Thanks to forced secularisation in the 1920s and relatively early industrialisation, Turkey has a well-established “folk” tradition in the Western sense, in which privileged urbanites look to rural sounds as a source of inspiration and “authenticity”. Real traditional music, meanwhile, thrives in peasant and nomad communities.
Epitomising the former tendency, cool-voiced chanteuse Melike Tarhan draws the sounds of the ashik – Anatolia’s traditional bards – into a web of sophisticated international influences, creating a parable on the current Iraq war which makes for surprisingly soothing, meditative listening.
The ashiks’ rounded, open and surprisingly European-sounding tones fit easily with Tarhan’s breathily confiding ambient-folk manner. Her Iraqi arranger-husband Osama Abdulrasol blends the metallic jangle of the saz lute and traditional fiddle with Western strings, touches of flamenco and Brazilian rhythm in a series of vignettes telling the story of a peasant boy enlisting in the First World War. The effect is evocative rather than didactic, and an arrangement of WB Yeats’s Sally Gardens is by no means the most surprising element in this unusual andausterely beautiful album. MH