Erol MUTLU / Folklora Dogru - Dans Müzik Kültür, Issue 64

Kardeş Türküler began within the musical division of the Boğaziçi University Performing Arts Ensemble. After the album Hardasan - Azeri Songs (1996) with soloist Feryal Öney, and their first work as a group, “Kardeş Türküler”, they produced another album with a more “local” focus: Doğu. In the musical world, and with the support of the media, noticing the cultural dangers lurking within the long-reigning “folk music fad”, we felt obliged to aim for something beyond a standard album of folk songs, and we feel the same obligation today. The fundamental concerns of this work can be summed up as: the development of a view towards Anatolian folk songs, the concretization of this view/perspective within a musical dramaturgy, and its exemplification on an album level. The dangers inherent in the current “folk music fad” truly necessitate a serious approach to the musical culture of this land: this time of “return to folk music” has turned into a time of homogenization/anonymization of the music of Anatolia, Mesopotamia and neighboring regions. The performance of beautiful folk songs with deep meaning in a “light” format and in standard Turkish, ethnic differences aside (which were never on the agenda), the dissolving of regional and cultural differences into formulaic arrangements, and the musical destruction that the style known as “özgün müzik,” which is a “neighbor” to tradition, has brought about and will bring about, all need to be examined in more detail. But to stick to the subject, the point we want to emphasize is that keeping a distance from this style is an artistic duty; and like our earlier works, the album “Doğu” was prepared with this point carefully kept in mind. In the album “Kardeş Türküler, ” produced in 1997, the group took on the different musical traditions of Anatolia along with their “ethnic addresses.” The goal of the repertoire selection, the arrangement of songs, and performance and interpretation was, to create an image and reminder of the musical tradition of this land, at least in a general way. Doubtless the photo gave a general idea, but by “reminder,” we didn't mean a nostalgic look back to a culture now reduced to a memory. Because what we met was not a dead heritage -- we were living in a tradition still alive, hundreds of years old, secretly giving expression to their music. Our goal in our first album was, by interpreting this music anew, to bring it back into the light. “Doğu” was created with the idea of becoming acquainted with and working with the musical treasury of a more sensitive region; and one with its own internal history and characteristics both historically and culturally, working with the same dramaturgic framework. It was a more sensitive area, because it was the peoples of the east that had brought up ethnicity as an issue. Translating this into our own scope of activities, we had to take on the difficult question of how one should establish a relationship with ethnic cultures and music. Just as there is no single clear answer to this question, there is no handy pre-prepared theoretical formula. But within long term research, it is possible to come up with some “intuitive” answers, and it can be said that on this point, research activity is not an intellectual accessory to musical endeavors, but rather that it is necessary to deepen the content of that work, as a cultural component that is kept constantly in criticism. This can give the product the possibility of a “textual” structure. At the level of quality desired for “Doğu,” we can't claim to have done extensive research, but we did take pains to enrich the work by research proportionate to the scale of the work; and to weave a literary text as a background to the flow of the music. We consider this neither a subjective preference nor a choice of the period, but a requirement put to us by a heritage forced to preserve and vitalize itself through the channels of oral culture. The subject of how to acquire the music we found, and how to relate the “traditional” to the “experimental,” is still being debated. If we decide to avoid the romanticizing of folk music, or the orientalist concept of the “authentic” as something like an archaeological tour; and think of folk music as having a future and adaptable to avant-garde works and various musical experiments, then it's possible to chart an open course. When one looks at the folk song tradition in an analytical way, beyond just a conjectural interest, it is possible to see and deepen the experimental possibilities they provide. Rather than getting caught up in passing trends, it can be more fruitful, with longer-lasting results, to work towards this type of “densification.” From a “methodological” standpoint, the point to remain aware of here is not to think like a guest remaining outside the aforementioned culture or traditions, but to carry out the “acquaintance, analysis and interpretation” without being scattered by a tourist mentality. There may be an increasing number of methodologies, but it seems unavoidable that it will be the “intuitive view” which will drive us in our work. This may be one of the reasons behind the difficulty of making a detailed presentation of musical production with all its facets. We might mention that the album “Doğu” works on two chief planes. The first is that, founded on cultural/political themes, we have tried to interpret the east, within the context of migration/exile, longing for the homeland, and traditional themes of everyday life (dance, weddings, music nights, work). The second is the musical plane, directed towards analyzing what kind of product has been created in relation to the first level. At this stage, the region's cultural/musical elements begin to develop one inside the other: the dance songs sung in a halay/govend form, the musical repertoire of the “sıra geceleri” (special musical gatherings), work songs produced in the work environment, the products of migration/exile, etc., creating