Kardeş Türküler (and solo work)
Reviewed on this page:
Hardasan - Kardeş Türküler - Doğu - Vizontele - Hemâvâz - Vizontele Tuuba - Bahar - Bulutlar Geçer - Dol - Yaklaş - Çocuk 'H'aklı - Hoşgeldin // B’xêr Hatî - Ateş Düşer Şarkılara -
Okay, I'm getting farther than usual into musical waters I don't know how to swim in, but please bear with me.
A loose confederation of like-minded musicians exploring a wide range of folk traditions from Anatolia, Mesopotamia and nearby areas, originally formed to present a concert series at Boğaziçi University. Kardeş Türküler celebrate both commonality and diversity, and interpret their source materials traditionally, experimentally, and everywhere in between.
At times they can sound a bit academic, but more often they reflect sincere appreciation with a playful spirit of innovation.
Ayhan Akkaya, bass, other stringed instruments; Özgür Ay, guitar; Fehmiye Çelik, vocals; Işin Kucur, guitar; Erol Mutlu, bağlama, vocals; Feryal Öney, vocals; Diler Özer, percussion; Selda Öztürk, percussion; Ertan Tekin, woodwinds; Burcu Yankın, percussion, vocals; Vedat Yıldırım, vocals.
Hardasan (Feryal Öney: 1995)
Also known as Azeri Şarkıları, I believe this was the first album to emerge from the Kardeş Türküler project, Öney singing Azerbaijani folk songs with Azerbaijani musicians. But the disc doesn't capture any of the collective's strengths: It's all in one style when much of their work draws together wide-ranging traditions; it's put together simply when the group is capable of imaginative arrangements; it evokes a narrow range of feelings when Kardeş Türküler in general and Öney in particular excel at bringing the listener on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Her vocal prowess is hard to hear on the succession of medium-fast, upbeat songs and basic melodic material ("Getme"), though she does knock "Turnalar" - practically the only slow tune - out of the park.
Directed by Ahmet Altinel and Behzat Doletabadi.
Kardeş Türküler (1997)
At this point the group is showing sincere homage to various indigenous musics ("Yandı Bağrım" by Turkish national treasure Neşset Ertaş; Laz folk tune "Golas Empula Yulun") but not advancing them. There's a difference between respect for a tradition - which helps artists understand and interpret the work of their forebears - and reverence for it, which can neuter the followers by deterring them from incorporating their own experience and insights. Kardeş Türküler never lacks respect, but on this album comes a bit too close to reverence ("Jîn û Hebûn / Rewîtî" by Kurdish poet and politician Cigerxwîn). Nearly all tunes are based on solo or small group vocals, backed by bağlama or some other string instruments plus percussion (Armenian folk song "Sarı Gyalin," sung by Öney).
And though I'm no stickler for engineering quality, the recording and mix seem quite rudimentary, almost as if they'd stuck a single mike in the middle of the studio floor.
The peak is Öney belting out "Sökün Ayı / Aşk Beni" with authority.
The title means "Eastern," and the traditional forms undertaken are from the eastern portion of their area of study (the Chaldean-Syrian "Gudi").
To my ear, this is the first important album from the group, at once completely individual and completely authentic ("De Bila Bêto").The group compositions are steeped in tradition (Mutlu and Yıldırım's "Kerwanê") while the folk songs are fresh as garden tomatoes (the Kurdish "Dılê mı Sewda").
The recording quality has taken a huge leap forward as well, which helps in building and maintaining the various moods (the hypnotic "Turna").
As usual, Öney's vocal solos are captivating ("Dargın Mahkum," by mid-century poet/songwriter Aşık Mahzuni Şerif).
In 2000, Kardeş Türküler provided backing on Kurdish singer/songwriter Şivan Perwer's Roj û Heyv.
A film soundtrack - mostly by Mutlu and Yıldırım though there are a couple of Perwer tunes as well ("Pawanekanî") - and accordingly there are a lot of brief segments and instrumentals ("Serabî"). But there's nothing slight about it, as the group dives into a wealth of textures: "Artos," where voices and flute fade in and out over frantically plucked strings; "Çeşm-i Siyahım," which has instruments playing at three different speeds but remains coherent and compelling.
In fact, despite the powerful vocals ("Zêmar"), some of the instrumentals are at least as strong (the playful "Firari").
"Turna" from Doğu is revisited; "Leyla" (which surfaces twice in different guises) would reappear on a later release.
