Tag Archives: Turkish music

Artist Profiles: Mercan Dede

Mercan Dede


World Beat musician and producer Arkin Ilicali, better known as Mercan Dede, cleverly fuses the Eastern spiritual traditions of Sufi music with the contemporary sounds of ambient and chill out music to create a mix of old and new, East and West. An adherent of mystical Sufi spirituality, Turkish-born and Montreal-based Mercan Dede brings his holistic understanding of sound and the rhythms of nature to his interpretations of traditional Sufi music as well as his original compositions.

Mercan Dede believes that when you put digital electronic sounds together with hand-made human ones, you can create universal language capable of uniting old and young, ancient and modern. ‘Those things are not really separate ‘ says Dede. ‘The essence of Sufism is counterpoint. Everything exists with its opposite. On one side I am doing electronic music. The other side of that is this really acoustic traditional music.’

Raised poor in a Turkish village in the 197s Dede recalls the moment when listening to the radio as a six-year-old he fell in love with the sound of the ney. But even when he moved to Istanbul to study journalism he could not afford an instrument so he made his first one from a length of plastic plumbing pipe. Although he eventually found a ney teacher Dede did not pursue music as a career. He was more deeply involved with photography and by chance an official at the Saskatoon Public Library in Canada saw some of his work and invited him to come and do an exhibition.

Dede wound up studying multimedia in Saskatoon and he worked in a bar to earn rent money. That was where he first encountered the art of deejaying. One day the bar’s deejay couldn’t make it and Dede stepped in. The techno revolution was just beginning and Dede was getting in on the ground floor.

By the mid-1980s he was traveling to do ‘technotribalhouse’ deejay gigs under the name Arkin Allen. He debuted as Mercan Dede in 1996 when he released his first album Sufi Dreams recorded for Golden Horn Records in San Francisco. The album was a minimalist techno project featuring the ney flute and it earned impressive reviews.

A few years later, Dede moved to Montreal where he first studied then taught at Concordia College moving ever more forcefully into the growing techno scene. Recordings he made under the name Mercan Dede got noticed in Istanbul and a festival invited him to perform expecting an older gentleman as Dede means ‘grandfather’ in Turkish. When people saw a young band mixing techno and tradition they were exhilarated and Dede has stuck with this adapted name ever since.

Dede formed his first group in 1997 and created more recordings, Journeys of a Dervish (Golden Horn 1999), Seyahatname (Doublemoon 2001) and Nar (Doublemoon 2002). From the start, the group was more an idea than a set lineup. ‘I always get different musicians ‘ says Dede ‘all the time. When I do a European tour each country I choose a guest musician from that country. This is the essence of the group.’ The Canadian TV station Bravo filmed and aired Dede’s concert with Turkish master kemence (Persian violin) player Ihsan Ozgen at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in the Fall of 1998. German television producers Saarlandischer Rundfunk were so attracted by Dede’s music that they traveled to Canada to feature him in their documentary about Sufi Music. While filming Dede at work in Montreal and Toronto in February of 1998 the producers requested that Dede create the soundtrack for this project. Mercan Dede’s album Seyahatname includes pieces composed for a dance theater project directed and choreographed by Beyhan Murphy for the Turkish State Modern Dance Troupe.


Mercan Dede


In July 2001 Mercan Dede performed at the highly acclaimed Montreal Jazz Festivals sharing the General Motors Big Event stage with Burhan Ocal and Jamaaladeen Tacuma in a concert called ‘East Meets the West’ before an audience of more than 15 people. On that same evening, right after his concert, he appeared at Spectrum this time performing with his project Montreal Tribal Trio again as part of the festival program. In 2002 the group electrified the World Music Expo (WOMEX) world music trade fair in Essen Germany and also the International Transmusicales Festival in Rennes.

The group’s 2004 U.S. debut took place at Joe’s Pub in New York in January 24 as part of the city’s groundbreaking world music marathon GlobalFest. Mercan Dede also provided music for Pina Bausch’s “Istanbul”’ performed in the city it was named for in the spring of 2003.

Mercan Dede was invited to play at GlobalFest (APAP Conference) in New York in January 2004 where 16 different bands from 5 continents play. He was commissioned by the Turkish Ministry of Culture as the music director of the Goldestan Project. The project is destined to represent Turkish Culture and Arts all around the Globe.


