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2009 - week 17, from 1 May. Sound of Turkey, Part Two

PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 1:06 pm
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Sevval Sam - Ben Seni Sevdiğumi - Karadeniz - Turkey - Kalan - CD 454

2 - Kardes Turkuler - Kara Uzum Habbesi - Dogu - Turkey - Kalan - CD 141

3 - Turkulerle - Basina Dondugum - IIeri - Turkey - Kalan

4 - Aynur - Ahmedo - in session - Turkey

5 - Aynur - Desmala Min - in session - Turkey

6 - Aynur - Olursem Kabrime Gelme - Kece Kurdan - Turkey - Kalan - CD 293

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The way things turned out, I prefer this second of the two programmes recorded on location in Istanbul with producer Dana Stevens. Partly, or even mainly, this is down to the quality of the performances by Aynur, the Kurdish singer whom I first met at WOMEX Seville in 2006. I remember wondering, when she was featured on the cover of fRoots some months before that, could anybody so beautiful also be a great singer? Here in person, she obviously was both. And now in Istanbul I became trapped in the powerful beam of her gaze again, even though we shared no language and could not communicate directly. Ahmet, the interpreter did a terrific job in conveying Aynur’s thoughts and comments, and afterwards Dana and I spent time with Aynur and her English-speaking sister Aysun (who has become her manager), absorbing what it feels like to be a Kurdish singer in a country which has for so long denigrated Kurdish artists and denied access to the media.

Image
Sevval Sam and CG at Mephisto Record store, Istanbul

Earlier, we met Sevval Sam who turned out to be a terrific guide and spokesperson for the programme. I only knew Sevval (pronounced Sheval) through her performances on the Up Bustle & Out album, Istanbul Secrets, and had contacted her via MySpace at the last minute, a day before we left London, wondering if she might be in Istanbul. Indeed she was, and came to meet us in the lobby of a big hotel on Taxim Square. As we walked down Istiklal, almost every passerby glanced towards Sevval, who explained that she had played one of the main characters in a TV series six years ago, playing a character from the Black Sea region. In character, she sang a couple of typical Black Sea songs, which led to everybody telling her she should record a whole album in this style. She finally did so in June last year, and the album Karadeniz has been in the national top 10 ever since, selling 70,000 legitimate copies for the Kalan record label despite countless bootlegs. As we entered the Mephisto record shop, there was Sevval’s voice already playing on the in-store speakers. As soon as the guy behind the counter realised who had come in, he played a sequence of tracks from all her albums.

Image
Sevval Sam explains how you shake that thing.

By featuring Aynur and Sevval as well as an interview with Kalan’s director Hasan Saltik, the programme turned into what amounts to a half-hour plug for Kalan, which caught the eye and ear of the World Service’s executive producers, concerned that we do not contravene the new BBC Compliance directives, under which each programme must be seen to be fair. Could any other comparable Turkish company complain that we should also be featuring them? It is safe to say that not only is there no comparable Turkish company, but perhaps no other company in the world which could match the extraordinary output of Kalan.

Image
Aynur and her interrogator

As Hasan explained, the label was launched 20 years ago to put out records by protest singers, which led to contact with artists who were not overtly political but strongly regional. Kalan began putting out records representing the entire spectrum of Turkish regional music, some by current performers, others culled from archives of radio broadcasts which had never been released on CD before. Among the few labels with any comparable output would be Arhoolie in California, but the production of Kalan’s archive releases is closer to the quality of what the Smithsonian Institute does. Smithsonian is financed by government funds, but Kalan is a stand-alone commercial operation with no subsidies or grants. Truly unique and remarkable. www.kalan.com

Image
Visitor with his host, Mehmet Umur

Incidentally, many thanks to Istanbul host Kevin Robins and his wife Asu Aksoy; it was Kevin who first introduced me to Doublemoon and Kalan last year and unwittingly provided the template for this visit six months later. And grateful thanks to Mehmet Umur of the hotel Ibrahim Pasha, unhesitatingly recommended as the place to stay, very close to the famous mosques. http://www.ibrahimpasha.com

PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2009 11:40 am
by Alan
Link for this week’s show
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p002yscy

or you can get there via this standard link on the homepage
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/arts/ ... lett.shtml

2nd Programme from Istanbul

PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2009 12:25 pm
by kastamonu
You were right Charlie - by far the better of the two (although I enjoyed both!)

