Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gorgeous Racket

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 10

Heading for home we could easily have missed the ferocious grrrl-punk of Tokyo’s Bo Peep if we hadn't decided to stop by The Palace of Heaven. We heard their gorgeous racket emanating from the Rookie a Go Go Stage.

Bo Peep are wild girls with an enervating, edgy sound and there were plenty of admiring boys - including me - at the front of the stage. As my Aussie pal Andrew sez, there’s nothing like outtacontrol Japanese girls playing rock 'n' roll. I must say, he's got a point.

I loved the full-on antics of vocalist and guitar player Mika, she's wild. She's a good guitarist too. In fact all the members of the band are tight musicians. Bass player Junko had a contentedly manic smile on her lips while she was attacking her instrument and my friend said, “Whatever she’s on, I want some”." Drummer Ryoko is in the back, but you can't miss her aggressive wallop. As their sound hit me head-on, I began fantasizing about becoming a Bo Peep groupie.

There's not much that could blow away Bo-Peep, but Infernal Varanne’s Globe of Death came close. This kara-zy motorbike show had three riders circling a spherical cage which then separated in half with two riders roaring around the top part while their buddy rode in the bottom. Unbelievable!

Thanks, Fuji Rock. We had a blast. See you next year!

Supper: Absinthe, tequila, two pints of Guinness. 10 out of 10.

Bo Peep MySpace:
Globe of Death:


Fuji Rock 2007: Part 9
Iggy and The Stooges

I’m a huge Iggy Pop fan, so this was always going to be the highlight of Fuji Rock for me. Even if - at sixty - Iggy shows signs of slowing down, he’s still one of the most exciting performers going.

The crowd is stoked and yelling “IggGeeeEEE!” as the lights go down. And then...HERE HE IS! Er, I mean here they are. It's Iggy AND The Stooges, on their world reunion tour, dontcha know.
That's right, punk. This is the LEGENDARY IGGY & THE STOOGES, who recorded three of the most cataclysmic rock LPs of all time in Stooges, Fun House and Raw Power.

My eyes fill with tears as James Newell Osterberg takes the stage. He looks beautiful as he explodes from the wings, jumping and preening like a teenager. I'm aware that I'm hopping up and down, waving my arms and screaming in a most unbecoming fashion, but whaddya expect? - it's my hero Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk. He's sixty, and he’s come for your daughters....and your wives.... and your grandma too.

Iggy immediately starts to fuck the bass player's amp. Looks like it's gonna be one of those nights.

The band launch into the no-nonsense punk classics which made their name: No Fun, 1969, 1970, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Dirt, Loose,TV Eye, Real Good Time. They're all there and to my overexcited ears The Stooges shake appeal remains intact.

At one point Iggy falls from the stage and after lying motionless for what seems like an eternity returns with a noticeable limp. A few minutes later he jumps off stage again and is hilariously prevented from climbing back on by a clueless security guy who thinks he's a fan. All par for the course for an Iggy show.

But then something strange happens. Five numbers in, after the initial feeling of euphoria has subsided, the band starts to lose the plot. Drummer Scott Asheton is sluggish and out of time, and guitarist Ron Asheton looks completely lost, like a biker who inadvertently took a wrong turn trying to find the beer tent. Bassist Mike Watt is awesome and edgy, but he's carrying the older dudes.

Could be The Stooges are jetlagged, or maybe they've been partying hard, but it all seems kinda routine. Iggy's leaping around half-crazed, as is his wont, but there's a look on his face like the band suck tanite and maybe this reunion thing wasn't such a hot idea.

In an effort to pump some life into the proceedings Iggy engineers a stage invasion, inviting fans to jump the barriers and join him in the spotlight. Before you know it there are three hundred Japanese on stage, most of them young enough to be Iggy's grandkids. They don't know why they're up there, but they're having a ball, wearing the Stooges t-shirts they bought yesterday and trying to grab a piece of Iggy.

It all seems unbridled and spontaneous until I remember that Iggy did the same thing two weeks prior at the Glastonbury festival. And that amp-fucking: didn't I see photos of him doing that at Glastonbury too?

Stage invasion - Iggy-style

I start to wonder if it's dignified for a 60 year-old man to be singing the punk anthems he wrote when he was 19. Or getting it on with guitar amplifiers. And what about me? Should I even be egging him on and hollerin' up a storm along with 30,000 Japanese fans?

