Barbaros Erköse Ensemble
Ashiklar, Those Who Are In Love
Remembrances Of Ottoman Composers
all titles Golden Horn Records (www.goldenhorn.com)
One should expect to hear a multitude of musical threads in Turkish music. Turkey's geography, straddling Europe and Asia, has long separated the "west" from the "east" in the Orientalist view of the world. As a crossroads, Turkey captured influences of both worlds. Hence you'll find Greek sensibilities and Arabic rhythms all in the same package. The Ottoman Empire played a hugely influential and curious role in its effects on art and music, encouraging nationalism while simultaneously repressing regional folk forms that went underground but still survive today. Turkey also epitomizes the discourse between the ancient and modern worlds of the non-Arab Middle East. The modernizing reforms of Kemal Ataturk brought changes in politics, culture and music that continue to influence Turkish music forms. Each of these releases offers a differing view of Turkey's musical world.
Raised in a musical family, clarinet virtuoso Barbaros Erköse performs with a melodic vitality that speaks of Roman (Gypsy) influences, the Turkish fasil (light classical) style, and improvisational jazz of the urban landscape. Though built around the maqam (mode) and rhythmic meyan (similar to the taksim), Lingo Lingo comes on with a vitality that brings these instrumental compositions alive in ways that traditional approaches don't typically achieve. Whether gleaned from regional folk repertoire ("Havad Bulut Yok") or exploring among various maqam ("Taksimler"), this ensemble is convincing in its results. The maqams and rhythms change frequently, something to be expected; but what you'll hear with Barbaros Erköse Ensemble are nuances. At one moment Greek or Romanian, at another Anatolian, at still another, you'll believe these folks must have a good stash of American jazz records tucked away somewhere. Additional members of the Ensemble include Tuncy Erköse (violoncello), Saban Erköse (darbuka), Onum Yagcilar (violin), Sener Buyukdereli (kanun), Serday Karacay (oud) and Ibrahim Torol (kenar, a frame drum). This is an outstanding and enjoyable release.
With Ashiklar, Those Who Are in Love, filmmaker David Grabias provides the soundtrack for a documentary film of the same title. In concise, well written and illuminating liner notes, Grabias provides entry to the world and history of the ashik, the traditional saz-playing oral storytellers that were the topic of his film. Descended from Turkic nomadic tribes who settled in Anatolia between the 8th and the 11th centuries, in time the ashik evolved a distinct form of Islamic religious practice that stemmed from their own pre-Islamic shamanistic roots. Ultimately repressed by the Ottoman Sunni government, the ashik in the 20th century came to associate with leftist political movements and have suffered disintegration of their traditional culture. According to Grabias, "No more do ashik wander the countryside; instead, old men sit in cafés and tell stories
of the past. More and more, their children forsake the life of the village for the promise of the city, losing touch with folk culture and the Alevi oral traditions as they dream of becoming the next pop star." These outstanding performances were recorded on location in Turkey in 1994 in the villages and fields where ashik saz and vocal performers continue to reside. Not to be missed (and track down the film if you're able!).
"Taksim on makam Shenaz"
As an instrument, I'm fond of the kemenche, a Turkish folk fiddle. Still, on Remembrances of Ottoman Composers, I'm challenged by the musical scope of what I hear. These improvisational compositions by Íhsan Özgen are the work of a master musician, recorded in a studio in Canada and might best be thought of as musical reminiscences. Indeed, with spare accompaniment (percussionist Mercan Dede on a few tracks), Özgen simply played. There are no track lists, there were no rehearsals, no second takes, only a master searching and experimenting as he harkens back to the other masters of his compositional craft. As the embodiment of Turkish influences that stretch back beyond the 18th and 19th centuries, one won't find better. - Richard Dorsett
CDs are available at cdRoots.com
All songs © 1999 Golden Horn Records