Mercan Dede


Combining the artist’s first two albums on Doublemoon (‘Seyahatname’ and ‘Nar’) ‘Sufi Traveler’ was the first Mercan Dede widely distributed release in USA. The double album followed a North American tour in the summer 2004 including the 27th annual Vancouver Folk Festival (Canada), Stern Grove Festival (San Francisco), Grand Performances (Los Angeles), Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre Celebrate Brooklyn.

UNESCO announced 2007 as World Mevlana Year during which Mercan Dede released 800, an album in homage to Rumi’s 800th birthday. After a six year hiatus, his album Earth was released to critical acclaim featuring guest vocals by Azam, Ali Sabahat Akkiraz and a sample of Gandhi’s first and only speech recorded in 1923.




Sufi Dreams (Golden Horn, 1998)

Journeys of a Dervish (Golden Horn, 1999)

Nar (Doublemoon, 2002)

Seyahatname (Doublemoon, 2002)

Sufi Traveler (High Times Records, 2004)

Su (RH Pozitif Muzik 2004/Escondida Music, 2005)

Breath (White Swan, 2007)

800 (2007)

Dunya (2013)

Website: www.mercandede.com


Ask Your Heart: Mehmet Polat Trio

Mehmet Polat Trio – Ask Your Heart (Home Records, 2017)

Ask Your Heart is the second album by the Mehmet Polat Trio (released in 2017 on homerecords.be). Its music transports the listener from a world of agitation to a place of calm. Imagine you are by the sea, relaxing by the waves, and you begin to get an image of this trio’s sound. Much contemporary music is too overproduced with electronics in place of real instruments, but not this album. Its spareness is elegant and moving.

The trio has nothing fancy to hide behind. They have only each other for back up. Folk in feel, the music has within it modal jazz and traditional African sounds. The album starts out slowly with “Untouched Stories,” as the two-stringed instruments, kora and oud, take baby steps and gradually move together with the flute-like ney. There is a lullaby feeling as the ney moves out expansively, playing longer notes while the oud and kora provide a steady accompaniment.


Mehmet Polat


Mehmet Polat is the trio’s founder. He started his life’s journey in Turkey, raised in a family of Alevi Sufi musicians. They play a spiritual folk music, whose songs are often revelatory or in praise of Sufi saints. Yet Mehmet was not content to remain within one musical genre. He seeks to voyage, exploring the musical connections between the middle East, traditional African music, and jazz. He has written that he is “constantly searching for new musical paths and inspiration.” He has found two master musicians to accompany him on his quest: Sinan Arat on ney and Dymphi Peeters on kora. The ney is an ancient reed flute, and the kora is 21 stringed instrument from West Africa with a calabash base as a resonator. But, neither instrument dominates the other; and none of the musicians overpowers the others or remains the center of attention.



There is equilibrium among the players, a sense of give-and-take as they improvise, as if each has come to share a delicious communal plate of food. The trio’s first album Next Spring started their collective adventure, but on this album, the different musical genres coalesce. The sound takes flight.

The trio’s musical creativity is heard best on the fifth track, “Whispering to the Waves,” as the oud shapeshifts to sound like an upright bass. The music breathes and the listener breathes with it. It has spaciousness. Sinan plays a long solo on the ney. It is haunting, seeming to flow like a mysterious mist into the night air.

On “Evening Prayer,” the three instruments together announce a simple melody. The ney improvises next. And then a surprise: Mehmet sings a vocal of longing, and the ney shadows it. The piece is a ghazal from the Middle East. Mehmet explains, “there is a melody or groove underneath, and the vocal improvisation is on top of it.” He learned how to sing ghazals from listening to recordings of an old local master from Urfa, Turkey, Kazancı Bedih. His listening paid off. He’s a talented, expressive singer. The deep vocal works well with the low tones of the instruments. The vocal is full of yearning for the divine. The song is from a poem by Leyla Hamm, who was an Ottoman woman poet, and reads in part:

Dear Divine: please help this powerless being in despair
May you help me heal my heartache
I am your disobedient creation, please forgive me…

The final track, “Mardin,” is also a ghazal. Here again the instruments start by playing the melody together and then the vocal is introduced. The song’s lyrics are translated in part as, “I have sacrificed myself for no other than your love.” The listener is drawn into this powerful, meditative moment as the vocalist moves into a place of longing. Mehmet Polat writes in the album’s liner notes: “Music for me is a connection from heart to heart. I invite you to open your heart to the music and let it come to you.” And if you allow yourself to stop and to listen, this music will open your heart.

