Tag Archives: Turkey

Artist profiles: Senem Diyici

Senem Diyici

Born in Istanbul, Senem Diyici was well known in Turkey as a classical and traditional singer. She later moved to Germany and then in France in 1982. In 1987 she met the jazz guitarist and composer Alain Blesing and in 1989 she recorded on his arrangements on her first album in Europe Takalar in a sextet with the famous Turkish drummer Okay Temiz and some of the best musicians of the new European jazz scene.

In 1991 she wanted to explore new musical directions and created her main band the Senem Diyici 4tet. After fourteen years Senem has performed in more than 1 concerts clubs or festivals all around the world and has recorded 7 albums all awarded by the professional milieu.

Senem has also made guest appearances on many other projects for theater movie or other albums. In 2002 she founded the brass orchestra OctoBando dedicated to the meetings between jazz improvisation and Balkan music.

Each year she performs in many concerts with the 4tet OctoBando or in duet with Alain Blesing and since 2003 she has started to work with the Turkish percussionist Lari Dilmen.
Her album Live!, released on Buda Musique came out in 2005 and a new live DVD in January 2007.


Gest / Jest (Wad 1992)
Divan (Artalent 1995)
Images du Desert, with Alain Blesing (Artalent 1995)
Tell me Trabizon (Buda Musique 1998)
Takalar (la Lichere 1989 / Kalan Muzik 2000)
Morceaux Choisis (Buda Musique 2000)
Zip Cikti with Lari Dilmen (Ada Muzik 2003)
Live! (Buda Musique 2005)


Artist profiles: Salih Bilgin

Salih Bilgin

Salih Bilgin is one of the leading ney virtuosos in Turkey today. Bilgin is the primary student of Niyazi Sayin, the greatest living ney player and an expert on Mevlevi Sufimusic with whom he still studies ney making ebru (marbling) and tesbih (prayer beads).

He has performed internationally with the Romeiko Ensemble, the Istanbul Tasavvuf Music and Semah Ensemble and the Istanbul Government Classical Music Chorus.

His extensive recording work brought him into collaboration with Melihat Gulses, Derya Turkan and Huseyin Tuncel. He performs with the Cantemir Ensemble.


Neva (Golden Horn Records)
Neva 2 (Kaf Muzik)


Artist Profiles: Omer Erdogdular

Omer Erdoğdular

Omer Erdoğdular started studying music while still a child. He was born in Konya and grew up in Istanbul, initially learning ney from his father. In 1965 he began studying with Umit Gurelman and soon after started lessons with Niyazi Sayin which continued for many years. In the following two decades he participated in many radio and TV programs orchestras and concerts in a period when ney just began to be rediscovered in Turkey.

In 1980 he first appeared in concert with the famous soloist Bekir Sitki Sezgin and from then on played in most of his concerts. From 1984 to 1987 Omer Erdoğdular was a neyzen in Ministry of Culture’s Classical Turkish Music Chorus. He made several recordings among them with tanburi Necdet Yaşar and kemence player Ihsan Ezgen.

In 1987 he became a member of the Ministry of Culture’s State Classical Turkish Music Ensemble founded by Necdet Yaşar of which he is still an active member. As a soloist a member of the State Classical Turkish Music Ensemble and also the Necdet Yaşar Ensemble, Omer Erdoğdular performed around Turkey and in Europe, United States, Japan and the Middle East, participating in various festivals concerts and recitals.

He devotes a significant amount of his time to teaching both in Istanbul Turkey and in seminars abroad such as the annual Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Greece, Makamhane in Austria and the Sufi Music Retreat in the United States of America.


Artist Profiles: Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek was born in 1951 in Adana, Turkey to a musical family who nurtured his precocious talents. At the age of eight he began his musical career by developing proficiency on the kaval a small diatonic flute. “My brother was a born musician,” Faruk recalls. “He was really my guru my inspiration.” His brother Hadji played the flute but as he grew up Faruk found himself drawn to other instruments as well.

At the same time, Omar studied religion with thoughts of becoming a cleric or Imam. His musical interests were being nurtured by his older brother and by a sympathetic uncle who owned a music store and who provided lessons. “He had a music store and he also had another job during the day. So he told me to come after school open the store and – in exchange – he gave me lessons.”

While working in the store Omar Faruk learned the intricate rhythms of Turkish music how to read scales and other rudiments. He was trained on and eventually mastered several instruments: ney (bamboo flute), zurna (double-reed oboe like instrument with buzzing tone), the baglama (long-necked lute), the ud (the Middle Eastern lute), as well as percussion. By the age of twelve he began performing professionally at local hot spots.

Because it was a border town,” Faruk recalls, “Philosophers artists actors and all other members of the cultural intelligentsia were attracted there. This explains why so many great musicians have come from my town. My city was rich with cultural opportunities so I was very lucky.”

