Calligraphy by Yazi Sanatcisi
Now playing - Su by Mercan Dede. Contemporary culture in Istanbul is really jumping ahead of becoming European City of Culture in 2010. We ate at restaurants like Amedros in Sultanahmet that would not be out of place in London or New York. The new Istanbul Museum of Modern Art in a converted military warehouse on the waterfront with its exhibition of work from the Magnum Photos agency is sensational. And there is a music scene to match. If you don't know Mercan Dede's contemporary take on Sufi music here is an introduction in his own words, or even better listen to his music on his website, and on YouTube:
Mercan Dede (photo below) believes that when you put digital, electronic sounds together with hand-made, human ones, you can create universal language, capable of uniting old and young, ancient and modern, East and West. It’s a bold claim, but the Turkish-born and Montreal-based musician/producer/DJ has the career and the music to back it up. When he takes the stage with his group Secret Tribe, he hovers at the side behind his turntables and electronics, occasionally picking up a traditional wooden flute, or ney to float in sweet, breathy melodies, while masters of the kanun (zither), clarinet, darbuka (hand drum) and whatever other instruments he’s decided to include that night, ornament his grooves and spin magical, trance melodies to match the whirling of the group’s spectacular dervish dancer, Mira Burke (follow this link for video).
This contrast between electronica and classical or folkloric arts cuts to the core of the Sufi philosophy that guides this one-of-a-kind artist. “Those things are not really separate,” says Dede. “The essence of Sufism is counterpoint. Everything exists with its opposite. On one side, I am doing electronic music. The other side of that is this really acoustic, traditional music.” Dede doesn’t just bring in any traditional sounds and sights as adornment to his techno beats. He is ever on the lookout for new collaborators, and they might come from any tradition, any country, any generation. For Secret Tribe’s U.S. debut in January, 2004, he flew in three, teenage prodigies of Turkish classical music from Istanbul and two of the pieces they played were improvised during the concert.
Now read Philip Glass predicting World Music is the new classical.
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