Soul in her voice...soul in her heart

Leda Mermer / Agos, October 25 1996

The Boğaziçi Performing Arts Ensemble, which functions within the Boğaziçi University Alumni Association (BÜMED) and contains theatre, dance and music units, has produced a new cassette titled "HARDASAN ? Azeri Songs." The cassette, directed by Ahmet Altinel and Behzat Doletabadi, and produced by Güvercin Music, contains traditional folk songs as well as works by Azeri composers. The BGST, which declares as its goal to present to lovers of art the centuries-old rich musical tradition which has emerged from Anatolia, brings together the Azeri songs that have been performed over the course of the concert series known as "Kardeş Türküler."

HARDASAN ? Azeri Songs' soloist is Feryal Öney, a member of the BGST Music Unit. Also a teacher of literature, Öney took one year of voice training and then educated herself. From Konya, she has a rich Armenian and Azeri repertoire along with Central Anatolian pieces. We talked with Feryal Öney, who will give the first HARDASAN ? Azeri Songs concert on Noember 8 at 8:30, at Boğaziçi University BTS Concert Hall, about the ethnic music she will perform and the events that set her off down this path.

How did you become acquainted with Armenian culture?
ÖNEY ? It first started with Tatul Altunyan's record Hars Em Knum. Later on, Norayr Daduryan, who was studying at our university, introduced us to his community. A big crowd came to the "Kardeş Türküler" concert and interest grew. A year later, we got an offer to perform a concert at the Mihitaryan Society. In this way we came into a relationship with the Armenian community.

In preparing the show, what kind of preparatory stage did you go through?
ÖNEY ? Nobody in our group knew Armenian music. I myself knew only one single Erzurum song called "Sari Gelin," no more. Before "Kardeş Türküler," I'd never listened to Armenian songs. To fill the gaps in our knowledge, we first researched the sources in the Boğaziçi University library, and started becoming acquainted with the music and culture.

You perform both Armenian and Azeri songs. Melodically, what do you think these two types of music have in common?
ÖNEY ? Azeri and Armenian melodies truly are quite close to each other. This blending is especially obvious in the song "Sari Gyalin." Many of our songs have those melodies that vocal style. Because I don't have a knowledge of makams, I can't sing the Azeri "Mugam" (Makam Improvization). I sing mostly compositios. Armenian songs show Caucasian characteristics, but they also make use of the "hançere," the break in the voice. I find the most common characteristics there. When I compare Armenian and Kurdish "uzun hava" (free rhythm songs), I see a difference in their emotional character. Kurdish uzun havas are extroverted, hoyrat. Armenian uzun havas have a more introspective character, a sadness. For example, we had quite a difficult time singing Dile Yaman.

You have quite a broad Armenian repertoire...
ÖNEY ? I started with Hars Em Knum, and then came Grunk Usdi Gukas and Alakyaz, now I know Zepür Gi Tarnam and Sari Gyalin. If it's possible, I want to give an Armenian ? Azeri concert at the Mihitaryan Society. We don't have the connections yet. I'm working on a piece by Sayat Nova called Mecnun Gibi Yana Yana. In addition, with the contribution of Paylin Hanim, I'm trying to add to the song words I know. When I work on Armenian songs, first I learn the meanings of each word one at a time, and the right accents. But I still make mistakes, on this point I rely on your goodwill.

When you get a sufficient number of songs, are you thinking of going on to produce a cassette in Armenian? If this happens, it will be the first time that a Turkish artist produced a completely Armenian cassette.
ÖNEY ? I haven't thought about that yet but it could certainly happen. Why not? Actually I quite like the idea.

Before the "Kardeş Türküler" project, did you know any Armenians?
ÖNEY ? No, I only knew that Cem Karaca's mother was Armenian and his father was Azeri. The Armenians had left Konya, and I had no Armenian acquaintances. Later I learned that there were Armenian homes on the street next to us.

What impressions did you have when you came into contact with the Armenian community?
ÖNEY - The Armenians were very warm towards me. I had never worked with an ethnic group that took such interest and was so willing to share sources. They value their culture greatly, and were very helpful to us. I thank them.