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Görkem Saoulis

EasternGate (
Review by Lee Blackstone

Listen "Sevda Zinciri"

The self-titled recording by Turkish musician Görkem Saoulis is akin to taking a trip back in time. However, as the author L.P. Hartley famously stated, “The past is a foreign country.” Saoulis' skill as a vocalist and a player of kanun (a zither found in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries) is the main attraction. In addition to Turkish songs, the album features Azeri (Azerbaijani) and Greek selections as well. Crucially, Görkem Saoulis and the Greek musician Yannis Saoulis (who has arranged this repertoire) seek to infuse the music with influences from both sides of the Aegean Sea. The album thus feels familiar, in its evocation of the past, but in a contemporary twist the music conveys the desire to make clear the indebtedness of dialogue between countries and peoples.

Listen "Ben Seni Sevdigumi" (excerpt)
  "Görkem'in Vedasi" (excerpt)

The result is that Görkem sounds as if Turkish music has been combined with the Greek rebetika tradition. The lush, sweeping sounds of occidental-scale music are present ('Sevda Zinciri' is a fine example), fleshed out by no less than twenty-one musicians. The different traditions serve to utterly transform the music (as on the slower, impassioned 'Ben seni sevdigumi,' which mid-way introduces some ravishing orchestration). A set such as 'Ada sahillerinde bekliyorum/Matia mou matia' provides for a nice balance between an instrumental that veers towards funkiness, and the duets of Görkem and Yannis Saoulis.

Listen "Ada sahillerinde bekliyorum..." (excerpt)

Mostly, Görkem Saoulis evokes the aura of an Istanbul café, albeit one that is open to sounds from across the water. I found myself surprised by Görkem, in that the music felt so nostalgic, almost like an intimate cabaret. - Lee Blackstone

Note: The CD is packaged in a nice hardback book format. I only wish that the translations of the songs, and the tributes to Görkem Saoulis by other musicians, were more revealing and better translated. - LB

Photo: Theo Bit
All audio is ©Eastern Gate and used by permission


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