The second song by Aynur moved me to tears - the programme was a feast for me here in Izmir - my Kurdish partner presently serving his 15 months National Service in the Turkish Army in East Turkey!

I shall listen & listen again.....

emails

PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2009 12:26 pm
by Charlie
emails from:

1. Perihan ter Haar, Turkey

Dear Charlie,

I so much enjoyed the last two programmes on Turkish music.

As a Turk myself living in Belgium, it took me back to my childhood so it has been very emotional for me!

So thank you for your doing this programme and introducing the immensily rich nature of Turkish music.

Your voice also sounded great! Glad to hear you are well! (we communicated some years ago!)

With kind regards,

Perihan

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2. Carolien Cleiren, Huizen, The Netherlands

Dear Charlie,

Istanbul is indeed an amazing place for music lovers.

On streetcorners you'll find amazing musicians and to go for a meal, even in a modest restaurant means to be treated by an oud player, singer, darbuka.

I visited the double moon office and attended a concert in Babylon, the hippest music hall in Istanbul.

The quality of the musicianship is great.

Don't you love your work??

Greetings

Carolien

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3. Ann Hashem, Amman, Jordan

Thank you for 2 interesting programmes. The voice of Aynur is beyond words. So different, so what? words fail me. hope I can find CD somewhere .

Regards Ann

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4. Lenny Karle-Zenith, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This was a GREAT piece!

I immediately was transfixed by the sounds and went to iTunes and bought everything I could find (surprised you didn't have any links or video) -- also read an interesting article about Pakistani female singers being banned...on CNN!

THANKS!

Lenny

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5. Jaleh, London UK

Aynur has the most beautiful voice. your last programme was superb.

Kurds encompass part of Iran, Iraq and Turkey, as you know. Their language is unique and influenced by the language of each of the regions. I could understand the words of the ballads.

"Tribal" or "regional" (what you would call indigenous ethnic folk) singing is rife in the various tribes of Iran and in the regions around the Caspian -- the Armenians, the Georgians, the Baluchis, the Afghanis.

Rich pickings! Great.

Thanks.

Jaleh

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6. Arnaud Ntirenganya Emmanuel, Rwandan in Cameroon

Hi Charlie,
I love your picture in Istanbul, I enjoyed last week's music. I just learned that Oliver Mutukuzi, Zimbabwe's best musician has released his new album. I would love his music make part of your next programme.
Thanks.

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CG reply: I don’t have the new Oliver yet but hope to receive it

the Turkish music you let us hear

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 8:45 pm
by Odette
Ravishing and also some complex (to my english ears )music .Thankyou so much.

PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 1:31 pm
by Seb Merrick
Thanks for these two nice programmes Charlie. Love the street sounds.

I've been a big fan of Turkish music for some years and have put on quite a lot ofTurkish concerts in the UK as well as regularly sending Charlie Doublemoon albums over the years. Bringing groups to the UK from Turkey became pretty difficult when working visas were increased to £200 per person a few years ago. The new cheaper visa regime will in the long run help but the situation is currently still very difficult. Visa issues are one reason that we in the UK don't know Turkish music well.

My first thought about the programme is that though happy about the focus on music that is still underrepresented I was slightly disappointed with the BBC approach here. In fact Charlie was pipped to the post by Gilles Peterson doing a BBC Radio 1 show live from Istanbul a few weeks ago covering very similar territory working closely with the Pozitif/Doublemoon people - but in a Radio 1 style of course! Maybe part of a BBC lead in to Istanbul European Capital of Culture 2010, all good? I was interested to see Charlie himself raise the question about BBC Compliance directives, under which each programme must be seen to be fair - in this case meaning not to plug a business too heavily. It sometimes seems that when the BBC want to do a Turkish music feature they do the simplest thing and turn to Pozitif/Doublemoon, who have good international experience, and Kalan with a good catalogue to fix it - which naturally then influences the content. Don't get me wrong, Doublemoon and Kalan are indeed stories in themselves with some great releases. I represented Doublmoon in the UK for a couple of years and have sold hundreds of Doublemoon and Kalan CDs.

