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Tekbilek Lends Festival A Mystical Ambience

March 18, 2008
‘The Age’ Music

Hamer Hall, Sun 16 March, 2008
Melbourne, Australia

On Sunday night, musical traditions from an entirely different part of the world were being conjured up for an enthralled crowd at Hamer Hall. Earlier in the afternoon, the building’s foyers were transformed into a vibrant Grand Bazaar, complete with backgammon lounge, Turkish DJ and belly dancing demonstrations.
By the time the concert began, the audience – which included a strong showing from Melbourne’s Turkish community – was buzzing with anticipation. Local support act Unified Gecko were given a warm reception, before Omar Faruk Tekbilek slipped onto the stage in a cloud of dry ice and incense, framed by two glowing Turkish lamps.

The mystical ambiance was entirely apt, given that Tekbilek studied to become a Sufi priest before dedicating himself to music. The first two pieces on Sunday were inspired by Sufi rituals, featuring quietly pulsing percussion and Tekbilek’s exquisite playing on the ney (bamboo flute). Then, when he began to sing, I found myself suddenly and deeply moved – not able to understand the Sufi lyrics, but somehow connecting with the rich spiritual core from which Tekbilek draws his music.

Other tunes featured this master Middle Eastern musician snaking across the melody on zurna (a strident double-reed instrument) or engaging in a percussion duet with his son on twin darbukas. Some pieces revealed clear links with traditional Turkish folklore, while the contemporary compositions allowed Tekbilek to incorporate influences from flamenco and even Latin jazz. And his gifted multinational ensemble (playing guitar, kanun, keyboards and percussion instruments) reflected his heartfelt desire to cross national and cultural boundaries, and promote peace, tolerance and unity through music.