Friday, June 27, 2014

Music at the Crossroads: Gülseren and "Sinanay"

A couple of years ago, I got a chance to visit Turkey. My wife was invited to be a part of a journalists' delegation and I got to tag along. It was an amazing trip for a number of reasons.

One thing we were looking forward to was getting music from Turkey to add to our collection and play on the Global Music Show.  We spent a good part of a day in total on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, one of the hip areas that has sprung up in that cosmopolitan city, in a music store sampling music and we bought quite a bit to bring home with us.

Turkey sits at the crossroads of human history and civilization.  It is the meeting point between East and West, and between North and South.  Istanbul itself straddles Europe and Asia, with parts of it on either side.  So it is no surprise that in a large country, once the seat of an empire that spanned at its height from the gates of Vienna all the way around the Mediterranean and into Spain, you can find all types of music.  From music influenced by Turkey's eastern neighbors to pop in the western mode and everything in between, Turkey has it.  You are surrounded by music in Turkey, whether you are walking during one of the five daily prayer times and the muezzin (or a recording of a muezzin) is singing out from the minarets at the mosques or sitting in a meyhane eating meze and drinking raki, you can't escape the music, and why would you want to?

Today's randomly chosen selection is by Gülseren, which is the stage name used by Turkish-born Gülseren Yıldırım Gomez.  Born in 1973 in Istanbul, she was raised in Turkey until age seven, when she moved Paris.  However, she never wanted to forget her heritage and made sure to keep herself immersed in it, first by going to a French university specializing in eastern cultures and also by teaching Parisian schoolchildren how to speak Turkish.  In 2005, she was chosen by contest vote to represent Turkey at the famous Eurovision song contest, where she made some waves by choosing a song that was more traditionally Turkish than modern and pop.  She finished 13th in the competition.  She has one album that I have been able to find called Turquie: Rondes, Comptines et Berceuses (Turkey: Songs, Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies) released in 2007.  This song, Sinanay, can be found on many compilation albums, including the one that I own, Putumayo Presents Turkish Groove.  A nice, upbeat pop song with some Spanish talk at the beginning from Gülseren's husband Luis Gomez, presents a scene on a ferry to Istanbul and the joy that comes with the breeze and the people on it as they head there.  It was written by Sezen Aksu, herself a Turkish pop singer, song-writer and producer who has sold over 40 million albums and who Gülseren describes as "one of the greatest Turkish singers."