For more about the Mehmet Polat Trio or to purchase “Ask Your Heart” you can visit their website: mehmetpolat.net

Buy Ask Your Heart


Artist Profiles: Latif Bolat

Latif Bolat

Latif Bolat is one of the most distinguished Turkish musicians in the US. With a vast repertory that includes songs in classical folk and Sufi music styles he accompanies himself on the baglama (long-necked lute) and various other traditional instruments from the Turkish folk music tradition.

Bolat is a native of the Turkish Mediterranean town of Mersin. After receiving his degree in folklore and music at Gazi University in Ankara Turkey he taught traditional music throughout Eastern Anatolia. He then went on to manage a musical theater company Ankara Halk Tiyatrosu which performed traditional musical plays. Latif Bolat now resides in the United States where he teaches music plays concerts gives lectures and composes soundtracks for television such as the music used in George Lucas’ series Young Indiana Jones.

During his visits to his homeland Turkey Latif Bolat has performed and lectured at various radio stations and cultural institutions and conservatories in Istanbul and Ankara.

The California Art Council rewarded Mr. Bolat with a grant in 1991 for his contributions to the preservation of Turkish folk music. Latif Bolat directed the San Francisco based Latif Bolat Turkish Music Ensemble. He also serves as musical director for the Mevlevi Association of America “Whirling Dervishes” a Sufi organization which stages public performances of movement with live Turkish classical music.

Latif Bolat has also composed music for TV including soundtrack music for George Lucas Studios’ TV series “Young Indiana Jones” and PBS documentary: Mohammed: Legacy of a Prophet.


Infinite Beginning: Devotional Songs of Turkey (1997)

Ask Olsun: Let There Be Love (2000)

Eyvallah: Songs of Surrender (2002)

Gul: The Rose (2005)


Artist Profiles: Kardes Turkuler

Kardeş Turkuler

Kardeş Turkuler (Songs of Fraternity) came into being in 1993 as a concert project by the Boğazici University Folklore Club. The concert which aimed to interpret Anatolian folk songs based on their own cultural structure and in their original languages was comprised of four sections: Turkish, Kurdish, Azerbaijani and Armenian.

The project based on the ideal of living together in fraternity also took a stand against the polarization and tensions which had been created among different peoples in a multicultural land. Later on the Kardeş Turkuler project began broadening its repertoire performing songs from such cultures as Laz, Georgian, Circassian, Roma, Macedonian and Alevi among others. These were arranged in accordance with the philosophy of the ensemble.

The project took its place within the musical division of Boğazici Performing Arts Ensemble (BGST) formed in 1995 and went on to be performed at a variety of arts events cultural evenings festivals and celebrations. In June of 1997 ‘Kardeş Turkuler’-an album with various examples from the musical traditions of the Anatolian/Mesopotamian landscape- was released by Kalan Music. In 1998 Kardeş Turkuler was voted ‘Group of the Year’ in a survey by a private radio station broadcasting in Turkey.

The second album was based on a project with a more local and specific focus: ‘Doğu’ (East) (Kalan 1999). In February 2 two of the songs interpreted by the ensemble were included in the CD accompanying Jerome Cler’s book ‘Musiques de Turquie’ (Cite de la Musiques Actes Sud France).

One piece from ‘Doğu’ was also included in a miscellaneous album accompanying the October issue of Songlines which was devoted to Anatolian music. Folk Roots in its January-February 21 issue included another of the ensemble’s songs.

The ensemble also undertook to bring the multiculturalism and multi-ethnic makeup of its own land in a music video in Turkish and Kurdish as an example of cultural give-and-take in the musical realm. Though the video as a ‘first’ was reported in the main news programs it did not receive wide coverage by the self-censoring national channels. Still it received positive feedback from circles devoted to fraternity and peace.

