La Danza Poetica #9 To Istanbul With Love

Solidarity with Istanbul. Spirit and poetics from Turkey.


Ceza - Kapı
Aşık Veysel - Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım
Shahram Shiva - Seven Pearls
Natacha Atlas - Continuous Beauty
Ağaçkakan - Aklıma Mukayyet Ol
roadside.picnic - Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit (roadside.picnic remix)
Débruit - Mezdé
Nazim Hikmet - Bir Hazin Hürriyet
Yunus Emre - Muhtelif Siirler
I'mpty - Prelude to Tale
Mercan Dede - Istanbul
Clelıa Felıx & Gülbahar Kültür - İyı Kı Varsın
Gözel Radio & Kelinhususimerhemi : Jöleli Kefen - Golden Halal Dub
Ali Cem Çehreli & Gülbahar Kültür feat. Ebru Özpirinç - Kızılcıklar Oldu Mu?
Grup Ses Beats - Yoo
Can Yücel - Güzel'e
Smadj - Flying love
Wax Poetic - Istanbul Can Be Dub
Vefa - Ur
Burhan Öçal & Pete Namlook - Nerden Geliyorsun, Pt. III & IV (excerpts)
Tanya Evanson - The Importance of Roads

Notes on the show

A protest against the destruction of beauty in Istanbul turned into a struggle for the right to protest, for the right to be, in an enlightened, complex, intelligent city. As I recorded the ninth La Danza in Melbourne, at the beginning of June, people had gathered to protect Istanbul's only remaining green space. As I post this, the struggle has grown to encompass protection of the right to protect in itself; the right to express dissent; the right to true democracy in an apparent democratic society. It is continuing and the backlash is brutal and it is sad, and I find it hard to write anything that feels more than lipservice. I am a long way away, it is a long way from me. But as I said in the show early in June, we offer solidarity and in doing that we celebrate the culture and community, the music and the poetry. As the protesters have done, with music and dance, we prove the power of art to unite and even to protect:

We dance on. And we actively treasure our freedom to dance, because freedom is an active, not a passive word. I watch the erosion of rights across the democratic world, with business and profit eroding the most fundamental processes of our democratic system - our media, our politics, our social cohesion. I remember the words of a poet - which poet, I forget - that we must be ever vigilant, ever watchful, ever active in the protection of our essential rights to be.

So, for Turkey - for all people who are struggling to express their rights - with love.

Abstract hip hop outfit Ağaçkakan (the woodpecker) is from Eskişehir. Left-field psychedelic hip hop and spoken word. Uyuyan Adam is the debut album on Turkish indie label M4NM, released in April. Mixed by Zet in Istanbul. This cut Ölmedim, Delirmedim didn't make the album, so the band released it on Bandcamp in June. Collaborator, I'mpty, is also featured this month with a piece from his Time Machine Bootleg collection of fragments and productions, which he released on Bandcamp last month.

Another group exploring the abstract in hip hop sounds is roadside.picnic. This month they gave us a truly psychedelic twist on the usual dance, taking Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit to the dark side. The EP Artefact Session is four different remixes for four different groups - Barış Manço's Lady of The Seventh Sky, Yeni Türkü's Deliler, Hariçten Gazelciler's Deli Gibi (performed by Ağaçkakan) and Jefferson Airplane. Turkey's excellent history of the psychedelic is well served into the future by kids like this!

My next feature for this month, Gülbahar Kültür, a producer, composer, DJ, broadcaster, journalist, author, from Turkey, based in Bremen. She's a prolific artist and producer releasing many albums as well as radio programs including the Global Beats program in Istanbul in the early 2000s. United Colors of Words is a fresh mix of the western and eastern influences that make up modern Turkey, featuring spoken word and poetry in German and Turkish, trip hop and house beats, and orchestral folk moments. I've been playing out tracks from this album in live sets for the past year and there is always something in there to inspire, it's so eclectic and so finely produced.

Gülbahar was also kind enough to share with us a new track for the June-released compilation Oriental Garden Vol. 10. Compiled and mixed by Gulbahar, this series of albums has charted the musical geography of the Middle East. The tenth edition is a double CD ranging from chill to party sounds, featuring the likes of Amine and Hamza out of Tunisia, Lebanon's Ghada Ghanem, Omer Nadeem from Pakistan, a remix of Björk by Omar Souleyman, DAM, and loads more. This track is Ali Cem Çehreli and Gülbahar Kültür feat. Ebru Özpirinç - Kızılcıklar Oldu.

Honoured ghosts, Turkey's poets from across the centuries.

Aşık Veysel, the blind aşık, travelling troubadour, poet, and bağlama virtuoso. The is aşık a mystic troubadour or traveling bard. Descendants of the tradition of Yunus Emre, the great 13th century Turkish poet, aşıks became the voice of common people, expressing their relationship with their land, community, culture, rural life. Most important in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran as keeping the oral tradition and cultures of their people. Touched by tragedy throughout his life, Aşık Veysel's poem Long and winding road (Uzun ince bir yoldayım) is one of the most beloved of Turkish songs.

