Baba Zula

29.01.17 

Nells Jazz & Blues (South Kensington) 

I returned to Nells Jazz & Blues for the second time in a weekend. The first to see North West African traditional music, and this time, to see eclectic Turkish folk band Baba Zula. 

Periklie Tsoukalas of Baba Zula   Nells Jazz a Blues   29.01.18   Photo Sophie Darling 

Periklie Tsoukalas of Baba Zula 

Nells Jazz a Blues

29.01.18 

Photo Sophie Darling 

Baba Zula formed as a band in Istanbul in 1996. They have since become the polar figures, pioneers and flag masters for Turkish psychedelic rock’n’roll. The eclectic mix of sounds and influences emanating from their high energy performances beams traditional oriental instruments:  sounds such Özgür Çakırlar beating the darbuka drums providing thriving rhythms throughout. The saz, mastered by Murat Ertel, reminds us of the Arab influences, and screams maqqam, however untraditionally electrified. The result; dirty, at times distorted rock’n’roll saz solos over chorus-esc male singing, often in small phrases, or one word exclamations. Traditional percussion provides the much needed foot stopping dance tones, whilst contemporary electronic instruments such as sample pads, percussion machines, theremins, oscillators, effects pedals and an array of experimentation adds the modern dance, dub elements. All in all, the performances Baba Zula produce comes served as a mixed disciplinary experience, often travelling through long psychedelic instrumentals, thrashing into Hendrix inspired lute solos channeled through a wah wah pedal. The energy bursts out of every segment of the songs, often building up to wonderfully long dancing, jumping conclusions. 

Periklie Tsoukalas is representing a similar look to the last time I saw the boys playing; steampunk circle glasses matched with multicoloured patched waistcoat and matching shoes, with orange trousers and a larger than life afro that bobbed to every beat. Periklies position within the band is playing the electric oud and vocals. The effects pedal at his feet becomes the most important part of the the musical make-up of Baba Zula. One minute the oud will be emanating renaissance-esc melodic phrases, then with a tap of the foot, the bass strings are creating heavy dubbed bass lines that dominate the energy of the song. With another tap, the oud becomes Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Strat’ with a 70’s wah wah bending the notes, shaping the vibe into a groovy funk dance. 

With Baba Zula you journey through genres, through sounds and through themes. 

Speaking of themes, the ideologies of the band members are clear throughout. With every moment of conversation between the band and the audience, they pursued the opportunity to promote a global peaceful vision. One of no borders, no discrimination and of a ‘one people’. Speaking to the audience they ask…

“Do you feel you are from a race? from a nation? Do you think you could be wrong? We can all be wrong? We are all mixed you see… 

You don’t know your great great great grandfather do you? Nooo. So you could be wrong! You do not know!

We are all mixed, we are all living, in this world, in this now. 

We can have and learn enjoyment”

…From here they jumped into the next grooving song, punching the peaceful energy around the room. Furthermore after every song, and in every moment of pause, the members of the band adorned the universal peace signs with their hands to the audience. 

Periklie frequently triggered a pop culture reference in my head… I felt as though I were being taken back to school…. ‘The School of Rock’ to be precise, and Jack Black was telling me to “raise my goblet of rock” before “melting” my face off in this light hearted, totally rock’n’roll character, as he points around the audience before shredding on the oud. 

Techno percussionist Levent Akman is known for vibing on the spoons, the maracas, all manner of mini percussions, symbols, pads, effects, whilst experimenting with electronic devices, that at times can become so overpowering the distortion can be felt from within. 

A slight disappointment came in that female vocalist Melike Şahin didn’t join the band for this performance, there was also no explanation as to why. 

The band came on stage around 8, and started the set jumping immediately in the deep end, opening with perhaps one of their biggest hits ‘Abdülcanbaz’, played for over 10 minutes, the eventual crescendo of the song opens the set and immediately creates the high energy reaction from the already dancing audience. Screaming in support could be heard the entire evening. 

