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x0x The 'breath' of the East "Kudsi Erguner"

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    [See more on this subject by visiting the pages selected for you by Anita Donohoe: http://turkradio.us/k/erguner/ ] x0x The breath of the East Kudsi
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2009
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      [See more on this subject by visiting the pages
      selected for you by Anita Donohoe:
      http://turkradio.us/k/erguner/ ]

      x0x The 'breath' of the East "Kudsi Erguner"

      By BAHAR KALKAN

      Master of the 'ney' and musical archaeologist Kudsi Erguner is a
      musician who combines jazz with Ottoman and 'sufi' music.

      The concert that we watched, listened to, and read about in the
      enchanting atmosphere of the 1500-year-old Hagia Eirene was actually a
      summing up by Kudsi Erguner of his entire musical career. Taking his
      inspiration from the quatrains of Mevlana Jelaladdin Rumi, he fills
      the stage with music, calligraphy and dance all at once. Erguner
      expresses mystical philosophy through his 'ney' (reed flute), bringing
      disparate musical cultures together in a burst of sound. Istanbul
      music lovers have become accustomed to seeing a new project from him
      every year. Heavily involved in music since the age of nine, Erguner,
      who has spent 32 years in Paris, goes for the natural, seeking
      'pleasure' and excitement in music. As far as he can count, he has 92
      albums to his name. Regarded as one of the world's leading
      representatives of sufi music, Erguner does not limit his own musical
      universe exclusively to Mevlevi chants and rituals.

      He also does research on classical Turkish music, archiving forgotten
      compositions and mixing Ottoman music with western rhythms and
      improvisational jazz. He has produced film music with world-famous
      directors like Peter Brook and Tony Gatlif as well as engaging in
      joint projects with musicians such as Peter Gabriel, Didier Lockwood
      and Michel Portal. Coming together with Erguner on the occasion of his
      latest project, 'Metaphor', we talked with him about his life in
      music, his multi-cultural projects, his new books, and the
      much-debated East-West divide.

      You've said that you 'inherited' your profession from your grandfather
      Suleyman Erguner and your father Ulvi Erguner, both of whom were 'ney'
      players. How did you start playing the ney as a child?

      It was out of the question in those days that my peers would take any
      interest in the ney or in Turkish classical music. People simply had
      no such interests; in fact, such things were slightly frowned upon.

      But the encouragement I received from my father and the people around
      him spurred me on to learn. Another source of encouragement for me were
      the small amateur choruses in which I sang. Although I was much
      younger than most of the other members, we played together and I
      performed in the concerts. Later I joined the Istanbul State Radio,
      where I worked for two years. I sang briefly in Nevzat Atlig's chorus.
      It was after that I went to Europe.

      You're usually involved in multi-cultural projects. Is there a special
      reason for that?

      Let's say it's a spinoff of living in Paris. Because Paris is a world
      city; you meet a lot of artists living there. There are also musicians
      I've met not just in France but in other countries I've visited. I
      admire a lot of their work and I want to work with them. Most recently
      I got together with jazz trumpet player Markus Stockhausen. I've
      played with Michel Portal, Christof Lauer, Michel Godard, Marc
      Nauseef, and Rabih Abou-Khalil. Sometimes I invite them, and sometimes
      they invite me.

      'From Sufism to Flamenco', 'Ottomania', 'Islam Blues' and 'Ney-Zen'
      are just a few of the projects in which you've brought disparate
      musical cultures together. What are you trying to draw attention to in
      these multi-cultural projects?

      What's important for me is to work on a theme. The project, 'From
      Sufism to Flamenco,' for example, was in memory of the mystical poet
      Ibn Arabi, who was born in Andalusia in the 12th century. He started
      out from Andalusia, came as far as Konya and then settled in Damascus.

      We translated his book of poetry, 'The Lovers' Guide,' from Arabic
      into Spanish. Spanish Flamenco musicians recited the poems in Spanish
      and Istanbul sufi musicians recited them in Arabic. The 'Ney-Zen'
      project was realized with Japanese and Turkish musicians. In Zen
      culture the most important instrument is the 'shakuhachi', which is
      made of bamboo. It's very similar to the ney of sufi music. Bringing
      these two instruments together is important both from the musical
      angle and as a symbol. Our 'Taj Mahal' project was inspired by the
      Baburname, the memoirs of Sultan Babur, a descendant
      of Tamerlane and founder of the Indo-Turkic empire.

      In other words, a sultan in 16th century India wrote a book in
      Turkish! It's impossible to read it and not be touched. In other
      words, there is a reason behind all these projects.

      Most recently we enjoyed 'Metaphor', a project of yours that brought
      together various branches of art under the sponsorship of Boeing in
      the Istanbul Music Festival. In the concert you all expressed
      yourselves through your own medium, you through your ney, Carolyn
      Carlson and her group through dance, and the famous calligrapher
      Hassan Massoudy through his lines.

      I believe that music is not an art that develops by itself. A musician
      is nurtured by a cultural environment. And that environment is
      connected to all the branches of art as well as to the life of the
      time. Music and the fine arts complement each other in a
      give-and-take.

      I want to show how all of them can be part of a joint production when
      they are inspired by the same enthusiasm, the same theme, the same
      literature,exactly as we did in the 'Metaphor' project. We designed
      this project based on the quatrains of Mevlana, who says that the
      flute without the breath of the flutist, the pen without the hand of
      the calligrapher, and man untouched by the divine has no meaning. It
      was entirely improvisational. Hassan Bey took his inspiration from the
      poetry translations and stylized his lines in keeping with the music
      and dance. The dancers did the same.

      We're always talking about a mutual embrace of East and West, but
      don't we have differences too? If we tried to list them,
      they'd easily fill three or four volumes!
      One of the biggest problems in the world today is that a very
      commercialized civilization has taken over the world. There's no
      difference any more between somebody who lives in Japanese and
      somebody who lives in New York. We're heading straight towards
      cultural uniformity.

      What we need to do straightaway is to appreciate the unique cultures
      of people of different civilizations and introduce them into the
      culture that has monopolized the world. And artists are the people who
      can do this. I would like the cultural components that constitute our
      own identity but that can also contribute to a world culture to find
      their place in that world culture, either in modern form or in the
      original. If we look at it in terms of culture and philosophy, the
      development of the Western countries is quite different from that of
      the Eastern countries. The ideas put forward in western society are
      forms of thought that result from wars, from events experienced, and
      from the various phases through which the west has passed. The person
      of the East has no experience of such things. Its as if the West was
      looking for something but could never find it, whereas the East is at
      peace, claiming to have found something. But these are two very
      different kinds of cultural richness. The truth that is claimed to
      have been found in the East provides people with a number of pleasures
      and thrills.

      The West too discovered wonderful things during its quest. The two
      should complement each other.

      Can we talk about your new projects? Whats in the works these days?

      My book entitled The Fount of Separation: A Ney Players Journey, which
      was first published in French, came out this month in English,
      translated by my wife. Its intended to be autobiographical but is
      actually more of a first-hand account of the period in which my
      generation lived. Its been translated into Greek as well. I have two
      other book projects at the moment: Im compiling a book of Mevlanas
      stories and the figures of speech he used in the Mesnevi. The second
      book is an experiment, in the musical sense... a book Ive been working
      on for years. A detailed analysis of the way in which the modes used
      in classical Turkish music are played today. It will take take years.

      I also have an opera project. A Gesamtkunstwerk of course... A reply
      to Mozarts Abduction from the Seraglio called Return to the Seraglio.
      It is currently in the libretto-writing phase...

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