But this is dumb-ass punk-rock man. It ain’t about dignity, it’s about letting go, BEING ALIVE to the POSSIBILITIES, prostrating yourself on the altar of rock ‘n’ roll and yelling “IggggyYY!” and going "YeaaarrrGgHH!"

And Iggy - this stupendous star whose records changed my life - does it better than anyone, so who am I to argue? Him and Ron and Scott and Mike are alive and rockin', and that's a miracle in itself.

Anyway the band seem to have recovered their groove, and the set cruises along to a triumphant conclusion. The encore is I Wanna be Your Dog, which they've already played once. Are they gonna do one more? No. It's over. The sound man is playing New Order again.

Well, we did it. We came, we hollered like a bunch of teenagers, we saw the legend. And if there was nothing spontaneous or edgy about the show, what did we expect? Iggy's an old man now, and I'm getting old too. He's got nothing to prove to me or anyone else and I'll play his records and love him till I die. His showbiz smile at the end says it all: another stage invasion, another yen. It's only rock 'n' roll, but Iggy's still the greatest, looniest punk there ever was. 

Dinner: Deluxe beef kebab. 9 out of 10.

Wallies and Wellies

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 8

Kula Shaker

You welly look good, baby

"Hey, didn’t these wallies break up?"

"Yeh, but they reformed. Like The Stooges."

I don’t really care either way about Kula Shaker, but I got nothing better to do while my buddy goes on an important scouting mission for Indian food, so let's check 'em out.

I just woke from my nap, but it doesn't stop me realizing Kula Shaker are still leaning heavily on their first album as they open with Hey Dude, my favorite track. I also notice the keyboard-player is wearing a very annoying cape. Even at 300 yards it's offending my couturial sensibilities. There's never a fashion policeman around when you need one.

My mind wanders as I peruse the crowd. Some people are on their feet, vaguely swaying back and forth, though you couldn't call it dancing. Most are ignoring the band and chatting amongst themselves.

I muse that newcomers to Japan would be astonished to see festival-goers innocently leaving their possessions lying on their plastic sheeting while they run off to the portapotties or grab a bite to eat. I spy handbags, cameras, binoculars, designer sunglasses and expensive camping supplies lying around with their owners nowhere to be seen. I'd like to see 'em try that shit at Glastonbury.

I'm shaken from my musings by the sound of loud rock music. Oh yeah, Kula Shaker are still on stage. I quite enjoy the final number, Govinda, but its title reminds me that my friend should be back with the Indian food soon. Kula Shaker's songs work fine as ear candy but don't sustain my interest for long, certainly not as long as the rather fetching hordes of Japanese girls sporting the latest fad - designer wellies!

Tea: Tandoori Chicken, Veggie Pakoras, Veggie Samosas. 9 out of 10.


Fuji Rock 2007: Part 7
!!! (Chk Chk Chk)

“Not flippin’ New Order again!”

I just woke from my nap and the unmistakeable strains of Blue Monday are once more filling the festival grounds.

"Enough with the Mancunian electro-dance!" I scream at the sound man, who is 500 yards away and oblivious to my pain. But luckily I only have to suffer thirty seconds of synth-pop
. Time for more live music and now it's the turn of those New York guys with the weird name: !!! (pronounced: Chk Chk Chk.)

What do they play? It's kinda electro
-acoustic-disco-funk-rock. Knowwharramean?

Before Fuji all I knew about Chk Chk Chk was that they have a very silly name and their new album got a great write-up. They are kinda American experimental grooverockers in the style of Remain in Light-era Talking Heads. But their manic front man looks more like Doctor Who (the Tom Baker version) than David Byrne.

Surveying the crowd I notice that I am one of the few people not wearing either Crocs or Wellington boots. "Is this significant?" I ask myself.

Each song is a 10-minute polyrhythmic work-out which keeps me and 30,000 friends on our feet. The slow, trance-like builds are way cool, gradually bringing on a funk euphoria which is perfect for the festival experience. Nice one.

Breakfast: Two cans of iced coffee and one pack of Marie cookies from local combini. 8 out of 10.

Lunch: Fish and chips from a nice English lady in a tent near the Green Stage. She apologizes for having no HP Sauce, but promises she'll have some next year. My friend and I muse that these vendors must be making a packet. 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cuddly Nostalgia Fest

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 6
The Cure

The last time I saw The Cure was in a tiny night club in Colchester, Essex in 1980. On that occasion the audience were in a state of terror as Robert Smith had to face down a horde of fascist skinheads chanting “Sieg Heil!” in front of stage. Respect.

