Bosphorus & Mode Plagal
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Bosphorus & Mode Plagal
Beyond the Bosphorus
Hitch-Hyke (hitchhyke.gr)

cd cover 'It was bound to happen, someday.'
That was the first thing that crossed my mind when I came across the news that Bosphorus and Mode Plagal were to collaborate on a record.

Bosphorus, a group of Turkish musicians from Istanbul who for almost twenty years now have been studying the musical tradition of that city through its many periods have been churning out amazing records off the mainstream. They have been exploring, among other things, the musical tradition of Greek composers of the city, as well as the interplay between what existed in the city (the Byzantine tradition of the time when the city used to be called Contantinople) and what came after (the Ottoman musical tradition both on the level of court music and popular one.)

Mode Plagal have already been covered extensively in Rootsworld, as they have been following a similar path regarding Greek music, but with an added focus on jazz experimentation.

Listen!
So, in many ways, both groups have been dealing with the same questions: What does it mean to be at the crossroads between East and West, Now and Then? What have been the results of the influences of other people on the musical tradition of the region? Are there traces of the past to be found and are there any of those worthy of retention for the future? All that and beautiful sounds!

The latter is where Beyond the Bosphorus succeeds effortlessly: this is a compelling, seductive record that doesn't sound academic at all, while it combines music from three different musical traditions; the learned Eastern musical system (the ancient one), the folk tradition of the Alevi communities, and the western-influenced one, as is noted in the beautiful and very informative trilingual liner notes (Greek, English and French.) There were times that this record sounded pop. At others, it reminded me strongly of Morphine (the band from Boston) or an ethnomusicologist's pet research project. On "Oceania," the last song, the U2 of the late 1980s comes to mind. All that and it never sounds forced, grotesque or garish.

As in the previous collaborative work of Mode Plagal (the Yorgos Margaritis CD recently reviewed), this record sounds like Bosphorus, possessed by Mode Plagal. The way in which they go in and out of the picture, blending in or coming to the forefront, depending on the musical needs or whim of the moment, is fascinating.

Apart from the usual high musicianship of Mode Plagal (who use saxophones, electric and acoustic guitars, drums and bass) and the exquisite learned virtuosity of Bosphorus (who play kemenche, rebab, violin, ney, cello, kudum, bendir, kaval, saz, kanun and tanbur), Vassiliki Papageorgiou, who sings on almost all the tracks, should be singled out for particular praise, as her laid back, spacey yet curiously earthy voice is often the highlight of a song. Providing a stylistic unity to the record which otherwise would have been torn apart by its various musical influences, Papageorgiou inhabits the role of the narrator of this fascinating musical journey, as she sings about love in the city, important Islamic religious feasts, Sappho and most of all about the city: Konstantiniye/Istanbul. - Nondas Kitsos

Available from cdRoots


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