3rd Ave near BAM & Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Tickets at robertbrowningassociates.com
Tickets: $30; seniors, students $26
Fungistanbul – Phenology (Hits on Air Music, 2016)
Turkish ensemble Fungistanbul celebrates nature on its debut album titled Phenology. Fungistanbul’s project goes beyond music, incorporating other art forms. Phenology revolves around the natural life cycle of plants and animals.
The music on Phenology includes seven original compositions and the remaining three pieces are Turkoman, Kurdish and Armenian traditional songs. Fungistanbul’s style incorporates Turkish traditions as well as the sounds of nearby cultures, adding elements of jazz and western classical music. The ensemble uses a combination of traditional acoustic instruments with electric bass.
Throughout the album you’ll heard the mesmerizing sound of an end-blown flute. Without reading the credits, I assumed it was a Turkish ney, but in reality it’s a Bulgarian kaval, which has some similarities.
Fungistanbul also use a new string instrument called tarmoni. The CD booklet shows a picture and provides an extensive description. In essence, it is an improved saz.
The lineup on Phenology includes Roni Aran on tarmoni, setar, classical and fretless guitar; Herman Artuç on percussion and vocals; Yildirim Eldem on kaval and tenor block flute; and Ciwan Ayaz on electric bass, lavta, and vocals. Guest: Eren Turgut on acoustic bass.
The exquisitely-packaged CD includes original artwork by various professional, adult and child artists that illustrate each track.
Phenology is a finely-crafted work that brings together beautiful contemporary Turkish-rooted music and other art forms.
Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium is a cool and welcome relief from the 85F heat of Manhattan. The room is crowded with more than a hundred people waiting for the Mehmet Polat Trio to take the stage. It is a packed house with a line out the door of 30 people waiting to get in, a turn-away crowd. Their performance is part of a weekly free concert series coordinated by Lincoln Center that runs year long.
The trio has an oud player Mehmet Polat, a ngoni player Victor Sams, and a ney player Pelin Başar. They are here at the outset of an almost month long tour across America. Mehmet introduces himself and the trio, he invites the audience to listen, “I am looking for a musical connection from heart to heart. I invite you to open your heart and let the music come through you.”
The performance starts with Polat’s gentle and languorous solo on the oud – a pear-shaped wooden instrument with strings that sounds like a lute. Mehmet is from Turkey, his family are from an Alevi Sufi musical tradition. But he has studied various musical styles, including traditional African, Indian, Persian music, and modern jazz. His sound is spare, folk-like, meditative. There are no electronic keyboards here or drum fills.
A silence opens up in the audience. People are rapt in attention, entranced. Mehmet seated center is joined in play by the ney player. The ney is a long and ancient flute. The ngoni, a long-stringed instrument, joins in. And the flute melody weaves in an out the accompanying strings of the other two instruments. There is a grace about this trio, nothing is rushed, time slows down. The audience is invited to relax and to contemplate.
The ngoni player initiates the second song, using his fingers in staccato taps at the base of his instrument. Victor Sams has a beautiful smile that radiates out to the audience. There is a happiness and versatility in his playing: the ngoni is magically transformed into a drum, then back to a stringed instrument, then again to a drum.
The ngoni and oud begin a conversation, shadowing each other’s sound. The two performers nod to each other as they sit side by side. The notes move round and round one another in call and response. One leads with a few notes and the other answers with a few more. Indeed, Mehmet has confirmed that this dialogue is vital for him, “The conversation is intended. I am interested in creating connections between different cultures and continents. I want to explore the common language, but also to look at how two different musical languages may correlate or vibrate together.”
The music is not afraid to breathe, to pause, and to create space in this large atrium. This sense of spaciousness is perhaps one of the trio’s greatest strengths. As the performance continues, Mehmet begins to sing. With his eyes closed, you sense his earnestness, his sincerity. He is humble, yet assured in his musicianship. The song includes some words of Fuzuli, who was a Sufi poet from Azerbaijan. The ney shadows the vocal notes. There is a cyclical sense to the melody, reminiscent of an Indian raga. The audience is pulled in, caught up in the compelling, lulling sound. The audience is transported on a journey of wonder and longing.
On July 10, 2016 the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, namedd Turkish musician Kudsi Ergüner, UNESCO Artist for Peace, at a ceremony held at the Congress Center in Istanbul (Turkey) following the opening ceremony of the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee, which ends on July 20.
Kudsi Ergüner is appointed in recognition of his efforts to promote the universal values of music, an essential instrument of dialog between cultures, for his contribution to the protection of musical heritage, his support for the International Decade of the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) and his firm commitment to the ideals of the Organization.
