Words by Garth Cartwright
Readers may already be familiar with Çiğdem Aslan, as she’s lead singer with She’koyokh, the fabulous London-based Balkan klezmer ensemble. With Mortissa, Aslan leads a combo who play rebetika – an Ottoman music once popular in coffee houses, hash dens and jails in Turkish and Greek cities where the two communities lived alongside one another (until the forced expulsions and population exchange of 1923). Since then rebetika has largely been viewed as a Greek folk music yet, as the excellent sleeve notes to this beautifully recorded and packaged album note, it was a music informed by Turkish, Greek, Jewish, Armenian and other musicians who made up Anatolia’s rich ethnic tapestry. Aslan, a Turkish Kurd who now lives in Hackney, understands this and informs these traditional tunes with a taut, often sensual drama.
Singing with liquid grace, her voice is dark and smooth on the ballads, yet darts like a sparrow on the dance numbers. She is backed by gifted musicians, on a variety of instruments, who understand her vision. Not a note sounds forced or unnecessary. Take a bow, Çiğdem.
Appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 (#96) edition. Purchase a copy.