In 1967, upon turning sixteen he moved to Istanbul where he and his brother spent the following decade as in-demand session musicians. Omar Faruk stayed true to his folkloric roots but during this period of frenetic session work in the metropolitan music scene he explored Arabesque, Turkish and Western styles and the compositional potential of the recording studio. In Istanbul he also met the Mevlevi Dervishes, the ancient Sufi order of Turkey. He did not join the order but the head Neyzen (ney player) Aka Gunduz Kutbay became another source of inspiration. Omar Faruk was profoundly influenced by their mystical approach and fusion of sound and spirit. During that time he was introduced to Hatha Yoga and eventually to Tai Chi and Chi Qong which he continues to practice daily.
Omar Faruk’s skills in the studio blossomed in Istanbul playing with some of the leading Turkish musicians of the day including Orhan Gencebay flute and saxophone player Ismet Siral percussionist Burhan Tonguc and singers Ahmet Sezgin, Nuri Sesiguzel, Mine Kosan and Huri Sapan to name a few.

After establishing himself as one of the top session musicians in Turkey he began touring Europe and Australia. By 1971 at the age of 20 he made his first tour of the United States as a member of a Turkish classical/folk ensemble. It was while touring in the USA that he met his future wife Suzan and in 1976 he relocated to upstate New York to marry her.

Omar Faruk found very few options for a Turkish musician in the USA so he formed a band called the Sultans with an Egyptian keyboardist, a Greek bouzouki player and his brother-in-law on percussion. It started as a pop band but very quickly turned into a sort of Pan-Near Eastern ensemble. They began to attract some attention within the circle of Middle Eastern dance fans. They managed to record five albums during this time but Omar Faruk was still unknown outside his local musical community.

This was all about to change with the fateful meeting with Brian Keane in 1988. Keane released an album in 1988, Suleyman the Magnificent. A film was being made about the Ottoman emperor Suleyman to coincide with the opening of an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brian Keane was hired to do the soundtrack. “I knew I wanted to incorporate Turkish instruments and players,” he recalls, “but the Met saddled me with a bunch of professors; all intellect and no emotion.”

Desperate to move the recording along, Keane called Arif Mardin, the legendary Turkish producer of the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin and so many others and asked if he knew any Turkish musicians. Mardin didn’t. “But two or three days later he called and said his cooks went to Fazil’s, a belly dance club in Manhattan. So I went for five nights and suffered through really bad belly dance music. Then one night Faruk shows up looking like he was right off the boat. (In fact he had just driven down from Rochester, New York, over 33 miles away.) You could tell immediately that he was different. His playing was so emotional; he really stood out.”

Keane had already seen the opening of the film and knew what he wanted, the mystical sound of the Sufi flute or ney added to his own synthesizer. As far as he knew, this combination hadn’t been done before, but Keane invited Tekbilek to his studio to try it. “When Faruk started playing,” he said, “the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was magic from the start.” Their very first take became the opening of the movie and the recording. Faruk brought in some of his friends and the soundtrack was soon finished. In the following years, he and Keane would produce another six recordings, together launching Omar Faruk boldly into the world music scene.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek has since established himself as one of the world’s foremost exponents of Middle Eastern music. A multi-instrumentalist par excellence, he has collaborated with a number of leading musicians of international repute such as jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, keyboard player Karl Berger, former Cream rock drummer Ginger Baker, Ofra Haza, Simon Shaheen, Hossam Ramzy, Glen Velez, Bill Laswell, Mike Mainieri, Peter Erskine, Trilok Gurtu, Jai Uttal and Steve Shehan among others. He has contributed to numerous film and TV scores and to many recordings, including world sacred music albums and has been touring extensively throughout the Middle East, Europe, Australia, North and South America.

Alif (2001) was produced by Steve Shehan. Alif is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet and it also signifies the first letter for Allah. The seventh song and title track is a Sufi masterpiece of devotional love in all its forms – divine love romantic love and love of life. This is the theme running through the album’s 12 songs. The album includes Hadji Atmet Tekbilek, Mamak Khadem and Flamenco guitarist Jose Antonio Rodriguez Muñoz.

In 2005 he released The Tree of Patience which features Flamenco legend Enrique Morente, percussion master Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Ara Dinkjian, ambient music innovator Steve Roach and Hansan Isakkut. “I have a picture I carry in my mind,” Omar Faruk Tekbilek revealed. “I call it The Tree of Patience.”

Omar Faruk is the recipient of the Best Artist of the Turkish Music Award 2003 from the Turkish Writers Association. He is also the recipient of the US Golden Belly Musician-Of-The-Year-Award for 1998 and again for 1999.


