Laço Tayfa - Hicaz Dolap
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Laço Tayfa
Hicaz Dolap
Doublemoon (Turkey)

cd cover Who gave birth to the funk, Joe Tex used to ask? For Husnu Senlendirici, clarinet and leader of Laço Tayfa, the answer is clear - Gypsy musicians from the Aegean Turkish town of Bergama, famous in the country for its bands where the classic zurna and davul are coupled with clarinet and snare drum. Husnu comes from a lineage of musicians, trumpet and clarinet players, so much that his family name means "those who celebrate" (the name of the band is half Turkish half Romany, meaning something like "good team" or "happy company"). His father, Ergun, was an amazing trumpet player, whose unique jazz style was featured in Okay Temiz's Magnetic Band; under the percussionist, Senlendirici also took his first steps. Their first album, Bergama Gaydasi (also on Doublemoon), was very successful and is well worth seeking out. To add to the basic ingredients of Turkish-Gypsy dance music and 70's funk, Laço Tayfa looks toward other forms of Turkish pop: arabesk, bellydance, and "anatolian ska" as premiered by the best selling group Athena, whose vocalists are guesting on a track here. The CD takes its title from a piece that is often played as an introduction to a belly dance number, and serves as a showcase for the soloists, who take turns in the central section improvising on the makam Hicaz. An alternate, all-acoustic version can be heard on Barbaros Erköse's Lingo Lingo (Golden Horn), a clarinetist with a similar backgound but from a different generation.

But the closest antecedents to this recording might be the charming, incongrous "funk" sections to be found in some of the LPs produced to accompany the beautiful Ozel Turkbas, a belly dancer who enjoyed some popularity in USA during the 60's and 70's, and whose musical backrounds featured clarinetist Mustafa Kandirali with arrangement by Tarik Bulut.

While Senlendirici can convincingly demonstrate his deep roots and perfect knowledge of the idiom, the funky grooves on bass and drums are a novelty that in the long run tend to rob the music of its most precious attribute, that rhythmic integrity and subtlety which is so unique to Turkish music. As a soloist, Senlendirici shows his virtuosity on clarinet but switches to zurna and plays a mean trumpet on his own "Atmaca," a well-proportioned piece which might sound better without the thundering drums. A virtuoso like kanun player Nuri Leksesizgoz is all but lost in the mix, and the hard, distorted electro-baglama is a poor relative of the acoustic instrument, even if Ozkan Alici plays his trademark imitation of electric guitar blues licks, startling the first time one realizes what it is. Among the compositions, the beatiful "Divane Asik Gibi" by Hasan Tunç is given an instrumental rendition that doesn't stand up to the original (to be found on the Kalan CD by the same name) while "Zuluf Dokulmus Yuze " is a piece by the most loved of contemporary asiks, Neset Ertas: originally published on his CD by the same title. On "Zuluf" the vocalist is Kibariye, a colourful and controversial, but extremely popular, character whose sandpapery voice and mangled delivery are strangely effective, as the final melisma, bordering on flamenco and unfortunately faded out.

While this would be not my first choice to demonstrate the subleties of Turkish rhythms, it still is a fun, joyous record with excellent musicianship and some good moments, and listeners more inclined to funk might well find it a real discovery. - Francesco Martinelli

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