A lot has changed in 27 years. On this occasion the audience of well-behaved Japanese were considerably more amenable and The Cure’s act rapidly took on the feel of a cuddly nostalgia fest.

Before The Cure begin the stage is filled with smokey dry ice. I'm surprised no uniformed Japanese man has run on stage shouting, "Abunai!" *

A gaggle of Japanese goth fans suddenly muscle their way to the front of the stage dressed in layers of black and platform leather boots. The temperature's been in the high 30s all day and they must be sweltering. The anticipation of seeing their hero is proving too much for some of them as they squeal and hysterically grab onto each other's braids.

I recognize most of the tunes since this is pretty much a greatest hits set, but it all seems rather humdrum. The guitarist inexplicably loses his way on Close to Me and the leaden drummer hardly varies his approach from one song to the next.

The Cure's gothic indie-pop used to hold sway over half the western world, but tonite I felt they paled beside the hi-tech excitement of Muse.My friend is a major Cure fan but even he is distinctly un-blown away and can hardly wait to run off to the Heineken tent.

But it was nice to see Robert Smith, he sounds great and is as shyly charismatic as I remember. He politely thanks the crowd after each song, except he tends to clip his words so instead of "Thank you" all we hear is a rather fey "..kew"

Dinner: Two Heinekens and a beef kebab from the Field of Heaven. Heineken 8 out of 10. Kebab 6 out of 10.

(* means "Dangerous!")

Over the Top

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 5

We were crammed front of stage for an hour enjoying the occasional sip of tequila and absinthe as we anticipated Muse’s arrival. We shared our snacks with some cool women from Tokyo who knew everything about Muse, The Cure, and just about any other British band we could think of.

Muse started where most bands finish, OVER THE TOP, with a no-holds-barred performance of their vast, portentous epic Knights of Cydonia (named, er, after a region on the northern hemisphere of Mars).

“There’s no way they’re going to top that,” I thought, but they did, and with ease.

After a brief interlude while the guitarist removes a swarm of insects from his underpants - now that's what I call suffering for your art - Muse’s set proceeds full tilt, and it's sometimes difficult to tell where one song ends and the next begins. Their loony songs portray a fractured, unstable world beset by corruption, dystopia, metaphysical angst, and conspiracy theories, the usual low key stuff.

In case you can't catch the lyrics (everyone down front knows them by heart), they're displayed above the band as part of a stunning computerized presentation. "NO ONE's going to TAKE ME...ALIVE!" screams leader Mathew Bellamy, and it's hard not to sing along even though I haven't got a clue what he's on about. The whole show's preposterous and completely irresistible.

With his nutty beliefs in asteroid collisions and robot power, Bellamy is clearly off his rocker. But what a guitar player. Each screeching solo (he has a Kaoss Pad installed just behind the bridge of his guitar - KEWWL!) - is accompanied by Bellamy tossing back his head as he digs his axe into his crotch and hilariously points the neck phallically heavenwards.

At one point he rattles off a guitar solo, flings his axe to a roadie, casually strolls to the piano to peel off a stunning Rachmaninoff-esque flourish then moseys back upfront to catch the guitar and finish the song. Great stuff.

The set ends with rock overkill as Bellamy sends his guitar flying and knocks over his cabinets in a petulant rage after his guitar technician has failed to satisfy his every desire. His band comically follow suit as drums and bass are halfheartedly trashed.

Muse's jaw-dropping visuals and Wagnerian fusion of rock and classical romanticism were outrageous. As the strains of New Order predictably fill the arena, it occurs to me that maybe British musicians are the only ones mad enough to try this kind of spectacular bombast and actually pull it off. The Cure are up next, and they'll be lucky if they can top this.

Snack: tequila, absinthe, long-forgotten peanuts I found in my backpack. 5 out of 10. (I'm not that crazy about peanuts.)

Political Awareness

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 4
Jarvis Cocker/Kings of Leon

As they waited for the marvellous Jarvis Cocker to take the stage, the crowd were in a mellow afternoon mood. The only annoyance was that, between acts, the sound man insisted on continually playing New Order's Greatest Hits. We wondered if he had any other CDs in his collection and tried to predict which New Order song would be next.

I'm a huge Jarvis/Pulp fan and his 2006 solo album is filled with cracking tracks, most of which he played today. Jarvis apologized to the crowd for concentrating on songs they didn't know, but that didn't seem to bother anyone as the audience responded to his self-deprecating humor and social commentary.