But maybe I have just heard this story rather too many times and know of many more artists and also good Turkish record labels that could also feature. Arabesque stars, Black Sea styles, Turkish Classical music, various religious music, incredible percussion based styles, Anatolian pschedelic rock and contemporary Turkish folk-based easy listening are all genres that would be of interest to non-Turkish world music audiences and need more exploring on radio. A county of 70 odd million with an urban centre of up to 15 million naturally has a huge music scene which needs more work than say good old Mali (12 Million). Turkey in relation to its size and internal music output has been a poor world music relation - almost to the point of prejudice.

The fault for that also lies within the country. Kalan for example regularly gets great reviews in fRoots and Songlines. But their albums are almost impossible to find in the UK. As far as I know they still have not arranged distribution in the UK. I thought Proper had taken them on, but don't find them on the Proper website. One really wonders why, with relatively low Turkish CD production costs, this is the case. The obvious answer is that there is only a small market here, so it's not worth it, a defeatist attitude.

As to the featured artists...

Orient Expressions was the feature in the first show. Some years ago I tried to arrange a vinyl release of their perfectly-formed Istanbul 1.26 track with the Baker Street sax moment that Charlie, suprisingly, likes. It's actually licenced to Doublemoon by Poet Club Records in Germany. When we brought OE to Queen Elizabeth Hall a couple of years ago they unfortunately didn't wow, but it was the day of the Big Rain in London and they had spent 4 hours stuck in traffic from Heathrow to the Southbank, all pretty stressful. Maybe their concert was in a strange way too perfect - one could have been listening to a CD. Nevertheless they have done something interesting in their own terms and it was nice to hear their acoustic sessions on this programme.

Aynur Dogan. She's indeed very good and I love the fact that she is prepared to sing with just simple acoustic accompaniment or none (though her first album was slightly over-produced). The usual world music problem with her is that she is somehow a victim of her own success. What fees do you charge when you are a reasonably big star in your home territory? Only well-funded festivals can afford shows like this and there are too few suitable ones in the UK. The Barbican's Ramadan Nights would have been a possibility but cultural/political issues often aise when workingwith Turkish artists - the festival name madeit uncomforatble for her and her many Alevi fans - who do not celebrate Ramadan. When concerts are arranged primarily for the community tickets can be prohibitively expensive for general world music audiences.

There are shows happening in London for those who'd like to follow up..
There has just been a 4 day run at Hackney Empire of the Turkish Riverdance Fire of Anatolia which much as I detest those things would have entertained and done a whirlwind tour of various genres. Some might remember them from Eurovision... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7O9-M9jZl0 .
On 16 May at Stoke Newington St Mary’s will be a nice event with a traditional singer called Aysegul of interest to those who like Aynur. info 07958 598 761 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvVGgIw_jb0
17 May St.Monica’s Hall in Palmer's Green you can catch the London Turkish Radio Choir and Orchestra (521 Green Lanes Palmers Green London N13 4DH) This is a fine groupthat did very well in BBC Choir competition. The perform classical Turkish music in a large ensemble.
On 25 May a major star Ferhat Gocer (an ex-surgeon with a sweet voice) will play Hackney Empire with tickets £25-£75. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBrZqJPTSHw
On Sunday 28 June at Ocean Hackney there will be a double bill of Baba Zula http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwNqSgbJPjY (unreconstructed psychedelia) and rap star Ceza, both featured in Crossing the Bridge at £20 to £25. I generally dislike rap, but Ceza is artistic and technical genius. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wC_Hg4bE-NA.