The dancing did not stop for one moment throughout the evening as Baba Zula played hit after hit demanding audience participation, which they received with an raucous passion. At one moment, the entire venue could be heard chanting “PIRASA” meaning ‘leek’ in Turkish, or as they pointed out, a word that will be accepted all across the Balkans and in Greece also. 

Together the audience sung, clapped and danced the night away with Baba. 

At a number of points, the audience was very literally dancing WITH Baba Zula as they spent a good couple of songs within the audience, either dancing with us, singing with us, asking us all to join them on them crouching low on the floor quietly, whilst Periklie sings acoustic traditional Arabic melismatic vocals that echoed around the small venue, all the while building up the energy by punctuating his vocals with the single strum of an extremely high powered, slightly distorted oud. 

Murat Ertel also acted rock’n roll in many ways, from playing his electric sax solos  behind his head in  typical ‘Vaughan’ style, to traveling across the audience via chair tops, across the room to the bar, where he climbed, saz in hand, to solo on the bar top all while commuting from stage to bar whilst playing epic saz licks.

The evening at Nells was quite juxtaposed to the Saturday evening I had spent in the venue. The first evening I spent was very serious, almost silent and specialist. However this evening was quite the opposite, with upbeat dancing from moment one, the demographic seemed far more ‘excited’ than Saturdays crowd, with a high level of chatting in between songs, it was perhaps a little too loud in laughter for my liking. However, the same set up of the stage at Saturday: minimal lights and back drop ensuring upmost attention to the music and the artist. The 200 capacity at Nells really makes for an intimate show, one where you really feel as though you have seen, even met the artists. 

I thouroughly enjoyed my evening with Baba Zula, and would recommend their live performance to anyone into dancing, Balkans, Turkish, Psychedelia, Rock’n’roll, shredding solos and all manner of hooligan-ary and fun, and of corse, impeccable musicianship. 

 

Me and Murat Ertel  Baba Zula @ Nells Jazz & Blues   29.01.18

Me and Murat Ertel

Baba Zula @ Nells Jazz & Blues 

29.01.18

 

 

 

 

The Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra, With Special Guests, Mamak Khadem and Olcay Bayir

DzamboContent

28.02.17

The Forbe, Camden

 

Having never before been to the Forbe in Camden, I admired the interior; classy wooden walls, high ceilings, intriguing angles and a wall of plants I particularly liked. The stage was set for the opening act; Olcay Bayir and her touring band. Coming from Turkey with Kurdish origins, Olcay mixes the classical Anatolian musical traditions with her western musical training. Coming to the stage it must be noted how wonderfully gracious Olcay Bayir looked, wearing a classy black dress embellished with beautiful jewellery, the audience quickly hushed. 

Olcay started her performance by singing an original composition in a wonderful soprano voice, that managed to stretch from the lowest octaves climbing steadily higher and higher until I’m sure she managed to squeeze five different octaves into one song. The drums and the five stringed bass sounded more western influenced driving each song with an almost rock’n’roll sound. This contrasted well with the traditional techniques used playing the acoustic guitar, and the pairing of the Kaval, a traditional flute instrument from Turkey, with the violin, harmonising and together ornamenting around the operatic voice of Olcay. 

Olcay Bayir treated us to one or two originals off her new upcoming album. Olcay’s stunning voice echoed through the unusual space connecting to every audience member. The use of the Kaval working with the violin really lifted the Macedonian sounds from her compositions creating a fusion of music that is not only easy to listen too, but also divine with rich textures. Olcay Bayir announced that for her second upcoming album she has launched a crowd funder to help towards the cost, in return she’s offering rewards, plus pre-orders of the album. After 45 minutes of playing Olcay left the stage to be set up for the nine piece all brass balkan orchestra. 

What an entrance they made, coming out section by section layering and building up a real buzz around their first song. After blasting us with some heavy brass talent, without introduction Mamak Khadem joined the boys on stage and together they finished their opening sequence. 