A more consistent tone than any of the group's other albums, and perhaps more confidently assured, but it's subdued, without the hair-raising quality they usually summon up ("Cukhdah Mom" is as rousing as the record gets). Also, two extended pieces consume more than their share of album space ("Manaki Mu"; "Sîya Şaperên").
A group effort, as Öney ("Şah-ı Merdan") and Yıldırım each provide lead vocals on three tracks; Fehmiye Çelik takes center stage on two ("Şukar Şukar"); Mutlu plays bağlama throughout and sings lead on "Sîya Wan / Voghperk"; Öztürk solos on "Bugün Güzellerin Şahını Gördüm / Dem Alî Ye" and plays percussion on every track.
Another Ertaş tribute, "Gülüşün Gülden Güzel," shows how much the group's self-conception had evolved over five years, putting their stamp on the tune without deviating from traditional instrumentation.
Guests include Mehmet Erdem and Ozan E. Aksoy, each on various string instruments.
Vizontele Tuuba (2004)
A sequel to the film led to another soundtrack.
Seems like a smaller crew than usual: Though Mutlu, Özer and Ötürk pop up here and there, nearly all the music is by Yıldırım and Öney does most of the singing. Not that I'm complaining ("Dılgeş").
As a whole less ambitious and impressive than the three preceding releases, but the high points are mighty high: "Evvelim Sen Oldun" - another Ertaş composition - is an unpredictable, string-streaked masterpiece; "Do Do Bıbe" is a classic example of distilled melody.
This seems to be the easiest Kardeş Türküler record to find in the States, but it's one of their less successful outings: Perfectly sincere and professional as always ("Gülsüm - Uğurlama"), but not often rousing or affecting ("Kela Memê").
The bright spots are the sly Arabic "Al-eyn Mulayyati" and the cathartic Circassian-Adyghe "Ez Kevokim Seteney."
Guests include Mehmet Erdem (various stringed things) and Barış Güney (bass and guitar);
After this disc the group took a multi-year break to focus on separate projects.
Bulutlar Geçer (Feryal Öney: 2006)
Usually when a folk singer goes pop, the results are dismal, because the artist either gives a half-hearted effort trying to give the record company a hit, underestimates how hard it is to make a great pop record, or simply lacks a feel for the material. This record doesn't have any of those problems, though: Many of the tunes are traditional songs given pop production ("Bey Mail") and much of the rest is by heavyweights like Ertaş ("Hata Benim," one of the few acoustic cuts) and Musa Eroğlu. KT members - Akkaya, Özer, Ötürk, Yankın, Yıldız - make up most of the band, augmented by Volkan Kaplan (bağlama), Cavit Murtezaoğlu (vocals) and others, and they're as committed to the idiom as Öney is ("Gel Yamına," where have you been all my life?). Many of the tracks were produced by Akkaya and Yıldırım ("Kozanoğlu"), and most of the rest by multi-instrumentalist Barış Güney ("Irak Olduk," with a profusion of electric and acoustic instruments interpreting a nifty riff); Öney and Öztürk oversaw "Aynalı Körük."
Dol (Özgür Akgül/Mehmet Erdem/Vedat Yıldırım: 2007)
Another soundtrack, and this time it's more what you'd expect: link tracks and tossoffs designed to accompany a film rather than recordings that merit attention in their own right ("Sılav"). Only a few cuts rise above the level of well crafted filler ("Çugar"):
the incantatory "Seydık," the discursive but endlessly engaging "Enfal," and especially the majestic yet subtle "Şuşa Dilê Min Kî Nahêle."
Other than Akgül (primarily known for composing film scores), everyone has a Kardeş Türküler pedigree: Özer, Ötürk and Yankın.
In 2008, Öney was in the all-star chorus backing Grup Yorum's protest song "Defol Amerika."
Yaklaş (Bajar: 2009)
Though Yıldırım is the frontman, and the songs may (for all I know) have traditional Kurdish roots, there's nothing folk about this disc (apart from the closing "Bawanı"). There's slow-building anthemic rock 'n' roll ("Emele"); there are introspective (almost brooding) vocals from Yıldırım and Burak Korucu ("Davetsiz Misafir"; "Ogit"); there's ominous atmosphere wedded to restless hooks ("İşporteci").
