Mahmoud Turkmani - 2004 - Zakira

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Born in Halba in 1964, Turkmani left the Lebanon during the civil war. From 1984 to 1989 he studied music (classical guitar, composition) in Moscow. Later he moved to Switzerland where he worked as a music teacher at first. After a long break he started to compose again in the mid-90s. Within a short period of time he created stylistically multi-layered chamber music. In this process his interest in the oud, the Arab lute, awoke again. As a composer and interpreter he has travelled to several European and Arab countries in the last few years. He has played with recorder player Conrad Steinmann and his ensemble diferencias, with the Berne Symphonic Orchestra, with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaya and pianist Ivan Sokolov, the Erato string quartet, double bass player Barry Guy and percussionist Keyvan Chemirani. 

+++ Cairo in October 2003. In the hotel named after the legendary singer Um Kulthum, Mahmoud Turkmani is rehearsing his new works, musical settings of muwashahat, with a young female singer and eight Egyptian instrumentalists until late at night. The musicians feel a little insecure and perplex. Some of them are mainly familiar with European music, others with Arabic music. For all of them, however, Turkmani's music – though containing familiar elements – remains strange. A few days later first performances take place in Cairo and Alexandria. The singer and the instrumentalists are now showing commitment to Turkmani's pieces. 

It is obvious that they have recognized the quality of this music, although as a whole it still sounds unusual to them. The audience's reactions are mainly affirmative. Many of the listeners realize that the Lebanese-Swiss composer imaginatively examines the Arabic heritage, particularly the muwashah, exploring new ways in Arabic art music. The muwashah is a form of poetry in a musical setting which is popular in classical Arabic music. It is music made for poems which again and again, in uncountable variations, deal with love. It is music full of emotion. On his previous CD "Fayka" Turkmani has already presented a muwashah in a purely instrumental, highly individual version for guitar and percussion (featuring the phenomenal Keyvan Chemirani). With his new muwashahat Turkmani intensifies his work on the Arabic tradition. 

"My music is a provocative approach to the classical Arabic tradition of the muwashahat – and a compositional approach to the experience of alienation in a social and musical context. I deliberately refrained from composing this music for Western instruments. Traditionalistic Arab musicians should not believe this to be European Western music which is of no concern to them. I have set myself the task of creating a new world of sound issuing from the traditional Arab instruments." 

Innumerable muwashahat have been passed on from one generation to another. Their composers and poets are often anonymous. However, there are musical settings which are connected to famous names such as Sayyid Darwish or Muhammad Utman. Turkmani's material (melodies and texts) are partly "qadîm", ancient traditions, partly from authors known by name. By using one of their melodies, Turkmani pays tribute to the famous Lebanese Rahbany Brothers who are known, to a large extent, for their cooperation with Fayrûz. In the traditional muwashah the singing voice is accompanied by Arab instruments like the oud, the qanûn (a boxed zither), the stringed kamantche, the ney flute and diverse drums (riqq, mazhar, darabukka). Turkmani has slightly extended the instrumentation using a second oud, cello and double bass. In the rhythmic and melodic field Turkmani relies on the Arab tradition. Occasionally there are modi (maqâmât) containing three-quarter notes.

 "You hear something you have always heard, but now you hear it as if it was for the first time. It is like meeting the shades of sound and silence. I try to make good use of the infinite liberties of homophony and heterophony. While keeping the melody (the main line) in its original form, I add a second, third, fourth line and so on. These new lines are like the shades of the main line." 

Classical Arabic music is modal emphasizing song and poetry. As far as interpretation is concerned, heterophony is often characteristic. Heterophony means that there is only one melody, but there are multiple voices each of which plays the melody differently, either in a different rhythm or tempo, with different embellishments and figures, or idiomatically different. This trait, however, was thrust into the background in the 20th century when large ensembles became fashionable in Arabic music. Nevertheless, Turkmani turns to heterophony - and extends it. Heterophony now presents itself in a radicalized form, in which differences of the melody gain in importance (sometimes in a contrapunctual way). Often the musical ornaments lead to dense fields of sound that do not exclude hard frictions. But there are also passages as fast as lightning, which Turkmani wants to be heard in unisono. In one of his works Turkmani starts off with a samâ'i. This is an instrumental piece in 10/8 having its origins in the Turkish tradition. When a samâ'i is played strictly in unisono it soon becomes a little monotonous, especially for Western ears. Here, too, Turkmani explores the possibilities of radical heterophony. In classical Arabic music improvisation is of great importance. In Turkmani's music most parts are written down. Only in selected passages he allows improvisation, but he does not accept improvisational forms that either warm up old clichés or continue endlessly. 

“I am looking for my musical language within the different musical cultures living inside me. Ideas, thoughts and questions are roaming in my head concerning the developments and additions to the musical composition concept. I ask these questions to myself and to the listeners at the same time in order to find a musical philosophy and a musical language which I hope to be original, genuine and innovative.” 

The musical settings of the muwashahat show just one variant of Turkmani's current way of composing. His creativity, his openness, his virtuosity and his multi-cultural origin lead him simultaneously to other compositional concepts in which the Arab heritage is transformed into a new musical language. 

Notes by Kjell Keller / Mahmoud Turkmani 

Duration : 44:32 | Bitarte : 320 kBit/s | Year : 2004 | Full Covers		
Mahmoud Turkmani - 2004 - Zakira/01 - Mouwashah Arjii Ya Alfa Layla.mp3 27.494 MB
Mahmoud Turkmani - 2004 - Zakira/04 - Mouwashah Imlalil Aqdaha.mp3 18.032 MB
Mahmoud Turkmani - 2004 - Zakira/02 - Mouwashah Aytatouhou Ma Sala.mp3 17.876 MB
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