Travel Broadens the Ears, Turkish Edition
Whether it is flamenco in Madrid, old-time fiddle in Virginia or even a bit of Austro-Bavarian jodeln in Munich, travel is so much better if you explore the roots music of wherever you are. Thus it was a delight when I went to Istanbul recently to stumble across a shop near Aya Sofia that sold CDs and an array of rather wonderful Turkish instruments such as the baglama (pictured being played below in a different music shop).
The visit did not quite go as planned. I asked for a CD of some traditional Turkish music and then started to get a bit concerned about what I was getting. The boss of the shop – Yasar Guvenc (left, with his wife) – steered me to a series called Musikterapi, or music therapy. He asked my what my birth sign was and handed me the one for Virgo which promises to be good for heart disorders, hip joints and liver fever.
Now, I can’t abide New Age anything. This seemed at first glance to be the kind of crap you get in California. Not
something I expected from Turkey. Added to that Yasar spoke no English. Nor did his wife (whose’s name I sadly forget, but she was charming). He spoke French and she spoke German, so we had a three way conversation in French, Turkish and German with my English head saying “What are you doing here?”
Turns out I need not have worried. Mr and Mrs Guvenc are sufis, which is Islam’s mystical branch. And the music there were offering is very old, from central Asia where the Turks came from roughly in the 11th century. It is haunting flute and string mucis that makes you feel as if you are sitting beside some campfire. The band is called Tumata (Yasar is a member) and it is dedicated to researching and promoting Turkish music.
When I go abroad, I also try to buy some jazz that I can’t get anywhere else – local stuff. This time I got “Bir Parca Ay Biraz Kus” by Gagil Kaya and “Bir Kedi Kara” by Tamer Temel. They were bought blind, but I like both of them a lot (jazz fans among you should give them a try).
All in all Turkey was full of musical suprises and I have three great albums as a result. Here is some of Yasar’s sufi music: