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

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