Friday, June 9, 2006

New music recommendation

A la my friends Chris and Jim, it's time for a Thursday music recommendation (delayed until Friday). Well, not exactly. But I can't help but extol why I like the music of Mercan Dede so much, especially on my final day in Turkey until September.

Performing under the name Mercan Dede--his first name coming from a Turkish fiction novel character and his second name meaning "grandpa"--this Turkish-born, Quebec-dwelling DJ really captures what I feel is the modern spirit of Istanbul. His craft is a sort of Sufi electronica, blending computerized beats and modern elements with the traditional music and instruments of the whirling dervishes, such as the ney, a type of flute.

Why does he capture Istanbul so well? First off, he does Sufi music, i.e., it's Islamic. When Constantinople feel to Fatih Sultan Mehmet II and the Selcuks in 1453, the city quickly became "the city of a thousand mosques." Nowadays there are still many conservative Muslims here, and the ezan (call to prayer) can be heard sounding from minarets several times daily. But owing largely to Kemal Ataturk
's secular reforms and nudges by the European Union's offers of membership, the devotion to Islam here is but a shadow of the past. But its influence cannot be escaped by even the most blind of persons.

Second, it's Sufi music. Sure, most of the Muslims in Turkey belong to the Sunni sect, but I think Sufism, once banned by Ataturk, may be on the rise. Spirituality is important to a lot of people, and Sufism offers connection with the divine within the elements of this world. You can see this in some of the more recent Turkish art. Dede's music is for dervishes, whose prayer-spinning attempts to experience the divine by connection between the heavens and the earth (hence their diagonally-outstretched arms).

Third, Mercan Dede reflects the modernization of the city while retaining its distinctively Turkish roots. I mean, it's electronica. Dede has had giant spikes for hair. But the traditional flavors will not leave; this is no mere progress-by-sounding-like-europop. This is something I really like about the megalopolis in which I live: many of new restaurants, night clubs, and art galleries exhibit progress into the future while echoing the past. (Case in point: the renovation of the
Beyo─člu district.)

You can check out more, including several MP3 music files, at


ryan said...

I linked to your recommendation. Kicking the Gourd post

Robin said...

Drew! I will be in Saginaw July 5-August 8. Let me know if you'll be around! I'd love to see you :)