Ayhan Akkaya (bass guitar)
Diler Ozer (percussion)
Fehmiye Celik (vocal)
Feryal Oney (vocal)
Mehmet Erdem (vocal, baglama, oud, bouzouki)
Neriman Gunes (violin, cura)
Selda Ozturk (vocal, percussion)
Sirin Ozgun (percussion)
Ulker Uncu (accordion)
Vedat Yildirim (vocal)
Yucel Balim (vocal)
Baris Guney (baglama, percussion)
Ertan Tekin (mey, duduk, zurna)
Serkan Cagri (clarinet)
Lighting Aylin Eren & Levent Soy
Project Manager Riza Okcu
Reviewed by: Anna Goldrein
Reviewed: 26 June, 2004
Venue: Hackney Empire, London
The Hackney Empire filled up with a slice of London’s Turkish community from children of three upward and a sprinkling of the curious. The atmosphere was festive for the opening night of the week-long Türkfest.
This celebration of Turkey’s diverse contemporary music is the first of its kind to be held in Britain, and premieres 16 contemporary Turkish works juxtaposed with music by Mozart and Beethoven, as well as folk music, dance, chamber music and pop-star Candan Erçetin.
Traditionally, the major tension in Turkish music has been between the monophonic (single-voiced melody), distinctive of the Ottoman Empire, and the polyphonic (many-voiced harmony) associated with the Turkish Republic proclaimed by Ataturk in 1923. Add to this waves of musical styles – from the Polish avant-garde to post-modernism, minimalism, jazz, rock, rap and hip-hop – and you begin to have a picture of the complexity of Turkey’s musical scene.
Saturday’s performance by two branches of Bogaziçi Gösteri Sanatlari Toplulugu (Bosphorus Performing Arts Ensemble) – Kardes Türküler and the BGST Dancers – looks to the mosaic of musical styles, dance traditions, cultures and languages within Anatolia and Mesopotamia to tell a story of peace and unity in diversity.
Kardes Türküler was formed in 1993, having grown from a branch of the Folklore Club of Bogaziçi University in Istanbul. Their debut album was released in 1997 to worldwide acclaim. This performance matched their songs to the folk dancing of the BGST Dancers, who travel throughout Turkey archiving and reinterpreting traditional dances.
The programme notes all sounded very worthy. I was getting ready to be unmoved by university students regurgitating traditional songs in a commendable but inauthentic manner as Kardes Türküler started making rhythmic guttural noises and the dancers trooped on stage in 70s’ mustard, browns and oranges. But the layered rhythms of the three female percussionists mixed with electro-acoustic baglama strumming, ploddy electric bass and massed voices in Mirkut (the Pestle), a traditional Kurdish song, brought the Kurdish landscape into Hackney.
During the two-hour performance, the audience was taken on an emotional journey by laments for dead lovers, rousing work songs (where the dancing echoed scything the fields) and joyful festival dances. Although the relaxed presence of baritone Vedet Yildirim (who would occasionally pick up a darbuka drum), the commanding, red-headed performance of Feryal Oney, and the energetic percussion by Diler Ozer (surrounded by an assortment of drums) were highlights, everyone in the group had a chance to shine. And all the while the lighting painted the scene like another member of the ensemble. With their handling of dynamics and their skill for creating an evocative soundscape, it is easy to hear why Kardes Türküler’s Vizontele won the Best Soundtrack award at the 2001 Antalya Golden Orange Film Fest.
The occupants of the seats next to mine knew all the words and happily sung along, only spoiling the more delicate moments. By the start of the second half, I too was clapping along happily only occasionally missing the beat of an unfamiliar Turkish rhythm.
The BGST Dancers effortlessly changed style from Kurdish, to Azerbaijani, Romani, Greek and Armenian, along with the group. As the rousing primal screech of the Zurna called (from the Persian Surnay, Sur, meaning Wedding and Nay reed) I almost joined the audience dancing in the isles. I did join in the standing ovation.
During nightly concerts at the Hackney Empire, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra 10:10 Ensemble, The Vellinger String Quartet and the Michael Nyman Band perform new music by a selection of Turkey’s leading composers.