Posts Tagged ‘kayhan kalhor’

Turner Sims announce World Music series

Posted on September 12th, 2017 in Live, News, Recent posts by .

Kayhan Kalhor & Toumani Diabaté, Morgenland Festival 2016-©Andy Spyr::Morgenland Festival Osnabrück-Free1

Fifty years ago the University of Southampton was bequeathed with a generous donation intended to support musical practice in the city.

The beautifully ornate Turner Sims hall – named after its benefactor Miss Margaret Grassam Sims – opened in 1974 and is now established as a premiere performance venue in the South of England.

This year’s Autumn season is of particular interest with a special world music series that features Irish quartet Lankum, Malian guitarist Habib Koité and his compatriot Toumani Diabaté who will perform as part of a duo with kamancheh maestro Kayhan Kalhor.

A similarly enticing prospect is a joint performance from Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita in support of their new record Transparent Water. They will be joined by Afro-Venezuealan percussionist Gustavo Oyalles – who contributed featured on the album – for an exploration of polyrhythms and improvisatory craft, teasing out the overlap between West African and Latin American musical practice.

Here is the complete list of dates for the series:

Lankum – October 14

Habib Koité – October 20

Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita present Transparent Water – November 9

Toumani Diabaté and Kayhan Kalhor – November 21

Värttinä – December 8

More information (including ticketing) is available on the Turner Sims website.

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The 50 Greatest World Music Albums of the Last Five Years (Part 2)

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton choose their favourite albums from 2013…


Oana Cătălina Chiţu


(Asphalt Tango)

A real treat this one to mark the centenary of Maria Tănase (1913-1963), the Romanian Edith Piaf. Chiţu brings these songs alive with an excellent ensemble of violin, accordion, sax, guitar, cimbalom and bass. The songs are nostalgic and romantic and given a dark, Oriental tone by Chiţu’s chiaroscuro alto voice. There’s a tasty Romanian tango in ‘Habar N-ai Tu’ and the way she draws out the introduction to ‘Aseară Ti-am Luat Basma’ surrounded by filigree cimbalom flourishes is gorgeous. SB



Family Atlantica

Family Atlantica


This band is a product of the fertile, multicultural metropolis that is London. The charismatic vocalist, Luzmira Zerpa, is Venezuelan and the other key members are London-born Jack Yglesias and Nigerian/Ghanaian percussionist Kwame Crentsil. Not surprisingly Family Atlantica’s self-titled debut follows an ida y vuelta between Africa, South America, the Caribbean and Europe – with some spectacular percussion at its core. Guest artists include Senegalese Gnawa Nuru Kane and the wonderful Mulatu Astatke, who Yglesias got to know as a member of Ethiopian band The Heliocentrics. A life-affirming debut. SB



Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita

Clychau Dibon

(Astar Artes)

This isn’t the first kora collaboration to be featured in our Best of the Year list but it’s certainly the first to include the harp. Classically trained Welsh harpist Catrin Finch has joined forces with Seckou Keita, Senegalese UK-based kora player, and they’ve produced an album of real beauty. The album’s title sounds like it could be either Welsh or Wolof, in fact clychau is Welsh for ‘bells’ and dibon is a West African hornbill, but also the second bass string on a kora. There’s a wonderful symmetry to this music – at times it’s hard to distinguish between the two instruments, held in such high esteem in their respective cultures. This is an album of real class. JF




Jupiter Okwess International

Hotel Univers

(Out Here Records)

Lead singer Jupiter Bokondji was the subject of a French documentary called Jupiter’s Dance back in 2006, so this international debut has been long anticipated. Jupiter has the swagger and looks of a bona fide rock star yet at the same time there’s an ageless wisdom to his expression. The album is a hard-hitting critique about the Congo’s history of colonisation, independence, dependence and corruption – Jupiter feels his country is still at war because of the avarice of its people. Despite the serious nature of the songs, there’s a raw energy to this edgy and funky music, and live, this band simply rock. JF



Çiğdem Aslan


(Asphalt Tango)

This is London-based Aslan’s debut disc. She is a lioness of Greek and Turkish rebetika, and focuses on the smyrneika style from Smyrna (now known as Izmir) that was shared by Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Alongside Aslan’s idiomatic vocals, there are excellent instrumental contributions from Nikolaos Baimpas on kanun, Pavlos Carvalho on bouzouki, and Meg Hamilton on violin.