And there's lots of funk, in several flavors: heavy funk ("Kem Kum"); New Wave funk a la Talking Heads ("Na Na"); funk rock ("B'xatire Te," which stands out thanks to bassist Ari Hergel); bristling funk that keeps threatening to turn into arena rock ("Heq! Heq!").
Whatever the genre, there are unexpected touches of loud guitar (via Cansun Küçüktürk) and Ferhat Güneş's pop keyboards ("Tam Tam") in a complex production that manages to be as visceral as it is sophisticated ("Elhamdülillah," where a variety of instruments bang out terse riffs while drummer Erdem Göymen shines). I don't know if this is a better fit for Yıldırım's talents than the main KT project, but it's certainly easier to discern them in this context.
Çocuk 'H'aklı (2011)
A collaboration with "Mr. Avant-Garde Folk," Turkish Armenian Arto Tunçboyacıyan, who wrote the lion's share of the material.
Coordinated by bassist Akkaya, Öney and Yıldırım, and there are a few odd moments - the mechanically sped-up ending of "Zere Zere"; the a capella "Ocu" - and political themes, but the only avant-garde sound to my ear is the arch oompah coda of "Nazar."
Based on this sample I'm not likely to become a Tunçboyacıyan fan, as the best material is what comes closest to KT's usual sound: the upbeat "Yo Yo," with electric guitar complementing the traditional percussion and winds; the exhilarating "Sevdayla Uslandı Gönlüm," sung by Öney (who co-wrote the song with Yıldırım - my favorite song here; she also sings "Daymohk (Anavatan)."
Güney arranged "Derdo Derdo (Derttir)"; Birol Topaloğlu guests on "Oi Oi (İki AyakoHoron)," which sounds exactly like his own work.
Ateş Düşer Şarkılara (Erol Mutlu: 2011)
Mutlu's first solo project, as far as I'm aware; he wrote all the music and some of the lyrics, and naturally his bağlama is front and center. Generally the instrumentation is traditional apart from fretless electric bass; though the second half of "Mavi Çocuklar" is amped up, most of the material is too ethereal and dreamlike for my taste, Philistine that I am ("Yalınayak"). It doesn't help that much of the melodic material is ordinary ("Aşiyan"). Unless you're a New Age fan looking to broaden your horizons, I can't recommend this: nothing is egregious or offensive, but any album you pick from Kardeş or any of its members packs more of a punch.
Hoşgeldin // B’xêr Hatî (Bajar: 2012)
Bajar's followup is a stripped-down affair: there are still some strings ("Turike Derşew") and Yankın's on percussion but otherwise it's vox-guitar-bass-drums all the way ("Koça Dawî," part of the current ska craze).
There's one Ahmet Kaya cover ("Yalan Da Olsa," redone as moody funk) and one Perwer ("Serhildan Jiyan E"); otherwise, it's basically Yıldırım's show again.
Despite a few spirited numbers like "Hergu Ca Dersim" and "Newroz," this effort doesn't have the excitement or originality of the band's debut ("Ey Heval," a slow smolderer that never catches fire).
Tebriz'den Toros'a (Cavit Murtezaoğlu & Feryal Öney: 2012)
Öney ventures back into Azerbaijani folk music, and the results couldn't be more different than the tepid, tentative Hardasan.
This project with Iran-born Cavit Murtezaoğlu is known as Tebriz Toros (referencing Tabriz and Turkey's Taurus Mountains), and features Murtezaoğlu's nephew Arslan Hazreti (one-stringed kemancha), Can Porvas (piano), Uğur Küçük (bağlama), Abdullah Shakar (bass), plus Mehmet Aydın and Öztürk (percussion).
The group produces an unusually dense sound ("Ali Kimi Yari Var") with healthy borrowings from other styles, and every instrument pulls its weight, playing a different role either melodically or rhythmically. The songs themselves - mostly composed by Murtezaoğlu with a variety of lyricists - range from sea chanty-like simplicity to jazz-pop urbanity ("Ayanda," spotlighting Shakar and Porvas), from gravity to revelry ("Bahariye - Sah Hatai"), but each is distinct and stays with you.
Best of all, there are Öney's vocals, which can deliver anything from a soothing caress to a stinging slap to an oracular vision ("Aldi Dert Beni"). The two principals rarely duet; most often, Murtezaoğlu introduces the tune before turning it over to Öney ("Aşkın Elinden"), while a few tunes are pure solos ("Cameye Sadi").