Suleyman The Magnificent (Celestial Harmonies, 1988)
Fire Dance (Celestial Harmonies, 1990)
Whirling (Celestial Harmonies, 1994)
Gypsy Fire, with Hagopian (Traditional Crossroads 1995)
Mystical Garden (Celestial Harmonies 1996)
Crescent Moon (Celestial Harmonies 1998)
One Truth (Hearts of Space 1999)
Dance into Eternity (Celestial Harmonies 2000)
One with Yuval Ron Yair Dalal (Magda 2003)
Alif – Love Supreme (Narada World Select 1198 2002)
The Tree of Patience (White Swan, 2005)
Rare Elements (Remixes) (5 Points Records 2009)
Kelebek – Butterfly soundtrack (Celestial Harmonies 2009)Love Is My Religion (Alif Records, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Okay Temiz

Okay Temiz


Okay Temiz was born in 1939 near Istanbul, Turkey. His family moved to Ankara, where he grew up. Temiz studied drumms and percussion at the Ankara conservatory. He began his professional career as a member of show groups with which he toured North Africa, the Near East and all of Turkey. In Europe, Okay Temiz felt especially at ease in Scandinavia and adopted both Sweden and Finland as second homes. At an early stage he regarded himself as an ‘international’ – what today would be called a world musician – and succeeded in bringing together widely differing musical influences.

In the late 1960s, American trumpet player Don Cherry – who took great interest in African and Asian cultures – heard the Okay Temiz play in Stockholm. The incident sparked a collaboration which would last many years. In the mid-1970s, Temiz founded the Ensemble Oriental Wind, a regular and successful guest on the concert stages of Europe throughout the years of its existence. Oriental Wind is described as ethno jazz or world jazz.



Just as he has often invited European musicians to make guest performances in Turkey, Temiz has repeatedly introduced Eastern musicians to Europe primarily people whose musical roots are in the folklore of their country.


Okay Temiz


The zurna has accompanied Temiz throughout his life; its sounds being associated with the most exciting incidents of his childhood – celebrations dances and holidays. In the 1970s Temiz frequently performed in Scandinavia with Binali Selman, a renowned zurna player from Eastern Turkey. In the 1980s he worked with another zurna player in Stockholm – Ziya Aytekin from the northeastern part of their homeland. In 1996/7 following his return to Turkey, Temiz met a young zurna player from the country’s west Ahmet Özden whom he regards as one of the greatest living masters of this difficult instrument.

In 1998, Temiz he recorded the album Karsilama with davul drums and zurnas. He carried out a similar project in Finland in 1995 with his Magnetic Band, a Scandinavian-Turkish ensemble.

Okay Temiz regularly presents percussion workshops for both adults and children.


Drummer of two worlds (Finnadar Records, 1975)
Yonca (YCS, 1976)
Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1977)
Live in der Balver Höhle, with Oriental Wind (JG Records, 1978)
Zikir, with Oriental Wind (Sun Records, 1979)
Chila-Chila, with Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1979)
Bazaar, with Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1981)
Live in Bremen, with Oriental Wind (JA&RO Records, 1981)
Life road, with Oriental Wind (JA&RO Records, 1983)
Sankirna, with Oriental Wind (Sonet, 1984)
Derviş (Ada Müzik, 1989)
Misket (Sonet, 1989)
Istanbul da Eylül (La Lichere, 1989)
Fis fis tziganes (La Lichere, 1989)
Magnetic dance (Bayar Müzik Üretim, 1990)
Green wave (Uzelli, 1992)
In Finland 1995 (Ano Kato Records, 1995)
Karsilama (Ada Müzik, 1998)
Black spot (Kala, 1998)
Black Sea Art Project (Ada Müzik, 2001)
Darbukas & Zurnas (Ada Müzik, 2002)
Mehteran (Ada Müzik, 2002)
Kuzeyden Güneye Yansımalar “Senfoni” (Ada Müzik, 2002)
Okay Temiz ve Ritim Atölyesi (Ada Müzik, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Neva Ozgen

Neva Ozgen

Kemenche player Neva Ozgen made history with the first solo instrumental recording by a female artist in the Turkish classical music world. On her debut CD Legacy, Neva Ozgen played the kemenche accompanied by her father Ihsan Ozgen on the tanbur and rebab. Though all three instruments are traditional to Turkish classical music this album once more breaks ground as there exist only a very few previous recordings of the Turkish rebab.

On Legacy, Neva and Ihsan Ozgen performed the taksim, the traditional Turkish art of improvisation with the classical works of composers such as Nai Osman Dede, Neyzen Salih Dede and Ismail Dede Efendi among others.

As the daughter of the highly-respected Turkish classical musician Ihsan Ozgen, Neva Ozgen grew up surrounded by music. Though she began her musical studies in the Western classical traditions Neva Ozgen soon became drawn towards the Turkish classical world of her famous father and began the study of the kemenche, immersing herself in the traditional compositions of Tanburi Cemil Bey.


Legacy (Golden Horn Records, 2001)


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


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)