In the exact same way that a certain Omar Souleyman brought the mantric, albeit somewhat westernised sound of the sands of his native Syria to an occidental audience, Turkish clarinetist Cüneyt Sepetçi and his scrupulously composed Orchestra Dolapdere seem hellbent on enlightening that same multitude with the vibrant Romani timbres to have dangled from his family tree for generations. Though whereas Sepetçi’s Arabian contemporary announced his eminence with a brazen cross-pollination of alien abrasion and readily identifiable humid nightclub frenetics, Cüneyt instead favours a remarkably faithful representation of the soundtrack to life in the Dolapdere district of the quixotic Bosporus port the virtuoso calls home.
Unless you just so happen to already harbour an unfathomable understanding of Turkish gypsy music – you’ve perhaps frequented more than your fair share of Anatolian circumcisions, for instance – then Sepetçi’s latest collection, entitled Bahriye Çiftetellisi and loosely translating to a sprightly kind of folkloric jig, might initially appear an unrelenting blare of exotic, if inaccessible treasury the jewels of which sound largely indecipherable from one another. But allow them to set a while, and all kinds of slight nuances make themselves manifest: Hasan Demir’s highly accomplished trebly ud solo that ignites its title track; the syncopated darbuka thwacks that Sepetçi’s masterly melodies ride through Anadolu Oyun Havasi as though they were rolling the shoulders of a debilitated camel; the celebratory frenzy of Karsimila, originating from Thrace, that is to Ottoman good time what Nile Rodgers is to NYC disco.
And the consequence is a recording that’s as entertaining as it is instructive. I, for one, had no notion of a tef being a rickety tambourine-like instrument first picked up in Persia, nor of the sorts of intimidating instrumentals that would traditionally be the preserve of Turkish weddings, although in the Asiatic menace of Gayda we’ve a quite petrifying insight into the implicit significance of holy moly matrimony out in the Middle East. Though in Dört Beygir, this sonic compendium’s starkly mesmeric standout, Sepetçi channels a considerably more intimate history when set against the recitals of time-honoured traditional fare on offer elsewhere. Composed by his uncle Arab Kemal, it’s another instance of tormenting prowess forewarning of extramarital infidelity but, in its own highly idiosyncratic manner and when played in the correct context, it sounds as though it could kindle even the dampest squib of a social gathering. Whether or not Bahriye Çiftetellisi will worm its decidedly wicked way into the DJ booths of the West as has, say, Souleyman’s Jazeera Nights remains to be seen but a richly rewarding listening experience, it’s one you may yet surrender many a muggy summer night to…
Released: July 8th, 2013 [L.M. Dupli-cation]