Erol MUTLU / Folklora Doğru - Dans Müzik Kültür, Issue No. 63
The group that came to be known as Kardeş Türküler appeared for the first time in 1993 in a concert by the Boğaziçi University Folklore Club. The group's aim in this concert was to to bring together Turkish, Kurdish, Azeri and Armenian songs. The dramaturgic principles guiding the work emphasized bringing to light the cultural heritage these different peoples had accumulated throughout history in the area of music, with the music's own language and possibilities. We should thus be able to build on the fraternal feeling carried by the ethnic and cultural diversity in this region and the give and take between the cultures on a musical level. In this effort, the group could come up with a path towards creating and concretizing its own approach to interpretation and arrangement. As their repertoire increased, Kardeş Türküler's concerts continued in this direction in the years to follow, and the roup began participating in various activities such as concerts, festivals and recitals in culture centers. An important development during this period should be touched upon here: In July 1995, new alumni members of the theatre and folklore clubs formed the Boğaziçi Performing Arts Ensemble (BGST). The music group working in the capacity of Kardeş Türküler took part as well, and thus the musical unit of the BGST was formed. The founding of BGST was an expression of the conviction that after graduation and the beginning of one's professional life, cultural production could continue on a voluntary basis and within a particular discipline. In December of the same year, the musical division put on a concert for Human Rights Week, arranged by the Human Rights Association. This concert was performed together with the BGST dance and music unit. Following this, Kardeş Türküler began performing in a dance-music format as well as their regular concert format. In December 1996, after the album Hardasan, making use of the repertoire they had gained, the group went into the studio. They prepared for two months and, taking into consideration the experience gained from the first album, proceeded in a more cautious manner. A production group was founded to take on both artistic and practical tasks; and this group was responsible during the five months in the studio. It can be said that the studio process proceeded as predicted, in a controlled and disciplined way. The members of the group were not professional musicians working in only that field; they were all either working at other jobs as well or they were students. It was thus clear that an unplanned, spontaneous work environment would bring about control and discipline problems that could impede the work. Much attention was given to this point. As several songs were recorded by outside musicians, we can't call it the product of a group with a fixed membership. The studio environment was set up, according to the group's approach to arrangement, in a way open to the contributions of a wider musical environment; the ethnic variety of the music being recorded necessitated the participation and support of various groups with whom the group had established connections. These connections, established in concerts since 1993 were put into operation both in the preliminary preparations and in the time in the studio; our friend in the Armenian community, and in Kurdish cultural foundations, Laz and Georgian acquaintances, and various musician friends in a number of music group and studios, provided their support in a variety of ways and on a number of levels. If we include the people working in the Folklore Club whom we called for support in vocals, and friends from among our circles who listened to the first sample recordings and shared their thoughts, one can see that this work, in which nearly thirty musicians took part, had a much larger backup support, and was produced in a network of connections different than the usual production process in the music market. We see this not simply as a necessity borne of the type of music created, but also as a musical politic that should be protected and defended. Kardeş Türküler, which came out in June 1997, was created to showcase the products of four years of archiving and research activities, and to bring the music of the people of the land we live in into the public eye. In interpreting the Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Georgian and Laz folk songs on the album as well as the examples of Alevi music, the group took care not to spoil the characteristics of that folk music, starting out with the most authentic or local performance style, and with an arrangement approach that took simplicity as its base. They also took pains to not to force the concept of local into a narrow paradigm such as performing it as it was, or to reduce the concept of authentic to a search for a pure and unchanging original, awaiting discovery, but rather to design these notions in a flexibility that would put the groups own musical formation into operation. In a land where the exchange between peoples and communities makes definitive distinctions such as who gave what to whom (or who took what from whom) impossible, it would be unthinkable that these peoples' music would remain unaffected by this blending. This cultural structure on the one hand requires us to preserve the characteristics of each type of folk music; and on the other, provides the possibility of experimentation in a way that departs from the classical song forms and embellishes upon this musical blend. Setting out from here, and staying outside the pop-ifying styles as well as the standard homogenizing arrangement approach dominant in the music industry; it was possible to seek out new ways of bringing a new interpretation to the relationship between this music and experimentalism. Attempts to preserve the variety and nuances in the use of instruments in the music, attention given to the stresses in the original languages, and vocal/rhythmic experimentation (according to the group's ability and degree of familiarity with the music), can be seen as steps in this direction. The group prepared first works and established the Kardeş Türküler style within the body of the folklore club, and presented it to a university audience. As the group was not founded solely with a recording in mind, concerts and the reactions of their concert audiences have been of utmost importance. Though the positive reception of the album was motivating, it was clear that as that alone wouldn't give direction or open new horizons, they felt the need for a deeper evaluation. Seen from this standpoint, it was necessary to pay attention to the opinions of some audience groups (on the use of percussion, which comprises one of the bases of the groups arrangement style; the inability of the rhythm section to achieve the same density in the concert environment; or the absence of the fuller feeling of the group in concert to come through on the album), and put the group reflex into action on this subject. Criticisms pointing to an uncertainty, a problem, or a laxness in the sensitivity of the group's interpretation and arrangement style must be evaluated carefully, and these evaluations must be incorporated in future works.