Minor Empire – Uprooted (World Trip Records, 2017)
Minor Empire’s impressive new album Uprooted is hard to categorize as it straddles various musical genres. It’s been described as Turkish psychedelia and world music as well.
Based in Canada, Minor Empire brings together Turkish traditional music and progressive, trance-like guitar sounds that take the listener to other realms.
The group’s sound is characterized by the graceful, otherworldly vocals of lyricist Özgü Özman and the spellbinding guitars and electronics of music composer Ozan Boz. Tradition meets cutting edge technology.
The lineup on Uprooted includes Özgü Özman on vocals; Ozan Boz on electric guitar, percussion and electronics; Michael Occhipinti on electric guitar; Chris Gartner on electric bass; Ben Riley on drums; and Patrick Graham on global percussion.
The CD booklet includes the lyrics in Turkish and English-language translations.
Uprooted is a finely crafted, deeply mesmerizing album rooted in Turkish traditions.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
Love Is My Religion out on the Alif Records label, the latest offering by Turkish composer and multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek is stylishly dramatic and sleekly passionate and a worthy addition to Mr. Tekbilek’s impressive discography that includes the recordings The Sultans Middle Eastern Band Vol 1 and 2, Suleyman the Magnificent, Beyond the Sky, Whirling, Mystical Gardens, Alif, and Kelebek. Pulling at threads from the past and present, from the traditional and contemporary, Love Is My Religion cleverly weaves a spell that is both beguiling and deliciously exotic.
Opening with “Araf,” listeners delve deep into the warm riches of Mr. Tekbilek’s mastery of ney, oud, davul, bendir and darbuka, as well as the flavors offered up by accompanying artists Alex Alessandroni Jr. on piano, Bahadir Sener on kanun, Yossi Fine on acoustic bss and Chris Wabich on drums. If that weren’t enough to tempt listeners “Vivir” is utterly spectacular with the song’s composer and vocalist Yasmin Levy taking center stage with her heartbreaking vocals. Joined by Mr. Tekbilek on vocals and various instruments, keyboardist and guitarist Amotz Plessner and Hamid Saeidi on santour, “Vivir” shimmers.
Love Is My Religion adds icing to the cake with Ismet Siral’s “Barefoot Dervish” in all its piano, synthesizer, brass and woodwind goodness, as well as A. Ekber Cicek’s “Haydar” and the delicately delightful “Mara” composed by Amotz Plessner, Alex Alessandroni Jr. and Idan Raiche who also his own piano work to the recording, but the real outstanding performance on this track has to be Lili Haydn’s spectacular violin lines. Standout tracks like deeply exotic “Memories,” the jazzy slant found on “Steepe” and closing track “Adam, Love Is My Religion & Tende Canim,” composed by Mr. Tekbilek and using a traditional Sufi melody are sure to please any music fan.
The performances on Love Is My Religion aren’t just impeccable there’s hypnotic, graceful and fiercely good, so my only advice is to listen up, load up and disappearing into some delicious music.
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.
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.
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.
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 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