I am on a long and narrow road On a long and narrow road Walking all day and all night Unaware of the condition I am in Walking day and night From the moment I was born I started walking right away In an inn with two gates Walking day and night Walking even in my sleep Seeking a reason for staying Eyeing those who are leaving Walking day and night Forty-nine years on these roads On the plains, mountains, and deserts Stuck in these foreign lands Walking day and night Veysel is bewildered to this situation It makes him cry some, smile some Trying to reach a destination Walking day and night

(translated by Tolga Güngör and Mesut Özgen - from

Later in the show we hear an interpretation of a poem by Yunus Emre, the Turkish poet and Sufi mystic of the 13th century. One of the first poets to compose work in the spoken Turkish of his age rather than in Persian or Arabic, he is known as a folk poet, in the tradition of Anatolian folk poetry. Poetry of love, both divine and human.

God permeates the whole wide world, Yet his truth is revealed to none. You better seek Him in yourself, You and He aren't apart - you're one. Nazim Hikmet, the romantic revolutionary, leader of the Turkish avant-garde, spent much of his life in prison or in exile and died outside his homeland, but his poetry transcended walls and chains and endures as a call to the arms of the people. This poem is Bir Hazin Hürriyet. 

Poet of the people, Can Yücel. A poem for his daughter, Güzel'e. A loose English translation I found online:

We went to sleep with tiny hand of yours alonelast night loneliness with your tiny hand alone is as crowded as Kandilli primary school When the bell of your dreams ring Doors of classrooms are open entirely Rightful classes of the sky, the sea, the soil, the daydream and the laborYou know the books, that were thrown into the sea Because ofpolice raids Maybe, aterinas learntMarx from those books And maybe that is the reason why This place is soilluminated.And you, my beauty who does not like pickingflowers The kid who likes wateringthem And me, withered and sour An old man now, I am I was so beautiful with you, More beautiful than flowers And then I realized, I realized once more The things can not even dream about The things done by the dreams

And, of course, Rumi, interpreted by Shahram Shiva. Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic, who died in Turkey in 1273, was a great influence on the area's poets. Shahram Shiva has been performing his works for many years, Seven Pearls is from the Lovedrunk recording of 2005.

To some modern poets, poets of sound, music and words ...

Wax Poetic is the dynamic collaborative effort born from the transnational creative wellspring of indefatigable composer and musician Ilhan Ersahin. Featured in the show, the track Istanbul can be dub is from the 2006 album Istanbul for which I must thank Tanya Evanson, being late to the discovery. With Wax Poetic Ilhan has collaborated with vocalists and poets including Norah Jones, Saul Williams, U-Roy, many others.

.... While we're on the subject of Wax Poetic, do check out the late 2012 release On A Ride - into new territory with a distinctive take on pure Americana. It's taking us out of our usual territory on LAPKAT, but it's a nice side trip.

Poets of sound - and as I say in the show, there was no way to get even shallowly into this epic recording - Multi instrumentalist and composer Burhan Öçal working with Pete Namlook, recounting the life of Orhan, second sultan of the Ottoman Empire. This is an album for a deep rainy day, perhaps, or a long flight, or just a night in the headphones. An unexpected collaboration back in 2004, it's rich, epic, poetic.

I must mention Tanya Evanson from her 2008 album The Memorists - The Importance of Roads. After a time living in Istanbul, poet and whirling dervish Evanson collaborated with leading Turkish, Romany and Vancouver jazz players including Mercan Dede, on this at turns funky, spiritual, jazz, poetic and transcendent album.

To end this rambling post, fittingly, Mercan Dede's Istanbul. The composer, ney player, DJ, producer and visual artist has collaborated with many great artists including Transglobal Underground. Istanbul is from the 2007 album 800 for which I have to thank Tanya! If like me you are new to his work, go get it now.

Mercan Dede posted a beautiful and heartfelt letter to his Prime Minister last week (read it here):

Please come and together we can all make Gezi Park into a, “Peace and Freedom,” Park. Let’s plant flowers of every color and type we can grow all over it. Let’s re-plant the trees and grow new ones. Let us not allow one bitter pepper in but grow sweet peppers so we don’t ever forget these days of pepper spray and tear gas and what they meant. Let’s build a mini-forest of greenery where old and young, everyone can come have a moment to themselves away from the hustle of life, even if its just for a little while. Let the bird songs and the sounds of youth with their guitars join into the chorus. Let even a fumbling ney player like myself find a tree to sit under and play their flute. Let those who just want a place to sit and read find that special place. Be it Mevlana, or Ömer Hayyam or Nazım Hikmet, as long as they’re reading a book, let them. Let there be flowers of all kinds, let there be people of all kinds. Different clothes, hair, whether they belive in headscarves or mini-skirts, as long as their hearts are always open to peace, love, tolerance, and requited love, let them come...

Dede is a poet in truth, a humanist and an artist in the deepest sense. His can be the last words):

"Kasirganin ortasinda baris ol. Be the peace in the middle of hurricane."