La Noche Más Larga


A sumptuous, emotionally charged set of songs from Concha Buika, a flamenco singer from Mallorca who has turned more towards jazz for this highly polished release recorded in Miami. Buika’s live performances can at times be unnerving with her no holds barred approach on stage. But she’s pulled out all the stops in the studio and her voice sounds better than ever. 




Kayhan Kalhor & Erdal Erzincan

Kula Kulluk Yakısır Mı


The only drawback with this album is the hard-to-remember title (if you don’t speak Turkish). It’s a folksong, which translates as ‘how unseemly it is to follow anyone slavishly,’ advice that both of these master musicians have always taken to heart. This is a largely improvisational duo performance by Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish saz player Erdal Erzincan. The two musicians create a tapestry that unfolds organically over an hour with moods ranging from introspection to elation. It was recorded live in Turkey and the contrasting textures of bowed and plucked strings sparkle brilliantly off each other. SB



Bassekou Kouyaté

Jama Ko

(Out Here Records)

This recording demonstrates exactly what puts Mali at the top of the African music charts. Jama Ko is a fiercely contemporary album produced by Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire), though it is rooted in the nimble, yet rough-edged sound of the ngoni, the desert lute that goes back centuries. The extremely catchy title-track is a call for unity and peace, while ‘Kele Magni’ features the magnificent Khaira Arby from Timbuktu, under Islamist control when the album was recorded. ‘Sinaly’, with Kasse Mady Diabaté, refers to a historical Malian king resisting radical Islam. Powerful content and a thrilling sound. SB See also: Top 25 Mali Albums



Leyla McCalla

Vari-Colored Songs

(Dixie Frog)

This is the debut solo release from the newest member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Born in New York to Haitian parents, McCalla grew up reading the works of American poet and social activist Langston Hughes and in tribute, has set some of his poems to music. In addition to these poem-songs are some beautiful a capella Haitian-Creole songs. Besides her beguilingly languid singing style, McCalla is an impressive cellist and plays a mean banjo too. An album steeped in the Caribbean and Haitian roots of America’s South. JF



Rokia Traoré

Beautiful Africa


Ever the innovator, Rokia has, for her latest album, hooked up with producer John Parish who is best known for his work with PJ Harvey. Perhaps it’s his influence as Beautiful Africa is certainly a rockier affair – but still innately Malian, with some fabulous ngoni from Mamah Diabaté, and some feisty female backing vocals. You really get a sense that Rokia has a determined intention of getting her message across, whether singing in Bambara, French or English. Standout tracks include ‘Mélancholie’ and the title-track. Another class act from Mali’s first lady of song. JF See also: Top 25 Mali Albums



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Mystic Music Festival in Konya, September 22-30

Posted on October 2nd, 2014 in News, Recent posts by .


Simon Broughton pays a visit to the Mystic Music Festival in Konya with performances from Kayhan Kalhor and Sain Zahoor

I’ve spent the last few days at the Mystic Music Festival in Konya, Turkey, which ran for nine days until September 30. Konya is most famous, of course, for the shrine and mausoleum of Rumi, the Sufi poet and religious leader who died here in 1273. His followers, known as the Mevlevi or the Whirling Dervishes, spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. But in modern times, the translations of his Persian poems of tolerance, plurality and love within that have made him a spiritual inspiration worldwide. Annually, Konya is visited by two and a half million people, 500,000 from overseas.

September 30 is Rumi’s birthday and the festival included musicians from Iran, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Mayotte, Spain, Bolivia and Turkey. These included kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor (who played at Songlines Encounters in June, see #100), but here with a five-piece Iranian ensemble accompanying poetry of Rumi; and the extraordinary Sain Zahoor (pictured below), a true Sufi mystic from Punjab, who won a BBC Award for World Music in 2006. His speciality is the Punjabi poetry of Bulleh Shah. “I don’t feel it’s me singing,” he says, “it’s as if Bulleh Shah is singing inside me.” The festival ended, of course, with a performance of Mevlevi music and whirling from the Konya Turkish Sufi Music Ensemble.


Back in the 13th century Konya was the capital of the Turkish Seljuk empire. It’s not one of Turkey’s most immediately appealing cities, but there are some magnificent buildings surviving from that golden age. Rumi’s tomb in the mausoleum, with its distinctive green conical dome, is a place of pilgrimage and also a fascinating museum of Mevlevi belief, history and music. There are a couple of guys from Birmingham, also regular visitors to the Fes Festival, who are here for the third time. “It’s a great place to chill out and hear some really quality performances,” one of them, a lawyer, tells me.

