Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Erkan Ogur and Ismail Hakki Demircioglu with the Dunya Ensemble at Drom, NYC 10/11/08

If looks could kill, the bar along the club’s back wall would have been littered with lifeless bodies. One of the Boston-based Turkish traditional group the Dunya Ensemble’s percussionists cast a contemptuous glare at the crowd in the back who wouldn’t stop talking. Before the show, he’d made an entreaty to the sold-out crowd: “This music comes from silence and is best enjoyed in silence,” he explained poetically. Perhaps the majority of the audience, pressing toward the stage, agreed enthusiastically. In the back, some clearly did not. This was the closing party for the most recent Turkish Film Festival and since pretty much everybody had been sitting and watching in silence for the better part of the day, there was a faction here who weren’t up for standing in silence for another hour, or maybe another minute. Which on one level makes perfect sense, although it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to talk through a set of music as otherworldly beautiful as the group onstage were playing. The six musicians – the highly regarded Erkan Ogur and Ismail Hakki Demircioglu each playing lute, accompanied by saz (a three-stringed Turkish instrument that sounds much like the Persian tar), harp and two percussionists – ran through a mix of sacred and secular songs imbued equally with longing and riveting beauty.


Everyone except the harpist sang, a chorus of powerful, soulful baritones who would murmur, low and intense and then leap to a passionate crescendo. When all the stringed instruments were going at full volume, the blend of jangly, plinking textures was as bracing as it was hypnotic. Traditional Turkish music frequently uses the Arab scale, but not always, making frequent use of fifths and octaves which, while neither major nor minor, often create a forest of eerie overtones. It was those tonalities ringing quietly in the excellent sound mix that imbued a considerable portion of the music with a haunting, ethereal feel. A couple of numbers featured just a single lute backed by percussion and a chorus of voices; another early in the set had a beautifully rustic, pastoral feel. The group’s two best songs were stately, slowly crescendoing, hypnotic anthems, the first built on a deliberate, three-chord descending progression that hit a potent crescendo as the chorus kicked in. Like a considerable amount of music from the Middle East, much of the group’s material featured extended introductions, whether vocal or instrumental, giving each player the chance to solo. By the end of the night, the group (along with many people in the crowd gathered by the stage) had managed more or less to shush the crowd at the bar, in fact drawing many of them in to see what their fellow concertgoers had found so captivating.

October 12, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , ,

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