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Yet another Istanbul love story... or two, or three

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Khyam Allami Khyam Allami | 16:48 UK Time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

London based Oud player Khyam Allami resumes his Radio 3 World Routes Academy blog

  WRA-Blog_18May_01.jpgApologies for the silence since my last blog but as you can probably guess, things have been a little hectic. Not only that, but during the last six weeks, I fell in love.

The first story went something like this. I arrived in Istanbul to do some research about Turkish 'Ud.  Shboom! Love at first sight. Çay (tea) on every street corner, beautiful architecture, boat trips across the Bosphorous for public transport, balik ekmek (fresh grilled fish sandwiches), Üsküdar, Burgazada, all kinds of music everywhere, Selim Sesler at least once a week and most importantly, very wonderful people.

Some of the kindest of these people were the Turkish 'Ud maestros Mehmet Emin Bitmez, Necati Çelik and Yurdal Tokcan. Most of my time was spent with Mehmet hoca (meaning teacher in Turkish) studying the fine details of Turkish 'Ud technique, transcribing one of his taksims (improvisations) and writing an essay about it.

A few afternoons were spent with Yordal hoca and the Istanbul State Turkish Classical Music Group, and a couple of afternoons with Necati hoca who kindly shared some of his audio archive with me. It never ceases to frustrate me how a single musical phrase by any one of these grand musicians, can take me so long to be able to play. Proof of their mastery, my studentship and a possible metaphor for many other things philosophical. But... back to more pressing topics.

The second story would need little explanation if the photo below was video. But maybe you can try to guess.

WRA-Blog_18May_02.jpgNo, I didn't fall in love with master Turkish 'Ud maker Faruk Türünz, but with one of his creations. Love at first sight, again. So much so that I couldn't think about anything else for many days, but sadly it wasn't to be. How a musical instrument can break your heart I don't know but it did, and I was very sad. Very sad. So sad that I spent an entire evening with a friend trying to scheme up hundreds of plans to make it mine but it belonged to someone else who had brought it in for some adjustments. What can you do... think of another metaphor perhaps, or go out CD  and book shopping? I opted for the latter (on more than one occasion).

Then I fell in love for a third time. This time it was a song played by the phenomenal gypsy clarinettist Selim Sesler. For at least three days I drove my friends nuts trying to remember something other than the first two phrases. Luckily I managed to piece it together piece by piece and with the help of Yunus bey I even found out the title, Ey Güzeller Güzeli. I couldn't find any decent recordings although there are some versions on YouTube, but I wouldn't recommend it. Wait till you get the chance to here it from Selim Sesler, it'll be worth it.

Now back in London for a week, listening to Neşet Ertaş singing some Bozlak, tying up details for the Iraqi culture yurt at Celebrating Sanctuary Festival which I've been curating and preparing for my trip with Ilham Al Madfai and the BBC Radio 3 crew. Excitement and anxiety are working hand in hand. A trip back to Damascus has been a long time coming, but add Beirut, Amman, Ilham Al Madfai and BBC Radio 3, all in preparation for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Proms and it becomes something else entirely.

I'll be posting some more blogs here and tweeting away (http://twitter.com/KhyamAllami) throughout the trip, should you care to follow us. I'll try not to bore you with love stories but I can't promise anything.

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