by Daniel Brown

Some, like baseball star Carlos Delgado, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger, mark their disapproval of the US occupation of Iraq by refusing to stand up for the playing of « God Bless America » at the start of games. Others, like Michael Moore, splash their outrage all over book pages and silver screens, and get Cannes’ Golden Palm for their efforts.
Still others, like Turkish vocalist Melike Tarhan, plunge into their past to seek historic parallels to the US-led invasion. The gifted musician, finds parallels between the American-led attack of Iraq and the Canakkale war fought out in the Gallipoli Peninsula that left over 500,000 people dead in 1915. This ignominious and bloody conflict between the tottering Ottoman and British empires is yet another example, says young Melike, of « mankind wanting to rule over life and death by power ‘gained’ by means of wars ». Not surprisingly, the new star of Turkish traditional music dedicates this first international album to the child victims of the US invasion.
In this concept album, Melike’s delicate and sweetly perched voice brings alive some of the ancient troubadour traditions of Anatolia. This short album is a tapestry that describes a circular cycle of life, love and death. It opens with a young boy, Macar, leaving his village of Suvermez to fight for his country. Macar disappears in the conflict leaving his mother wondering if he is alive or dead. The album delves into her anguish and the memories of a boy who, at fifteen, is « a flower in bloom », but has « grown up too soon ».
Mixing poetry by W.B.Yeats with a rich vein of traditional Turkish folk music, Melika weaves a spellbinding story of despair, hope and resilience. It is a simple tale, simply told. But the build-up – ably backed up by the qanun of Osama Abdulrasol and a plethora of talented guests – has the listener begging for more. Melika claims the record « was conceived like a novel » though, at 48 minutes, a gripping short story is perhaps a more suitable description. Be that as it may, « Macar » is yet another example of the Turkish musical renaissance that is centred on but is not exclusive to Istanbul, in the early part of this century.

August 2004

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