During the ceremony, Director General Irina paid tribute to Mr. Ergüner’s efforts throughout his career to keep alive the musical heritage of his country. “Your life and work have been guided by a profound passion to bring the past to life, to share the wisdom and beauty of traditions, to pass their messages of peace and dialogue to current and future generations, to share the depth of Mevlevi Sufi music, building on Persian and Turkish traditions, mixing this with poetry, literature and living arts across the region,” she expressed.
Born in Turkey in 1952, Kudsi Ergüner is a ney (reed flute) player, composer, musicologist, teacher, author and translator. Trained by his father, Ulvi Ergüner, the last great master of the ney flute, he has given concerts throughout the world and helped revive traditional musical trends. His collaborations with prestigious artists such as Peter Gabriel, Maurice Béjart, Peter Brook and Didier Lockwood helped to spread this music to Western audiences.
As a UNESCO Artist for Peace, Mr. Ergüner aims to work for the updating of the forgotten musical heritage. “I’m an artist but also a man of action and I hope to share my actions in the framework of UNESCO alongside other Artists for Peace,” he declared.
UNESCO Artists for Peace are internationally renowned personalities who use their influence, charisma and prestige to promote the message and UNESCO programs. UNESCO is working with them to increase public awareness regarding key development issues and the role of the Organization in these areas.
On Saturday night, most of the bands were French to please the general public. The crowd around was younger on average than in the previous nights. Some just wanted to be there to get a buzz and jumped up and down on the faster songs, while talking throughout the quieter ones.
Trio Keynoad appeared on stage representing the Provence Alpes – Côte d’Azur region. The members of Trio Keynoad are Ameylia Saad Wu (voice and harp), Christian Kiane Fromentin (violin, saz) and Nicola Marinoni (percussion).
Ameylia is the daughter of Lebanese writer Michel Saad and a Chinese mother. The group’s lyrics are poems by Ameylia’s father set to music. She grew up on Reunion Island and quickly became interested in learning the Celtic harp and classical singing.
The song “Follow your star” featured a steady darbuka beat. We easily recognized the Eastern structure of the song containing intervals of three-quarter tones.
The remaining songs ‘Okinanoss “Sega islands” and “Night Wings” invited us to a journey in space and time. A mixture of neo-classical and world music.
The next performance I attended at the Chapiteau stage was Compagnie Lyakam ((India – France). Jessie Veeratherapillay performed Bharata Natyam, the dance of her Tamil ancestors. It’s a form of Indian classical dance expressing grace, purity, and sculptural poses.
The musicians on electric sitar, saxophone and percussion, together with vocal harmonies, delivered jazz and flamenco flavors.
Soadaj, from Reunion Island (France) brought a breath of fresh air at the Salle des Sucres. The musicians specialize in Maloya that is, along with the Sega, one of two major genres of Reunion.
Pan-African and European influences are mixed into their music reflecting the melting pot of the band.
On “Out ‘Po” the crystalline voice of the blonde singer Marie invaded the space, supported by the sound of the didgeridoo, plunging us into a shamanic trance. The voice of Laurence, the second singer in counterpoint, harmony or response fitted completely into the music of the band.
The musicians of Saodaj were full of beauty, talent and youth, with a solid background and life experience. They brought us authenticity and the enthusiastic reception of the public was fully justified.
Belgium-based duo Vardan Hovanissian (Armenia) & Emre Gültekin (Turkey) played at the Cabaret stage. Vardan Hovanissian plays duduk, an Armenian music instrument like a double reed oboe, while Emre Gültekin plays the saz, a long-necked lute.
Both musicians brought into life the coexistence of two cultures that existed under the Ottoman Empire until the tragic events of the early 20th century with the physical elimination of about 1.5 million Armenians.
Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin produced a duo album “Adana“, one hundred years after the beginning of the Armenian genocide.
The title song “Adana” is dedicated to Adana, a city which housed a large Armenian community in the late 19th century and was exterminated during the genocide. Emre’s voice expressed suffering.
“Daglar” (mountain in English) is a poem written by Emre’s father. Emre sang softly. The accompaniment by the darbuka and the saz created a sense of emptiness on mountain tops. Vardan and Emre were supported by two experienced musicians mastering the Turkish and Armenian music structures based on Eastern and Western scales.
The concert by Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin ended with a standing ovation of more than 1,500 persons.
The band 7SON@TO that performed at Salle des Sucres is the flagship of gwoKa, the musical style Guadeloupe of island. It is mainly played with drums of different sizes called ‘ka’, a family of percussion instruments.
On stage, a lead singer in the center, 3 singers (two women and one man) and four percussionists.
Durg the song “Péyi Dewo” a singer took over the lead vocals. Then other musicians, and part of the audience responded. “Ah Ta Mama Yayo” had growing harmonies. I recognized Central African words in the Creole songs. Indeed, gwoka was born during the period of slavery and was a means of escape and communication. The audience accompanied the songs and danced to the vibes of the Caribbean Isles.