On a different note, Turkish rock band Seksendort (meaning 84, but in English sounding like 'sex n' dirt') last week played in Islington Academy and another Turkish indie band The Revolters is reviewed in December's NME and about to try the UK market with a producer who worked with Cajun Dance Party, The Rakes, Nick Cave. Turkish bands doing rock in the UK? That's like a Londoner opening a kebab shop in the heart of Istiklal Street... But why not!

Anyhow thanks for the programmes and I'm jealous not to have been there with Mr G drinking copious amount of tea and raki and enjoying this rich musical city.

PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 4:08 pm
by Charlie
Seb Merrick wrote: It sometimes seems that when the BBC want to do a Turkish music feature they do the simplest thing and turn to Pozitif/Doublemoon, who have good international experience, and Kalan with a good catalogue to fix it - which naturally then influences the content. Don't get me wrong, Doublemoon and Kalan are indeed stories in themselves with some great releases. I represented Doublmoon in the UK for a couple of years and have sold hundreds of Doublemoon and Kalan CDs.

But maybe I have just heard this story rather too many times and know of many more artists and also good Turkish record labels that could also feature. Arabesque stars, Black Sea styles, Turkish Classical music, various religious music, incredible percussion based styles, Anatolian pschedelic rock and contemporary Turkish folk-based easy listening are all genres that would be of interest to non-Turkish world music audiences and need more exploring on radio. A country of 70 odd million with an urban centre of up to 15 million naturally has a huge music scene which needs more work than say good old Mali (12 Million). Turkey in relation to its size and internal music output has been a poor world music relation - almost to the point of prejudice.

The fault for that also lies within the country. Kalan for example regularly gets great reviews in fRoots and Songlines. But their albums are almost impossible to find in the UK. As far as I know they still have not arranged distribution in the UK. I thought Proper had taken them on, but don't find them on the Proper website. One really wonders why, with relatively low Turkish CD production costs, this is the case. The obvious answer is that there is only a small market here, so it's not worth it, a defeatist attitude.

Great points, very well made, Seb.

The senior exec at the World Service was very concerned that there might be other Turkish labels entitled to complain at not being given fair coverage, and I am aware of having simplified things as many other people do when dealing with American soul music of the 1960s. Invariably, such documentary features tend to focus on Motown, Atlantic or Stax, at the expense of hundreds of smaller companies that are consistently over-looked and under-represented.

It is very difficult to approach Turkish music and do justice to the many aspects you refer to, in the space of 26 minutes, while conveying any kind of narrative thread. If Doublemoon got more than its fair share of attention, I hold my hand up, guilty as charged, and it is certainly unfortunate that we followed so closely and precisely in the footsteps of Gilles Peterson. Curious that you are the only one to have noticed the overlap. Does no other reader of/contributor to this forum also listen to Gilles? I guess it is not surprising that nobody at Doublemoon drew attention to it, but they must have been at least slightly surprised to have two such similar approaches form the BBC. It's a huge organisation, and there's little or no contact between Radio One and the World Service, although by coincidence, my producer Dana Stevens has served her time at Radio one in the past.

In the case of Kalan, I stand by my ground that this is a unique and extraordinary company, not just in Turkey but anywhere in the world, for the reasons mentioned in the original bulletin. They have a deal with a UK distributor, which is entitled to order finished product from Turkey but, according to Hasan Saltic, no such order has been made for six months. It would be satisfying if this programme might stimulate at least one buyer to make an order through a UK shop that would result in such a sale. There have been mail order purchases direct from Turkey, but they don't help the UK distributor.

PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 9:22 pm
by Gustavo
Really liked the photos with the artists, places and Charlie. Keep us supplied with them.

PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 9:29 pm
by judith
Gustavo wrote:Really liked the photos with the artists, places and Charlie. Keep us supplied with them.


Gustavo's right. I hadn't thought about that - how nice it is to look at the pictures while listening to the music and conversation, which I always do (and it was particularly interesting this time with the locations, artists, and Charlie included). This is something one doesn't often encounter these days, yet something I've taken for granted with Charlie's shows as he's always included pictures with the playlists - in my experience.