Maria Farantouri sings Taner Akyol

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Maria Farantouri sings Taner Akyol

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Maria Farantouri sings_TanerAkyol_Cover (enja, VÖ: 01.04.2011)
A young composer from Bursa writes forcefully powerful songs; a celebrated vocalist from Athens sings in a unique and emotionally direct fashion; and an established chamber orchestra from Berlin delivers the instrumental foundation.
A dream? A snapshot? The fact is: music is always one step ahead of social reality. In Germany the anxiety of supposed Islamic infiltration rules talk shows and table discussions. In Greece and in Turkey nationalistic tendencies occupy the political climate. So the Kurdish composer Taner Akyol, the Greek singer Maria Farantouri and the German Berlin Chamber Orchestra, in something of a coup, ignore the everyday social realities. Not with politics but with art.

Art – and especially music – can be more effective than verbal political argument. In declaring his purpose, Taner Akyol stressed that he wanted his compositions brought to life by a highly respected singer like Maria Farantouri since her personal view of the world is close to his. Her nationality didn’t matter. “Why should it?” says Akyol. “This was never a question for her or for me.” Yet it is this natural essence of their association that gives a deep political dimension to the project. When Akyol presented the idea of having his music interpreted by Maria Farantouri and the Berlin Chamber Orchestra to his long time fellow student friend Symeon Ioannidis, both realized instantly that something very special was about to come to fruition. Ioannidis set out to translate old Anatolian poems into Greek with great sensitivity not to compromise their original meaning. At first the composer had hoped that Farantouri, the very busy compatriot of Mikis Theodorakis, would at least sing some of his compositions. By after the first rehearsal she spontaneously decided to lend her inimitable voice to all of them. Taner Akyol: “I was so touched.”

The first sessions were done in Berlin and the project reached its recorded conclusion in Athens. What developed between the artists was that unexplainable magic created by feelings about liberty, freedom and brotherhood. Greek, Turkish and Kurdish musics are presented side by side, absolutely equal, and blend, in a kind of mystical process, into a grand and compelling sound language. And the passion of the songs and singing is carried forth by the dramatic shadings of the orchestra.

Almost as a matter of course, Maria Farantouri sings “Daye Daye” (Mother, Mother). It is a composition by Memet Çapan about a 1937 massacre in the province of Dersim by the Turkish army, supressing an uprising of the Alevite peasant population. Around the original melody Akyol has constructed an arrangement full of pain, grief and fury. Farantouri sings this piece – maybe the most important of the recording – in Zaza, an old, independent language that was recently accepted by Unesco into the group of languages endangered by extinction. Akyol emotionally suggests that the massacre continues today but in a different manner. By building dams, the government aims to flood the holy places of Dersim (now Tunceli) in order to eradicate the originality of the Anatolia highlands once and for all. That is why it was so important to him that Maria Farantouri sing “Daye Daye” in Zaza. “I don’t want anybody to think that this work was explicitly done for the sake of Greek-Turkish friendship!” says the composer.

In Anatolia folksongs are of undiminished importance. Nearly every house owns a bağlama (better known as a saz), an Anatolian lute. Akyol, this Kurdish Turk living in Berlin, has intensively worked on the instrument of his ancestors and, in this way, researched his roots. “Zaza is my mother tongue but I can’t speak it,” he declares in fluent German. “But I am beginning to understand that society uses music to articulate itself.” The folk singer – meaning poet and singer of love songs – is more than a musician. He transmits opinions on different political or social themes and common topics to the public. ”But sometimes,” says Akyol, “those in love do not reach the beloved ones.”

The words of 16th century Turkish – Alevitic poet and freedom fighter Pir Sultan Abdal, whose lyrics to “Su” (Water) and “Bįlen Gelsįn” (Let him come) are included on the CD, still have an undiminished power for Taner Akyol, both in politics and in society. He notes, “When composing I wished for other people in other places in the world to hear and understand them. I wanted to point first towards what happened before and then track what came after by means of today’s musical expression.“

Akyol’s wish has come to fascinating musical reality with the inspired help of Maria Farantouri and the Berlin Chamber Orchestra.

Taner Akyol (*1977) in Bursa (Turkey) started out at an early age on baglama (saz), piano and violin becoming professional as a teenager. At age 19 he moved to Berlin where he studied composition with Prof. Kyburz (Hanns Eisler Musikhochschule) and after graduating 2003 with Prof.Zimmermann (Berlin Arts University). He founded the intercultural Ensemble Cornucopia and established the “ta Atelier” in Berlin. 2007 ENJA RECORDS released his first album Birds of Passage (ENJ-9510 2). Akyol also composed the music to Orhan Pamuk’s audio book Red is my Name.

Taner Akyol won numerous prizes as baglama soloist and composer of chamber music (Musica Vitale, Hanns Eisler Award). He is the first artist to bring the baglama to European concert halls. The baglama (also saz, tanbur, dombra, seta, dutar) is the oriental long necked lute which is featured in many oriental music traditions. Taner Akyol brings this instrument to concert halls but also began recently to work in trio in jazzclubs and festivals. ENJA will soon release an excellent trio album – Dance to the Sun – featuring baglama, piano and percussion.