I found that the representation was a bit too pedagogic, but 7SON@TO brought into light their traditions rooted in our time. Their concert enriched me with their culture.
I hope that the coverage of more than one third of the acts gives you an idea of the new discoveries and highlights. Babel Med Music is, without question, one of the important international events in world music. We were very lucky with music and Mediterranean sunshine.
Three nights of music (17 March – 19 March 2016) at Babel Med Music, located in the Docks des Suds of Marseille with outdoor spring-like temperatures. What more could you expect? Would we discover a lot of new bands and creations?
I think that for budgetary reasons and cost effectiveness, the organizers try to get a fair balance between emerging talents for the professional participants and established ones for the general public. My review will feature fourteen acts out of more than thirty artists spread over three nights.
On Thursday night, I noticed a lot of professionals wearing a badge, who were attending the gigs. Canadian vocalist Alejandra Ribera started the concert series at the Tent stage. She was eye catching, wearing a long sleeveless black dress. Alejandra began the song “La Boca” in English, with a deep voice in a foggy universe, then switched over into another register, singing in Spanish with sometimes a piercing voice. Her Scottish roots took us into a melancholic mood as deep as a winter depression. Fortunately, the South American rhythms that followed made us jump with joy.
Also at the Tent stage, the project La Nuit d’Antigone (France – Germany – Turkey) presented the meeting of Mediterranean female musicians: Sylvie Paz on vocals, Perrine Mansuy on piano, Naïssam Jalal on flute, Diler Özer on percussion and DJ Ipek for sound design.
The lyrics were contemporary women’s poetry set to music. It was advertised that the performance was a history of women’s resistance. The singer read the lyrics in different languages on a page in front of her. It did not make it easy to get the message of feminine resistance through.
Baba Zula is a Turkish band from Istanbul, a metropolis located at the crossroads of the East and the West. The musicians grew up in the underground music scene and forged their own identity with traditional folklore, rock and heavy metal.
At the Salle des Sucres, Baba Zula plunged us into a psychedelic experience. We listened to the musical legacy of the Ottoman Empire that lasted from 1299 to 1923, and that ruled North Africa and the Middle East.
Baba Zula’s Murat Ertel on the electric saz wandered into the public. When she returned, singer Melike invited the audience to follow her during the song “Acis, Hopçe”. She swung, dressed in a green dress with veils floating between her arms and body.
Fuelled by the energy of the band, the young ladies in the audience started to shake their bodies. They were probably members of a fitness club teaching belly dance or Turkish tsifteteli.
David Bowie used to sing “We Could Be Heroes just for one day”. We were the queens and kings of the night with Baba Zula.
Djmawi Africa is an Algerian band formed in 2004. They practice a fusion of chaabi, reggae and Gnawa rituals with essentially a rock rhythm section. We felt the band has an international stage experience.
Djmawi Africa kicked off their performance at the Salle des Sucres with the song “Lala Aicha”. First, we could hear the violinist playing Middle Eastern accents. Then followed the guembri (a Gnawa bass lute) and the guitarist who played blistering solos and deep-rooted riffs.
African bands have a tendency to produce a festive atmosphere throughout the concert time, Djmawi Africa had a different approach. At times, slower compositions allowed us to enjoy the subtlety and diversity of their musicality, and then the band offered an energy-packed set.
Djmawi Africa love to explore the sounds and added the kora, djembe, the ngoni to their list of instruments.
Djmawi Africa, a progressive and eclectic Algerian band that pleasantly surprised us with its respect of Africanness and musical colors played on modern and ethnic instruments.
Armenian-Turkish-Belgian ensemble Adana is the winner of Octaves de la Musique 2016 award in the world music category. The band aims to reconcile Armenian and Turkish cultures and is led by Armenian-Belgian Vardan Hovanissian (duduk) and Turkish-Belgian Emre Gültekin (saz, vocals). The rest of the ensemble includes Belgian musicians Joris Vanvinckenroye on double bass and Simon Leleux on percussion.
Adana recently performed at Babel Med Music world music showcase in Marseilles, receiving a standing ovation from the audience. People stood up at the end of the showcase to give them an ovation. An exceptional performance that shows the interest in this project reconciling Armenian and Turkish cultures.
Octaves de la Musique are the awards presented every year to artists living in Belgium (Wallonia-Brussels). They are handed out by professionals (booking agents, artist managers, record labels, artists, institutions).
Sines Festival (Portugal)
Philharmonie du Luxembourg (Luxembourg)
Rumi Fest (LV)
Festival Parfums de Musiques (France)
Le Salon du Bleu Café (Switzerland)
Ethno Port Festival (Poland)
Festival de Wallonie (Belgium)
La Chapelle de Verre (Belgium)
Photo credit: Adana photo by Fabienne Pennewaert
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