The stunning spiritual voice of Mamak Khadem comes from a fusion of traditional styles embracing cultures from all throughout the middle east. Primarily an Iranian singer, her roots in ancient poetry and traditional Persian music have helped Mamek find common threads throughout the globe, creating continuously innovative music. During their performance together Mamak Khadem and the Dzambo Augusevi Orchestra brought influences from primarily Iran and Macedonia, but also Serbia.  Together they played through a number of Mamaks songs including a particular favourite of mine from the evening; ‘Those Eyes’ of which Mamak had composed specifically for the Orchestra. 

The evening was filled with infectious grooves. The playful, upbeat manner in which the Dzambo Agesevi Orchestra perform showcases their rare connection. Within the nine members we have an Uncle named Koko, his brother, and that brothers son; Dzambo. 

Dzambo himself joined his uncle in the orchestra as third trumpet at the mere age of 11, and over the next few years became one of the worlds most renowned players shocking and awe inspiring around the globe. “Jumbo 11” is an album by Dzambo, made at the age of 11, after being invited by legendary saxophone player Ferus Mustafov to record. From there Dzambo won every trumpet playing award there was, including in ‘Pehcevo Competition’ ranking as every position possible. From 2006 to2011 he was unbeatably the fastest trumpet player in the world. He also achieved ‘every trumpet players dream’ of winning the ‘Guca Festival’ for himself and the Orchestra, who were eventually asked to stop contending in order to give others a chance. Uncle Koko is also a legend in his own right. Having played abroad in many projects his virtuosity is recognised everywhere. 

The evening seemed to fly as each song seamlessly grooved into the next. Mama Khadem demanded a complete deserved respect as she powerfully sung with the nine piece brass band. With varying trumpets and horns and a percussion section that consisted of a Rowland Synth pad and a large Tapan drum, not once did Mamak Khadem’s voice fade into the noise. Somehow, the the big brass beats from the Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra worked perfectly in sync Mamak who clearly had a close and warm friendship with the boys. Together they performed one of Mamaks more diverse songs from her first album - ‘Jostojoo, Forever Seeking’ of which Songlines magazine highly acclaimed. The song itself ‘Bigharâr (Restless Yearning)’ asked both the Uncle Koko and Nephew Dzambo to sing with Mamak, consequently the energy of the evening really hit a high with everyone in the audience dancing and applauding. 

Mamak spoke a few times between the songs explaining how she had told the band to learn English, but she will be doing most the speaking as they “didn’t do very well” (queue waves of chuckles from the orchestra). Throughout the evening she told us stories of her life and travels, speaking of her journeys through cultures making all kinds of friends and a families, and told us how the orchestra had become her “favourite family”. The love and appreciation the members had for one another was clear throughout. After every song applauding each other, embracing smiling and laughing. 

After an epic finally Mama concluded to the audience that “Music has no boundaries and it is the language of love”. She then left the stage leaving the nine behind to step up the balkan beats for the last segment of the evening. 

Here the audience really came alive, seemingly suddenly half Macedonian/Turkish the band launched into Balkan styled patriotic sing along songs. The talent of each members of the band really shone through as they played fast, complicated, elegant pieces and did so, with such an air of ease. Needless to say Dzambo’s trumpet playing shone through as an exceptional talent, frequently shocking and stunning the audience. The horn section themselves were so smooth with the groove I felt if I took my eyes of the band, I could convince myself I could hear a western bass guitar on the stage.

With a huge amount of audience singing, the encores seemed they would never end. I spoke to a lady in the audience who had grown up in Macedonia and she said; 

 “This music is so nostalgic, it makes me feel like I am home. But not just for me, for Perisan people too, and Iranian, so many people feel at home to this music.” 

Although I had grown up in the South of England, I could feel the nostalgia filling the room with admiration for the extremely talented orchestra. 

After the third encore, the band finished with ‘Crazy Dance’ an upbeat original that left both the audience and, it seemed, the band reluctant to leave.

I had really enjoyed the evening, the electric energy emanating from the stage stayed with me till I was home, trying to sleep. 

Olcay Bayir will be releasing new music soon, you can find more about her crowdfunding project on her Facebook page. Make Khadims albums are available on all platforms, including her brand new album ‘The Road’. The Dzambo Agusevi Orchestra are continuing to travel and play their music globally.