Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday Afternoon in Central Park: Ilhan Ersahin's Istanbul Sessions and Şükriye Tutkun at Istanbulive II: A Celebration of Turkish Music

Ne tür müzik seversiniz?

We like Turkish music and made it to the Rumsey Playfield in Central Park for the first hour or so for New York's Turkish Woodstock, the Summerstage event

Istanbulive II: A Celebration of Turkish Music, which debuted last summer.

And we got to enjoy Şükriye Tutkun's wonderful traditional Turkish music and the innovative sounds of the Lower-East-Side-based Ilhan Ersahin's Istanbul Sessions.

There was also lots of Turkish stuff around for everyone,

from books

to whatever the Turkish word for tchotchkes is

to free papers (Hurriyet),

and everyone loves Turkish food, right? (We do, anyway.)

Istanbulive II was dedicated to Arif Mardin, the late Turkish-American record producer who was "one of the most successful and artistically significant behind-the-scenes figures in popular music in the last half-century," according to the New York Times.

It also coincides with Istanbul being named 2010 European Capital of Culture.

Produced by Serdar Ilhan and Mehmet Dede (who runs the Brooklyn-based Electric Lila), Istanbulive II's mission is to introduce the music of Turkey, which is often underrepresented in the US, to the American consciousness through events, showcases and educational programs.

The show began with a song honoring "the fallen heroes," the 33 Alevi intellectuals martyred on exactly 17 years ago yesterday in the Sivas Madimak Hotel massacre. The producer ended with the words of Atatürk: "Peace at home, peace in the world."

Then we got to hear the sweet sounds of Şükriye Tutkun, who'd flown in from Istanbul for the occasion.

The conservatory-trained soprano who gave up opera for traditional Turkish folk music (of many regions) was demonstrative in her affection for the crowd, which obviously was reciprocated, understandably so once we heard her perform.

Not understandable to a non-Turkish speaker like us what she said, but her sound is sweet and haunting sometimes, lively and festive at other times. Here's a Şükriye Tutkun video from YouTube:

Istanbul Sessions is a quartet led by Ilhan Erşahin, the adventurous saxophonist, keyboardist and composer who founded the LES hotspot Nublu and featuring Alp Ersönmez on bass, Turgut Bekoğlu on drums and Izzet Kızil on percussion.

Flavorwire wrote
Although born in Sweden and based in New York, Erşahin’s Turkish roots are foundational to his music. In particular, the musician/composer champions a border-blurring vision of late-night cool that reflects Istanbul’s unique position astride two continents.

This legacy of cross-cultural contact informs Erşahin’s aesthetic, which shifts seamlessly from downtempo and dub reggae to bossa nova and acid jazz, with Anatolian melodies often lurking just below the surface.

They did an amazing set. Here's what our favorite, "Freedom," sounds like:

Unfortunately we had to leave to meet a friend on the East Side soon after 4 p.m., missing headliner Kenan Doğulu; his brother producer/DJ Ozan Doğulu, the alt-rock band Duman; Emrah Kanısıcak, who plays Turkish, Kurdish and Alevi music on guitar and saz (a long-necked lute); and Ahmet Luleci's Collage Dance Ensemble, but we've posted links to videos that give the range of Turkish musical talent, if only a small sample.

UPDATE: You can see a full report on the day at the newspaper Today's Zaman, from where we got the photo of Kenan Doğulu above.

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