As he coaxed audience members into reigniting their political awareness with the excellent Running the World, we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of Jarvis singing "C***s are still running the world" to 30,000 Japanese rock fans while his wife and two young children looked on from the wings. You won’t be hearing this song on the radio anytime soon, but sometimes a dirty word is the only adequate response to brutalities such as those perpetrated by Bush and Blair in the name of God and freedom.

Next up were Kings of Leon, the Tennessee band made up of three brothers and one cousin. They gave an energetic, committed performance, but I was left feeling a tad confused by their nouveau southern-rock. Looks like they spend a decent chunk of their royalties on hairdressers.

Kings of Leon's guitarist loses points for pegging his cigarette to his guitar neck between puffs, a major faux pas in the rock pose stakes which screams out "L.O.S.E.R." A lone British voice in the crowd shouts out: "Do you KNOW any GOOD TUNES?" We share his pain. Thankfully it all comes to an end and I actually feel relieved when New Order's Blue Monday once more comes roaring over the PA.

Orgy of Rhythm

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 3
GOMA & Jungle Rhythm Section

One of the great pleasures of attending a festival is stumbling upon great new acts. While we are wandering through the forest a crescendo of trancey bongos and didgeridoo suddenly erupts. Our ears prick up and we follow the sound to the Green Stage, where the superb Japanese percussion band Goma & Jungle Rhythm Section are in full flow.

Band leader Goma is an impressive didgeridoo virtuoso and his sound is intriguingly blended with drums and percussion to create an orgy of rhythm, each tune building slowly to a fantastic crescendo. The drummer in particular is superb, and his face expresses an ecstasy of pleasure mixed with pain as he pushes himself to his rhythmic limits.

A woman in front of me is wearing a towel which reads 'No Music No Life' and that seems entirely appropriate at this moment.
Goma & Jungle Rhythm Section are a great live band and provided an energizing start to our Fuji Rock experience.

Lunch: veggie curry and nan bread from the Avalon Field. 7 out of 10

Get Yer T-Shirts

Fuji Rock: Part 2
The Ostensible

This morning we headed down to the main festival site, and it's quite breathtaking. Arranged along the gorgeous Naeba valley, the various stages are connected by picturesque boardwalks and paths which wind through the lovely alpine setting.

Unfortunately the western end of the valley is dominated by the grotesque Prince Hotel, an oversized monstrosity which caters to thousands of skiers descending upon Naeba in the winter months. Defying belief, there's even a tower block attached to the complex.

Here again, Japanese architects display a baffling inability to grasp the rudiments of modernity. By dumping two ginormous carbuncles in the middle of a natural paradise, the overall effect - depressingly familiar - is one of domination over, rather than harmony with the natural surroundings. You have to wonder whether modern Japanese architects have even heard of organic design.

At the festival site itself, there are five main stages, several peripheral ones and various other attached colonies representing NGOs and environmental groups. T
he Avalon Field is powered mainly by green energy as part of the festival's New Power Gear campaign

As Japan
’s premier music festival,
Fuji Rock exhibits an orderliness you might not see at a western event. Recycle bins are well-organized and politely policed by attendants who make sure we separate our trash correctly. Toilets are cleaned regularly and lines move quickly.

Somewhat jarringly, there are booths representing Japanese cigarette companies. Difficult to imagine that at a western festival of this type.

A uniquely Japanese touch is provided by the enormous lines of fans wishing to buy t-shirts and souvenirs, even before they have entered the festival site.

Shopping very much emphasizes the Japanese sense of harmony and homogenization, as consumers purchase individuality en masse. The crowds at Japanese rock shows are the most obedient I've ever seen. “Ok. You got your ticket? Now buy this t-shirt. Good. Now go through the gate and watch the guy on the t-shirt.”

Japanophile Donald Richie has suggested that in Japan the ostensible is the only reality. That is: appearance defines substance. So wearing the t-shirt makes you a rockin', rollin' rebel rouser.

Not that we westerners are immune to mindless consumerism. But a crucial difference lies in our sense of ironic distance. By NOT buying the t-shirt, we seize an opportunity to feel superior, convincing ourselves we are not being taken in. Obedience is so NOT rock 'n' roll.

I don’t think most Japanese feel that way. Not being equipped with an equivalent ironic sense results in a deadly sincere society which makes Japanese seem innocent to western eyes, even at a rock festival. And since our greatest weakness is often our greatest strength, this innocence also makes Japanese endearingly attractive to western observers.

