Record of the day: Talip Özkan, "The dark fire"

Record of the day: Talip Özkan, “The dark fire”

Talip Ozkan
The Dark Fire (Cd Axiom/Island 314-512003-2)

Of Turkish origin and belonging to the lute family, the saz is one of the most beautiful instruments you will ever hear.
Equipped with a long neck and a sound box reminiscent of the mandola, it has movable capos made with knotted wire, metal strings and is played with a cherry wood plectrum; It has a wonderful resonant sound that partly resembles that of the Greek bouzouki and exists in three versions: cura (three strings), baglama (six strings) and meydan saz (nine strings).

One of the national Turkish instruments, it is capable of evoking delicate atmospheres, where the soloist can accentuate the ornamental character of the music, to then produce rhythmic dance outbursts that show off the brilliance of the strings’ attack. For centuries, mystical poets called Ashiks have used it to accompany their verses, and even today the diffusion of this instrument in Turkey is enormous.

One of the greatest saz soloists was the musician and ethnomusicologist Talip Özkan, who after having been the director of the Department of History and Folklore Music at Turkish Radio left his native Ankara to move to Paris. Gifted with a beautiful baritone voice, Özkan possessed a conjuring ability on his instrument, managing to bend it to the different expressive occasions required by the compositions.

At times very sweet, at other times enthralling, Özkan created this album in 1992 together with his colleague Mahmut Demir on percussion, offering the Western public a fragment of his vast repertoire (during his activity as a researcher he collected over 3500 traditional Turkish songs) . The ductility of the instrument is complete, especially when you
finds itself in the hands of a master such as Özkan who enriches with beautiful vocal parts the intricate rhythmic superpositions present in the instrumental part, virtuosically rich in repeated notes, tremors and microtonal glissandi.

“Youce Daq Basin Da Bir Koyn Meler” is the only religious song on the album, which prefers to focus on love-themed songs like “Girdin Yarnin Barcesine” and “Suda Balik Oynyor” and fast-paced traditional dances like “Aksak”, “Sipsi” and “Zeybek”, whose irregular and incandescent rhythms will instantly involve you.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical subjects.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.