I write this having just emerged from a transformative Turkish bath (hamam). Turkish food, the Turkish bath and probably Iznik tilework are the three greatest Turkish contributions to civilisation. In the hamam, dating back to Seljuk times, I was scrubbed with an abrasive glove – producing köfte kebabs of dirt and skin – and then lathered with soapy foam from a muslin bag which was then kneaded in. As I lay on the marble slab I gazed at star shaped holes in the ceiling. Glorious. It was finished off with a glass of tea – and Turkish tea is surely the best in the world. I emerged floating on air.


I also took the opportunity to go and see the mausoleum of the other important Sufi mystic, Hacı Bektaş. A contemporary of Rumi, he was the founder of the Alevi Bektaşi Sufis and his shrine is in a town now called Hacıbektaş about 260km from Konya (pictured above). Whereas the Mevlevis became close to the Ottoman court, the Alevi were simple rural people and have always been associated with the grassroots. Put simply, the Mevlevis were an educated elite while the Alevis were ordinary folk – and that’s very obvious in the costumes and headscarfs of the women that come to the Hacıbektaş shrine. In an Alevi gathering music is played on the saz (long-necked lute) and men and women participate together on an equal basis. One of Hacı Bektaş’ most celebrated sayings is “a nation which does not educate its women cannot progress.” A message that still needs to be remembered in many parts of the world today.

Both Rumi and Hacı Bektaş have left a huge musical legacy. As well as all the music for the Mevlevi sema ceremonies (one of them composed by Sultan Selim III), there are countless settings of his lyrics and all the ney (reed flute) repertoire symbolising man’s search for God. The musical legacy of Hacı Bektaş is the music of the aşik minstrels, accompanying themselves on saz, which is so central to Turkish folk tradition. In fact at Hacıbektaş I bought a wonderful piece of kitsch – a statue of Pir Sultan Abdal, an Alevi minstrel and follower of Hacı Bektaş who was celebrated for his songs of struggle. He’s standing, dressed as a dervish holding his saz aloft in triumph. He’s a 16th-century Sufi musician, but totally rock’n’roll.


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Live Review | Songlines Encounters Festival, Kings Place, June 7

Posted on June 10th, 2014 in Live, News, Recent posts, Reviews by .


For the dramatic closing concert of this year’s Songlines Encounters Festival, London’s King Place welcomed a veteran player and one up-and-coming star.

First on Saturday night’s line-up was Iranian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor together with Ali Bahrami Fard on bass santur (pictured above). This was special performance for Songlines Encounters not only because Kalhor was the first male performer on the female-dominated festival line-up, but because as a magazine Songlines has watched him grow from his brilliant debut (Scattering Stars Like Dust, reviewed in issue #1) into the solid veteran player he is today. For an hour Kalhor and Fard held the audience in rapt attention as their music rushed over us in waves. Moments of delicate beauty were chased by frantic surges of urgency. Kalhor’s agitated pizzicato gave way to whispered lines from his shah kaman (a bass kamancheh), all of which was supported by the sensitivity of Fard’s playing. Both musicians’ virtuosity was clearly evident in how effortlessly they blended the material they had previously recorded for I Will Not Stand Alone. Though the majority of the music was improvised – in issue #100 Kalhor told Simon Broughton the music is never the same twice – there was never a moment of hesitation and every note between the two was precisely placed. A truly sublime performance that left you reeling.


Feeling like you needed time to digest what you just experienced, this was going to be a tough act to follow no matter the talent – Turkish Kurdish vocalist Çiğdem Aslan (pictured above) had her work cut out for her. Aslan’s music was a more light-hearted affair, transporting the audience to Asia Minor in early 20th-century. Performing tracks from her acclaimed solo debut, Mortissa (meaning, ‘strong independent woman’), Aslan and her band performed Greek rebetika, smyrneika and Turkish songs of the café amans. As Aslan is an Alevi Kurd (who like the Iranians are Shia), she sang a beautiful Alevi song with guest musician Tahir Palali on Kurdish tanbur, with percussionist Vasilis Sarikis adding a few accents on the frame drum. It was only a shame that Aslan’s band seemed to lack her enthusiasm – especially the particularly talented Sarikis, who seemed almost apologetic in his playing.

All in all, it was a great ending to another year at Songlines Encounters Festival. Looking forward to next year’s festival already!

Look back at the first and second nights of Encounters.

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