Mind-Altering Interlude

Fuji Rock 2007: Part 1

It takes a bloody long time -
nine hours - to drive from Kyoto to Naeba, but it was worth it to experience Fuji Rock 2007, now enjoying its 11th year. I headed up there with my friend Iain.

By the time we arrived last night it was dark and there were a few early arrivals mooching aimlessly around the town center. We scoped out a place to crash, pitching our tents on a deserted ski slope on the edge of town.

We headed to the festival site for the first night’s opening party where we danced and imbibed tequila with some goofy Czech, French, English and Irish party animals. After the party ended we headed to a field near the town center for a mind-altering interlude. Then it was time for bed.

We broke camp this morning and Fuji Rock is already proving to be a learning experience since Iain demonstrated that I’ve been packing up my tent wrongly all these years! The proper way is to flatten, fold into thirds then roooll.

In the interests of nutrition, I decide to keep a record of food consumption at the festival.

Breakfast: two cans of iced coffee and a delicious yaki o-nigiri (rice ball) from Lawson convenience store which had been slowly maturing in my back pack for the previous twenty-four hours
. 6 out of 10.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Camp Cabaret

The Star Club,
Chaweng, Ko Samui, Thailand

Last night I visited the famous Star Club, home of Ko Samui ’s most famous kathoey or 'ladyboy' drag cabaret.

Some ladyboys dress as women and undertake hormone therapy or reassignment surgery, hence the impressively pneumatic bosoms of some of the Star Club artistes. Indeed, some of the girls were drop dead gorgeous.

Critics argue that drag queens project a limiting and distorted image of gay culture, with undercurrents of thinly-veiled misogyny. On the other hand it could be said that drag is merely a fun presentation of a particular side of human nature, or even a form of social commentary as ladyboys express themselves in their own unique way.

As a teenager I can remember being outraged that British drag icons and gay comedians could not comfortably reveal their sexuality lest their showbiz careers be ruined. Gays could only exist in the public consciousness as figures of fun, their status as comics diffusing any sexual threat they might pose to the public's ossified collective consciousness.

Although sexual politics have come a long way since my teens, I detected that uncomfortable feeling at the Star Club. It was clear that some customers were not entirely at ease in the presence of these Thai princesses.

That's too bad, because the artistes and staff of
the Star Club are hugely welcoming and present an entertaining (if slightly overlong) show.

Almost inevitably the proceedings began with ABBA - a high energy house version of Dancing Queen. This was followed by predictable gay anthems by Gloria Gaynor and Tina Turner but also some surprising choices like the hip-hop/pop of Bubba Sparxx. Along the way there were plenty of laughs as the performers interacted with the crowd.

It's not exactly a consciousness-raising show, but there's some food for thought. Families are welcomed to The Star Club, and some open-minded parents had brought along their youngsters. From their gaping mouths it was clear that these kids could hardly believe what they were seeing, and I heard two German parents patiently explaining the basics of transexualism to their goggle-eyed teenage son.

For my own part, as I enjoyed the performances of these lovely ladies, I wondered about the stories behind the scenes; the soul-searching, the quest for identity, the heartache hidden beneath the makeup and smiles.

As in Stephan Elliott‘s camp classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Star Club p
resents social outcasts expressing themselves in an unlikely setting, and behind all the camp bravado, disco music and glitter there perhaps lies the pain of the outsider.

There are probably more than 20,000 kathoey living in Thailand, highly visible and widely accepted due to the high value placed on tolerance in the prevalent Buddhist culture. But it's not uncommon for Thai families to disown gay/transgender family members.

Because of that, it’s even more important for these transgender performers that the Star Club exist, not as a gay ghetto where a subculture can be marginalized, but as an island of ecstasy, a haven where some kind of authenticity can be experienced. In the interests of self-expression and human decency, that should be a cause for celebration for performer and audience member alike.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Tamarind Springs Retreat,
Ko Samui, Thailand

Tamarind Springs nestles on a lush hillside just outside Lanai, Ko Samui, and specializes in top quality massage. If you are seeking an indulgent, revivifying experience, this is the place for you.

The path to Tamarind winds through a luxuriant grove of palm trees, and its gorgeous setting immediately inspires a sense of relaxation. You are greeted with elegant smiles and a glass of refreshing tea.