Kardeş Turkuler performed the musical direction and arrangement of the famous Kurdish singer Sivan Perwer’s album ‘Roj Heyv’ (Sun and Moon) . It then prepared the music for the eastern-themed film ‘Vizontele’. This work also published as a soundtrack (Kalan) received the award for ‘Best Film Music’ at the 38th Annual Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in October 2001. It received the same award from the Cinema Writer’s Association.

In 2002 being prepared again with the concept of multiculturalism the ‘Hemavaz’ album (Kalan) also reached the international audience with its release (Connecting Cultures) in Europe. The next album which was made up of the musics of the movie ‘Vizontele Tuuba’ released by Kalan Music in January 2004.

The album Bahar (Spring) was released by Kalan Music in May 2005. As in earlier albums this album too is comprised of songs and compositions in the many different languages of Anatolia and expressing the variety of religious beliefs there.


Hardasan – Songs of Azerbaijan (1996)

Kardeş Turkuler (1997)

Doğu – The East (1999)

Kardeş Turkuler (2000)

Vizontele soundtrack (2001)

Hemâvâz (2002)

Vizontele Tuuba soundtrack (2004)

Bahar (2005)

Çocuk ‘H’Akli (2011)

Tencere Tava Havas – Sound of Pots and Pans (2013)


Artist Profiles: Istanbul Oriental Ensemble

Istanbul Oriental Ensemble

The Istanbul Oriental Ensemble led by percussionist, vocalist and string player Burhan Ocal includes a number of Turkey’s leading Gypsy musicians who are dedicated to preserving the all-but-forgotten heritage of 18th- and 19th-century Gypsy music from Istanbul and Thrace (the area where Europe and Asia meet that today includes parts of Bulgaria Greece and Turkey between the Aegean and the Black seas). The diverse character of this music which celebrates a full range of life experience is influenced both by the Gypsies’ love of nature and by their great migrations.

Gypsies have played an important role in shaping the music of the region around Istanbul Edirne and Izmir (Smyrna) since the 1th century. Their talent love of music and undisputed technical virtuosity have allowed them to assimilate a highly divergent range of folk and classical forms. They have long been bearers of an important musical tradition especially in Turkey where Islamic disapproval of music made it the preserve of the Greek Jewish and Gypsy peoples.

In the course of their constant travels the Turkish Gypsies acquired a wide repertoire adopting those elements of Turkish classical music that provided the best vehicle for their vitality and temperament such as the solo improvisations known as taksim. The daily life of these musicians in fact centered on musical improvisation. When they were not performing at a concert wedding or some other gathering they would get together to improvise late into the night. One musician would begin to develop a theme to introduce the makam (one of the modes or scales that are the basis for Turkish classical music) which would then be picked up and lavishly ornamented by the next musician.

The main instruments of the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble are the darbuka (drums), the kanun (zither), the ud (lute), clarinet (successor to the zurna), and the keman (violin or fiddle). The ensemble’s recordings Gypsy Rum and Sultan’s Secret Door have both won the Deutsche Schallpattenpreis (a rare honor for consecutive albums) while Gypsy Rum also received the Musique de la Monde prize as the best world music album of 1998. In 2000, the group released its third recording Caravanserai which was dedicated to its original clarinetist Ferdi Nadaz who died shortly after the recording was made. The recording tells the tale of a band that arrives at an oasis and play at the wedding of a wealthy camel dealer. It includes Ya Kerim! which features Nadaz’s muezzin-style vocals the only known recording of his voice. Members of the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble were featured in the 1993 film Latcho Drom (Safe Journey) which tells of the Gypsies’ migration across Europe and Asia through song and dance.

The members of the band are:

Burhan Ocal – leader

Ekrem Badi – darbuka

Yasar Sutoglu – clarinet

Muzaffer Coskuner – ud

Alaattin Coskuner – kanun

Cuneyt Ertan Coskuner – violin


Gypsy Rum ̺(Network Medien, 1995)

Sultan’s Secret Door ̺(Network Medien, 1997)

Caravanserai ̺(Network Medien, 2000)

Grand Bazaar ̺(Network Medien, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Istanbul music and Sema Group

Istanbul music and Sema Group

The Istanbul Music and Sema (Whirling Ceremony) Group was founded by R. Hakan Talu Serhat Sarpel and Nadir Karnibuyukler in order to share two of the most important elements of Turkish Culture – its traditional music and spiritual ceremonies – with a wider audience. The concerts feature Turkish classical music Tasavvuf (mystical) music and Sema ceremonies (Whirling Dervish rituals) in engaging performances that closely adhere to historical tradition.

