The album title, from the folk song of the same name by the great baglama player Muhlis Akarsu (1948-1993), translates as “How unseemly it is to follow anyone slavishly”– a motto of some pertinence to all the spheres of life, from the personal to the political to the spiritual. Interpreted artistically – as on this exciting album by two master-musicians from Iran and Anatolia – it could allude to the creative freedoms implied by traditional music. Important as it is to study them, traditions can’t be extended by unreflective repetition: both due respect and an adventurous spirit are needed.
Much of Kayhan Kalhor’s music has explored the nexus of the traditional and the innovative. When the collaboration with Erdal Erzincan began, Kalhor sketched out his blueprint for the meeting: “I’m looking for something that departs from nothing and then goes into developing material, and then goes into something else really improvised....” This was the ground plan for “The Wind”, the first of the Kalhor/Erzincan albums, recorded in 2004. A great deal of shared work since then has intensified the concept, and this live album, which Kalhor considers one of his strongest recorded statements, shows how the music has moved to the next level in terms of the improvised content and the nature of the relationship between the two instruments. The central theme of “The Wind” is revisited, there are five pure improvisations, and music derived from both Persian and Turkish tradition. Kalhor and Erzincan come from different cultural backgrounds yet seem to be playing with one mind. The album concludes with the stunning “Intertwining Melodies” in which themes from both cultures are braided into a transcendent medley. Kalhor has said that for him the goal is to disappear into the music, to access a world of feeling not available in everyday life. In the cascading melodies here, Kalhor and Erzincan give the listener glimpses of that other world.
Kayhan Kalhor, born in 1963, grew up in Teheran. At the age of seven he began his music studies under Master Ahmad Mohajer. A child prodigy on the kamancheh (the spike fiddle), he was invited at the age of thirteen to work in the Iranian National Radio and Television Orchestra, where he performed for five years, and began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Centre at seventeen while continuing to study the Iranian classical repertoire (radif) with different masters. He also absorbed regional repertoires and styles in the course of his travels in Iran, including those of Khorasan in the northeast and Kurdistan in the west.
He went on to study Western classical music in Rome and at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He has composed works for Iran's most renowned vocalists, including Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri, and also performed with Iran's greatest masters, including Faramarz Payvar and Hossein Alizadeh. In 1991 he co-founded Dastan, the renowned Persian classical music ensemble, and in 1997 he and Shujaat Khan launched Ghazal (see the ECM album “The Rain”). He has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma in the Silk Road Ensemble since 1999 and, thrice Grammy-nominated, has become one the most important cultural ambassadors for Persian music. He lives today in Karaj in the suburbs of Teheran and is regarded as a mentor for a new generation of kamancheh players. “Cultures and music change and develop with every upcoming generation, and I see this as a natural progression after mastering the traditional.”
Erdal Erzincan was born in Erzumrum in 1971, and at an early age became deeply interested in the region’s folk music. Introduced to the baglama, he moved to Istanbul in 1985 to take lessons at the Arif Sag Music School. While studying at the Istanbul Technical University in the late 1980s he began to research finger-picking approaches to playing the baglama (as opposed to the more common plectrum style).
His solo album “Tore” was released in 1994, the first of many successful discs, opening the way also for international performances. Erzincan, like Kalhor, is a traditionalist with a taste for adventure. In 1996 he and baglama master Arif Sag collaborated with the Köln Philharmonic, an experiment continued by Erzincan in 2004 with the Ambassade Orchester Wien, an ensemble of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Erdal Erzincan teaches at a music school that carries his name and also leads a Baglama Orchestra comprised of his students. In Turkey today he is widely regarded as the most outstanding exponent of the Anatolian baglama tradition.
“Kula Kulluk Yakışır Mı” was recorded live in Bursa, Turkey, in February 2011.