After showering, you relax in an amazing herbal sauna and cold plunge built around one of the huge rock formations which dot the hillside - a delightful and rejuvenating experience providing a sense of organic communion with nature.

Then comes the massage, in a private pavilion or ‘sala’ resting above dense jungle vegetation and overlooking the gorgeous Ko Samui foothills.

My masseuse was a serenely calm Thai lady who provided me with one of the most peaceful and rejuvenating experiences of my life. As I concentrated on deep breathing I felt my worries drift away. After a two-hour massage - the best I’ve ever had - I experienced a tearful release as all my pen-up emotions evaporated into nothingness.

If you are wondering how Tamarind connects with the musical theme of this blog, this wonderful adventure was accompanied by the most heavenly sound imaginable. As I was being pampered and gently pulverized by capable Thai hands, birds of paradise gently cooed back and forth between the palms. Their melodic chattering was carried aloft on the balmy jungle breeze, providing a blissful backdrop.

The voices of birds have always fascinated musicians, who have been inspired to integrate birdsong into their compositions. In the classical realm, Janequin's Le Chant Des Oiseaux, written in the 16th century, famously imitated birdsong. Later on, Beethoven and Messiaen were also inspired by the sound of birds.

In the jazz world, American legend Eric Dolphy practiced flute while listening to birds. Bluesman Duane Allman even devised a unique slide guitar technique that enabled him to imitate the sounds of birds, in part as a tribute to Charlie 'Bird' Parker. Other rock acts including Pink Floyd, Kate Bush and others have included bird sound effects on their recordings in an effort to create calming, pastoral atmospheres.

The French composer François-Bernard Mâche even devised zoomusicology, the study of the music of animals. His essay Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion includes a study of "ornitho-musicology", in which he speaks of "animal musics" and a longing to connect with nature.

Such lofty intellectual notions were far from my mind during that peaceful afternoon, but I think I know what Mâche was getting at. "Animal music" does indeed provide a sense of connection with something we have lost. Somehow I felt I had reconnected with an essential part of my own nature, with nature itself, and the music of the Tamarind birds provided the perfect soundtrack.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Omar Faruk Tekbilek (Turkish Devotional)
LP: Whirling (Celestial Harmonies, 1994)

As a convenient, all-encompassing phrase for various “ethnic” sounds,
“World Music” groups a thousand types of non-western music under the same banner. Indeed, David Byrne has very eloquently condemned “World Music” as a pseudomusical term enforcing an otherness which separates rather than unites.

Unity is implicit in the joyous, soulful sound of Omar Faruk Tekbilek, the Turkish born pioneer of Middle Eastern music. He is a musical virtuoso who has studied Sufi religion and plays several traditional instruments, including the ney flute, baglama lute, Arabian clarinet and Turkish oboe.

Faruk has released nine recordings, and while some of them are a bit too new age-y for my taste, his first solo album, 1994’s amazing Whirling, is an absolute classic. If I had to name my favorite “Middle Eastern” LP, this mystical - and sexy - fusion of sound and spirit might easily come top of th
e heap.

This is an ambitious debut release. Faruk's international ensemble creates a stunning contemporary interpretation of a traditional sound, incorporating elements of Sufism, Mediterranean romanticism and eastern folklore.

Whirling has an intense prayer-like atmosphere which presumably stems from
Faruk's Sufi background. Yet while it’s serene and meditative, this can also be relentlessly exciting music which accelerates deliriously toward spiritual ecstasy.

’s recordings also possess a definite erotic vibe, and this is one of the sexiest records in my collection.
Whirling is up there with D’Angelo’s Voodoo as one of my favorite make-out albums. Hearing it again brings back some, er, evocative memories.

Despite its traditional roots, Tekbilek’s music retains a contemporary edge. This is mainly due to the symbiotic relationship he enjoys with his American producer, the prodigiously talented Brian Keane.

Even if you don’t know Keane, you’ve probably heard him, since he’s contributed to hundreds of movie and TV soundtracks: I well remember his eerie piano score for the superb PBS documentary The Donner Party. On Whirling Keane applies atmospheric dabs of guitar and synthesizer which enhance Tekbilek’s sound without diluting it, and that’s no mean feat.

Consciously avoiding political and religious definition, Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s haunting music expresses an aphrodisiac spirituality. He has long been a quiet contributor to the growing middle eastern influence in popular music, and with Whirling he reminds us that such music - irresistible and truly magical - can provide the listener with moments of spiritual and sexual transcendence.

Artist web site - opens with a track from Whirling