These rituals evoke the call for “human love” “brotherhood” and “tolerance” associated with the great mystic Mevlana Celalleddin-i Rumi who spoke to humanity 727 years ago with the invitation “Come! Whoever you are come!”

The musicians and semazens (whirling dervishes) who make up the group have combined these traditional forms of music and ceremony for many years in concerts in Turkey and many cities of the world.


Artist profiles: Incesaz

Incesaz’s music has the full taste of the classical. The “makam” (the melodic texture) and “usül” (traditional rhythmic patterns) the instruments style and the way they are elaborated — this music stands on solid historical ground. All these aspects show that Incesaz’s music sounds very modern compared to the classical. The music is polyphonic (classical Turkish music is monodic) and arranged (the classical is not). Instruments from outside the Turkish classical tradition are used such as guitar bass violoncello and piano. Overall this music has a contemporary sound. This new approach earned unprecedented praise from the industry and the critics. It has even been suggested that Incesaz should be regarded as the creator of a new Turkish musical genre.

Incesaz traces its roots to their time at the Istanbul State Conservatory. The group’s founders Murat Aydemir and Derya Türkan have been playing together ever since as a duo or within many other ensembles they gave countless concerts and released an album “Ahenk” (Harmony) in 1996. The same year they met Cengiz Onural from the group Yeni Türkü soon thereafter he left that group and Incesaz started. This trio has been the kernel of the group.

In 1997 the percussion player Mahinur Özüstün and the kanun player Taner Sayacýoðlu joined and Incesaz started recording its first album “Eski Nisan” (Aged April) which was released in 1999. All the while they have been writing and performing music for films and television including the celebrated series: “Ikinci Bahar / Second Spring”. Incesaz released its third album in January 22 which contains eight songs plus various instrumental pieces. The songs are sung by one of Turkey’s most beautiful female voices Melihat Gülses.


Eski Nisan / the Aged April (1999)

Ikinci Bahar / the Second Spring (2000)

Eylul Sarkilari / Songs of September (2002)

Istanbul’a Dair / About Istanbul (2004)

Mazi Kalbimde / Cherishing Bygone Days (2005)

Kalbimdeki Deniz (2011)


Artist profiles: Ihsan Ozgen

Ihsan Ozgen

Ihsan Ozgen (kamenche, tanbur, co-director of Lux Musica) is a self-taught musician composer and teacher of the Classical Ottoman music of Turkey. He is sometimes regarded as the new Cemil Bey: the turn-of-the-century performer and composer noted for his brilliance on a variety of instruments.

Ozgen is a self-taught musician and performs on kamenche, lauta, violoncello and tanbur. He has studied and mastered the works of Tanburi Cemil Bey. He has studied the techniques of playing the violoncello and violin and has applied new techniques to the playing of the kamenche such as new left hand positions and bow techniques. Ozgen’s fame is usually associated with his kaemenche playing and melodic taksims (improvisations). Ozgen’s kamenche playing brings out soft full and rich sounds from this instrument.

In 1991 Ozgen was awarded the Abdi Ipeksi Peace Award in recognition of his work with the Bosphorus ensemble a group composed of Turkish and Greek musicians. He is also the leader of the well-known ensemble Anatolia.

Ozgen is an instructor at the Istanbul Turkish Music Conservatory and former guest lecturer at University California at Santa Cruz.


Masterworks of Itri & Meragi (Golden Horn GHP 8-2, 1998)

Remembrances of Ottoman Composers (Golden Horn GHP 11-2, 1999)

Legacy with Neva Ozgen (Golden Horn GHP 16-2, 2001)

Cantemir: Music in Istanbul and Ottoman Europe around 1700, with Linda Burman-Hall (Golden Horn GHP 19-2 2004)

Haydn and the Gypsies: Music in the Style Hongrois, with Lux Musica

Celtic Caravans: The Road to Romanticism, with Lux Musica


Artist Profiles: Burhan Öçal

Burhan Öçal

Turkish music specialist Burhan Öçal has made the bridging of musical cultures his central mission. A native of Kirklareli, near Istanbul, he grew up in a musical family. From his father he learned a variety of percussion instruments, while his mother introduced him to religious vocal music. At an early age he was influenced by and began performing Turkish court and folk music, as well as neo-classical Turkish music. After his first contact with Western music, he became interested in combining other genres and cultural traditions, such as jazz and Western classical music, with his own.

