The Ahmet Erdoğdular Classical Turkish Music Ensemble
·· Ahmet Erdoğdular, Vocals
·· Ömer Erdoğdular, Ney
·· Yurdal Tokcan, Oud
·· Göksel Baktagir, Kanun
·· Derya Türkan, Kemenche
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Ahmet Erdoğdular, one of Turkey's foremost vocalists, is noted for his role in preserving the classical singing style of the Ottoman Turkish musical tradition. He started studying music at an early age with his father, neyzen Ömer Erdoğdular, performing as a lead singer while still a teenager, and subsequently completing his bachelor's and master's degrees in Turkish classical music at the Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory under the guidance of Alaeddin Yavaşça. Erdoğdular specialized in Turkish gazel (improvisation) technique, while his academic research analyzed the use of music and poetry in gazel forms of the late Ottoman period. He also studied makam and improvisation with masters of the classical tradition--Niyazi Sayın, Necdet Yaşar, and Kâni Karaca--and later performed with them in Turkey and around the world.
Erdoğdular's command of vocal techniques and style in forms such as classical songs, gazel, kaside, and mevlid are met with a distinctive capability to match poetry to music so that the literary substance and the musical composition are equally represented when performing vocal improvisation--a disappearing art of which he is the sole representative today. Erdoğdular also performs Sufi musical repertoire that over centuries integrated spiritual practice and artistic expression. Those include the naat, durak, and ilahi hymn forms and kaside (improvisation on religious poetry) as essential components of the Sufi zikir (remembrance ceremony). Erdoğdular performed as naathan (naat singer) and ayinhan (ayin singer) in The Sacred Encounter, a documentary presented by the Turkish Ministry of Culture to UNESCO for the proclamation of 2007 as "The Year of Rumi."
Erdoğdular was a visiting scholar at Columbia University and The Graduate Center, CUNY. He is the president and artistic director of Makam New York, Inc., a nonprofit organization for Turkish classical music and arts. Erdoğdular founded the Annual Turkish Music Institute Workshop in 2011, which brings leading masters of modal music to New York City for an intensive week of music immersion. In addition to singing, Erdoğdular plays tambur (long-necked lute), oud, and percussion.
Ömer Erdoğdular started studying music while still a child, initially learning ney (reed flute) from his father. He began studying ney with Ümit Gürelman, as well as Halil Can, who influenced his intellectual approach to art. In 1965, he began his long training with Niyazi Sayın. In the following two decades--a period when the ney began to be rediscovered in Turkey--he participated in radio and TV programs, orchestras, and concerts. His musical style evokes the particular playing and sound of Tanburi Cemil Bey's improvisations. In 1980, he began performing with the legendary soloist Bekir Sıtkı Sezgin and subsequently played in most of his concerts. From 1984 to 1987, Erdoğdular was a neyzen in the Turkish Ministry of Culture Classical Turkish Music Chorus directed by Dr. Nevzat Atlığ. He made several recordings, including those with Bekir Sıtkı Sezgin, Necdet Yaşar, and İhsan Özgen. In 1987, he became a founding member of the Istanbul State Classical Turkish Music Ensemble, led by Necdet Yaşar; he retired from the ensemble in 2014. Along with İhsan Özgen, Mutlu Torun, and Erol Deran, he is a founding member of the group Bosphorus, which performed the first Turkish music concert in Greece in 1984. Throughout his career, Erdoğdular has performed in Turkey, Europe, the United States, Japan, and the Middle East at various festivals, concerts, and workshops. He devotes a significant amount of his time to teaching in Istanbul and in seminars abroad, including the Annual Turkish Music Institute Workshop in New York, the Sufi Music Retreat in California, the Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Crete, and Makamhane in Vienna.
Yurdal Tokcan is recognized as one of the finest oud players in the world today. His style combines older traditions with many new stylistic innovations that are present in his playing of the fretless guitar. He is an excellent composer in his own right, as well as a highly innovative arranger. His music reflects the rare and extremely delicate and difficult balance between remaining true to a very rich and strict tradition, while allowing his personal creativity and imagination free reign without dogmatic constrictions. Tokcan is a graduate of the Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory, the artistic director of the Istanbul State Classical Turkish Music Ensemble, a member of the Istanbul Fasil Ensemble and the Istanbul Tasavvuf Music Ensemble, and a founding member of the Istanbul Sazendeleri, a group dedicated to presenting Turkish instrumental works. As a soloist, he represented Turkey in various international festivals in Germany, Greece, Jordan, Egypt, and Japan. He appeared with the Mercan Dede Ensemble at the Akbank Jazz Festival, and collaborated with Burhan Öçal, Göksel Baktagir, Selim Güler, and Arif Erdebil in an award-winning recording. In recent years, he has performed with Kudsi Erguner, Group Baharat, his longtime collaborator Göksel Baktagir, and Israeli Ladino artist Hadass Pal Yarden. His work can be heard on Bende Can, his latest album of original compositions.
Göksel Baktagir started his musical education at the age of eight under his father, Muzaffer Baktagir. He graduated from the Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory, where he also completed his master's degree in kanun (zither) performance. During his graduate studies, he began performing with the Istanbul State Classical Turkish Music Ensemble. He developed a special left-hand technique that is unique to him, along with other innovative techniques in the performance of the kanun. Baktagir is recognized as one of today's leading artists with regard to the traditional performance on kanun, extensively exploring the possibilities of the instrument. He has composed more than 200 vocal and instrumental pieces. His album Doğu Rüzgârı won an award from the Turkish Writers Association in 2000. He has given concerts with various jazz groups and artists, including Lawrence "Butch" Morris--a performance that was released as an album in 1996. A concert with Burhan Öçal, Arif Erdebil, Yurdal Tokcan, and Selim Güler in France resulted in another album, Orient Secret. In 2000, Baktagir performed with the Mercan Dede Ensemble and the group Secret Tribe. He participated in concerts with the Necdet Yaşar Ensemble, the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra in Turkey and Japan, and the Istanbul Sazendeleri Ensemble in Turkey. In addition to composing and performing, he teaches at the Haliç University Conservatory and workshops abroad.
Derya Türkan is a leading master of classical Turkish kemençe (classical lyra). He grew up in a musical family, and his first music lessons were with the well-known Turkish cellist Fırat Kızıltuğ. Türkan graduated from the Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory, where he studied with İhsan Özgen. He is a musician at the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, where he started alongside master musicians Alaeddin Yavaşça, Bekir Sıtkı Sezgin, Niyazi Sayın, and Erol Deran. He also performed internationally with the Necdet Yaşar Ensemble and İhsan Özgen's Anatolia. In 1996, he performed with Turkish ney player Kudsi Erguner at Yehudi Menuhin's 80th birthday celebration concert, organized by French President Jacques Chirac. Türkan also toured and recorded with Kudsi Erguner's various ensembles; some of these projects included Ottoman Drums, Ottomania, Islam Blues, and La Banda Alla Turka. He is a founding member of the group İncesaz and collaborates with artists of different musical genres, among them Jordi Savall, Renaud Garcia-Fons, and Kayhan Kalhor. His music was featured in the soundtrack to Ben Affleck's Argo (2012). Like his teacher İhsan Özgen, Türkan is artistically following the musical lineage of Tanburi Cemil Bey, and his various projects reflect this direction, in particular his recent albums Ahenk (volumes 1 and 2) and Letter from Istanbul.