both common and very different musical forms (and shaping themselves within those forms), take on the role of representative of a multiethnic land. In the album, we have tried to treat the abovementioned musical plane around definite forms. As the east's tradition of “makam” and “ayak” (modes), vocal styles, instrumental performance techniques and rhythmic structures, and the acoustical characteristics of use of words necessitated a more detailed way of acquiring the fine points of the musical plane, they also opened up a fruitful discussion of what route the experimental interpretations should follow. Reinterpreting traditional music and attempting to develop new means of expression in the area of arrangement, there is always the risk that treatments that set out from such parameters as “updating,” “adapting to the present time,” “modernizing the archaic and primitive” may end up eclectic and foreign to the musical system. On the other hand, to follow the trail of “a lost past,” the search for an unspoiled “pure, naive and authentic tradition,” besides being speculative and imaginary, is also open to dangerous ideological associations; it may become bound to idealization of ethnic identity. So the claim that ethnic music is or can easily be brought into the service of various cultural/political aims, is not exaggerated. Trying, in “Doğu,” to steer clear of such dangers, the fundamental point of reference in the interpretations and arrangements on the musical plane, was the perceptions and feelings that this music brought about in the lives of people in this region. Consequently the results the group arrived at in their research, as well the data they found intuitively, had to be in accord with this reference point. So, the duty we had to take on was to transform this route into a serious perspective. In arranging the songs, setting out from the point of the historical/cultural contexts in which the music of the eastern regions was produced, and how it was lived and perceived, we took at times an approach of “redesigning” the songs we acquired. Based not only upon the text of the lyrics but also on the musical text, different interventions have been experimented with in order to intensify the scenario of, and emphasize some of the elements of that text. While this bore results such as interpreting a “govend” in a cyclical way (De Bîla Bêto), bringing two songs with different ethnic roots into the same atmosphere while preserving their areal distance (De Bîla Bêto–Turna), or turning the hidden tension of one song into the main interpretation (Dargın Mahkum, Nevruz Türkü), etc., it also provided the possibility of relating at times the “substructure”(rhythmic composition, cyclical themes, interjections) and melodic flow in a “monotonous” stability (Dile M2 Sewda), and at other times, within a diversity to produce a contrast. In the vocals besides experimenting with traditional techniques, we also experimented at times, with the flow of the substructure, as well as with styles that took the melodic path as a foundation but were far removed from the usual harmonic accompaniments. Another important point here is what kind of motifs and imagery a folk song carries according to ethnic/cultural/regional criteria, or to put it another way, on what structure of imagery it rests. What kind of tale has the song's cultural and literary background brought to it, and when it is performed, on what narrative elements does it depend? The answer to this question is important, because there one finds the clues as to the type of imagery with which the song should be approached. During the interpretation, the structure of the song can be “reconstructed,” enriching it on the plane of imagery, and perhaps adding different but fitting narrative elements. This type of “construction of imagery,” can, and should be, experimented with, drawing on the possibilities provided by the song; and going to both the musical criteria and the musical feelings. Reconstructing folk songs based on imagery, just as it can bring about greater tension between the “traditional” and the “experimental” (and avant-garde), can also contribute to the transformation of the “folk song concept.” In a region where several musical traditions live side-by-side, every song exhibits a flexible structure open to this type of approach, with the condition that it is in harmony with the songs own characteristics and that the song not be “homogenized.” During the times ahead, it appears that folk songs will continue to be “anonymized” within a single ethnic framework. The necessity for musicians working in the realm of folk music to adopt a pluralistic view, and take note of the fact that we live in a multiethnic region with many identities, not only as a musical ideology but as a musical modus operandi, has achieved an urgency and must not be put off any longer. As long as dramaturgic preventative measures are not taken and the “folk song concept” is not reconsidered, there is a great danger in the musical world of various cultures to be added to the “colonization” in progress..

The Bitter Convict lyrics & music by : Aşık Mahzuni /Turkish

Nevruz Türkü Traditional (Urfa) source: Tenekeci Mahmut Güzelgöz/Turkish

Let the River Flow Traditional (Hakkari) extended lyrics & musicby Vedat Yıldırım /Kurdish (Kurmancî)
The Crane lyrics & music by Karacaoğlan (source: Çukurovalı Atilla Topalhan) /Turkish
The Yearning in my Heart Traditional (Dersim)/Kurdish-Zazakî
Bingöl Traditional (Bingöl) lyrics by: Avedik İsahakyan /Armenian
The Yezidis text by: Yaşar Kemal ('from his book Fırat Suyu Kan Akıyor Baksana')
Caravan lyrics by : Vedat Yıldırım music: Erol Mutlu - Vedat Yıldırım /Kurdish (Kurmancî)
The Bird lyrics & music by: Marsel Xalif /Arabic
Muscat Grape Seed Traditional (Urfa) extended Kurdish lyrics & music by Vedat Yıldırım Turkish /Kurdish (Kurmancî)
The Churn The Drunk Traditional (Hakkari) /Syriac
Haynırına Traditional (Sason) with Armenian epic poem from 'Anus' by Hovhannes