Burhan Öçal’s instruments are as diverse as his music. In addition to a wide variety of percussion, such as the Darbuka (a vase-shaped drum played with the fingers), Kos (kettle drum), Kudum and Bendi, he is a highly skilled player on a number of stringed instruments, including the Divan-Saz, Tanbur and Ud. His expressive voice adds to the spectrum of musical elements at his command.

Since 1977, Burhan Öçal has divided his time between Istanbul and Zurich, Switzerland. He has won worldwide recongnition for touring and recording with his own Istanbul Oriental Ensemble, which performs traditional Gypsy and Turkish folk music. Seeking out a range of world-class collaborators, he has also performed with pianist Maria Joao Pires, jazz keyboardist (and Weather Report founder) Joe Zawinul and classical guitarist Eliot Fisk. He has toured and recorded with German fusion specialists in the Burhan Öçal Group, and as a guest artist with the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band from Switzerland as well as the Australian pianist Peter Waters.

Burhan Öçal made his United States debut in February 1998 with Eliot Fisk followed by a tour with the George Gruntz Band, performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and in Vancouver and New York City. Mr. Öçal collaborated with the young Canadian saxophone player Seamus Blake in a residency at the University of Southern California and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He then brought The Seamus Blake Ensemble to the Istanbul Jazz Festival and the Izmir Music Festival in Turkey.

Öçal also joined the Kronos Quartet to premiere a new work of his own with them in October 2001. The Orange County Philharmonic Society’s Eclectic Orange Festival commissioned Mr. Öçal al to write a piece for the Kronos Quartet as well as Öçal and the zurna player, Ahmet Elbasan. The work was repeated with Kronos in June 21 at the Turkish Music Festival in Istanbul. Mr. Öçal returned to the Montreal Jazz Festival that summer, this time with an oriental-style funk ensemble, Groove ala Turca, featuring Jamaaladeen Tacuma (of Ornette Coleman’s band) as well as the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble.

In March 2001, Öçal appeared at a benefit for the Red Cross in Los Angeles featuring Sting and Argentine actress Mia Maestro. New collaborations include a tour with Huse Sermet, the noted French/Turkish pianist, in 23 and a tour and recording of Öçal’s first orchestral compositions (for percussion/violin/voice) with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra conducted by Howard Griffith.

Burhan Öçal has an extensive discography with several award-winning recordings. His first disc with his Istanbul Oriental Ensemble, Gypsy Rum won the 1995 German Record Critic’s Award and was a best-seller on the world music charts. The follow-up to that disc, Sultan’s Secret Door received the rare honor of a second German Record Critics Award. Later came Caravanserie.

He also received the Prix Choc in 1996 for his solo disc titled Ottoman Garden, Turkish classical music of the 17th century (Harmonia Mundi).

In 1998 Öçal formed the Classical Ensemble of Istanbul and released Orient Secret, a recording of the traditional art music of Islam. He also released a trance/ambient recording, Sultan Orhan, with Peter Namlook on the Fax label, his second CD with the German techno artist. His next album New Dream was released by Doublemoon Records in June 2005.


Jardin Ottoman (L’Empreinte Digitale, 1996)

Sultan’s Secret Door (Network, 1998)

Gypsy Rum (Network/Harmonia Mundi / Network, 1998)

Orient Secret (L’Empreinte Digitale, 1999)

Groove Alla Turca (Double Moon, 1999)

Heilmusik der Völker (Ears of Eden, 2001)

Sultan Osman (Universal Music Turkey, 2003)

Kirklareli il Siniri (Double Moon, 2003)

Sultan Orhan (Double Moon, 2004)

New Dream (Double Moon, 2005)

Karadeniz (Ada Yayincilik, 2006)

Trakya Dance Party (Doublemoon, 2006)

Grand Bazar (Network Medien, 2006)

Aleppo- Liegt Hinter Uns ‎(Jazzwerkstatt ML 7010, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Bora Yasar

Bora Yasar

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].