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A virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and one of the world’s foremost exponents of Middle Eastern music, Omar Faruk Tekbilek was born into a musical family in the southern Turkish city of Adana. A musical prodigy, he began performing professionally at the age of 12. In 1967, upon turning 16, he moved to Istanbul, where he spent the following decade as an in-demand session musician, performing with leading Turkish musicians of the day. In Istanbul, he explored various Arab, Turkish, and Western styles and was deeply inspired by the Mevlevi Dervishes, the ancient Sufi order of Turkey. He came to the US in 1976, and in 1986 met Brian Keane, with whom he produced six recordings that launched him into the world music scene.
Tekbilek has collaborated with many musicians of international repute, including Karl Berger, Ginger Baker, Youssou N’Dour, Ofra Haza, Yasmin Levy, Simon Shaheen, Glen Velez, Bill Laswell, Trilok Gurtu, Omar Sosa, Enrique Morente, Kodō, Tomatito, and Jai Uttal. He has contributed to numerous film and TV scores and to many recordings, including world sacred music albums, and toured extensively throughout the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and North and South America. He is currently recording for Alif Records, published by The Royalty Network. His new album, Love Is My Religion, expands his Mediterranean sound beyond political, religious, and geographic boundaries. On this release, he applies his unity-in-diversity approach to a collection of songs colored with Middle Eastern flavors with distinct traces of folk, traditional Sufi, flamenco, and contemporary elements.
Tekbilek’s numerous accolades include a 2003 Best Artist of Turkish Music award from the Turkish Writers Association, a nomination for a 2003 BBC World Music Award, and the 2011 Turkish Music Award for Best Instrumental Album of the Year presented by Kral TV. In 2014, he received an honorary doctorate from Zonguldak Būlent Ecevit University in Turkey. For more information, visit omarfaruktekbilek.com.
Hasan Isakkut is a celebrated musician, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who has performed professionally for more than 35 years. Born in Adana, Turkey, into a family of musicians, he began studying kanun and violin at the age of eight with his father. Isakkut went on to study and work with some of Turkey’s most accomplished musicians. In 1989, he moved to New York, where he continued his professional career, playing locally and internationally, and collaborating with such artists as Brian Keane, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Simon Shaheen, Richie Havens, Ara Dinkjian, Arto Tunçboyacıyan, Hüsnü Şenlendirici, and Muazzez Ersoy. Isakkut composed some of Tekbelik’s best hits, including “I Love You,” “Why,” “Last Moments of Love,” and “Kolaymı”—music that evokes moods of the Middle East, jazz, new age, and classical styles. For more information, visit hasanisakkut.com.
Itamar Erez’s music blends the delicateness of Middle Eastern music, the freedom found in jazz, and the passion of flamenco to create a distinctive sound all his own. Recipient of the 2014 ACUM Prize for Special Achievement in Jazz and the prestigious 2014 Landau Prize, he is an internationally renowned composer and guitarist who has shared the stage with Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Tomatito, Avishai Cohen, Jean-Louis Matinier, and Zohar Fresco, among others. He performs internationally and gives workshops and master classes, teaching his special approach to music and guitar playing. During 2014–2015, he performed in Canada, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Cyprus, Israel, India, Tunisia, and Colombia. Erez is currently working on new material for his next CD and is on the guitar faculty at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. For more information, visit itamarerez.com.
River Guerguerian—born in Montreal to Armenian-Egyptian parents—currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Since earning his bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 1989, he has been performing internationally with such artists and groups as the BBC Concert Orchestra, New Music Consort, Tan Dun, Lizz Wright, and Ziggy Marley and the Gipsy Kings. Ever in demand, Guerguerian has recorded on more than 250 albums and soundtracks. He also composes and conducts workshops around the world. For more information, visit ShareTheDrum.com.
Murat Tekbilek was born into a family of musicians. Since the age of five, he has studied with his father, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and his uncle Ibrahim Turmen, a master percussionist. With a focus on darbuka, def, bendir, and bongos, he has performed in numerous concerts all over the world. He has had the pleasure of performing with a variety of Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Israeli, American, and Lebanese musicians. For the past 20 years, he has toured internationally with his father’s world music ensemble.
Composer, producer, and musician Brian Keane began his career as a guitarist touring and recording with Larry Coryell, Paco de Lucía, and Bobby McFerrin, among others. In the early 1980s, he became an influential pioneer in composing music for documentaries; he has more than 400 films to his credit; won multiple Emmy, Academy, and Peabody awards; and worked with HBO, Barry Levinson, and Ric Burns (including the score to the classic Emmy-winning series New York: A Documentary Film). It was his work with documentaries that led Keane to discover the music of Omar Faruk Tekbilek, whom he hired for the soundtrack to Süleyman the Magnificent in 1986. Keane went on to become a Grammy-winning producer, who has produced more than 150 recordings, including 37 Billboard top 10–charting albums. In addition to Tekbilek, his producing credits include work with Linda Ronstadt, Pete Seeger, Van Morrison, The Chieftains, and Windham Hill’s Winter Solstice series. In 2001, he became the first and only composer in the history of the Emmys to sweep all nominations for music in a single year. For more information, visit briankeanemusic.com.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Ara Dinkjian graduated from The Hartt School, earning the country’s first and only special degree in the oud (ancient Middle Eastern fretless lute). His groundbreaking and highly influential group Night Ark recorded four CDs for RCA/BMG and PolyGram/Universal. He has given concerts in 24 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. His compositions have been recorded by renowned musicians and singers in 14 different languages. His “Homecoming” (“Dinata, Dinata”) was performed at the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Dinkjian’s recent CDs include An Armenian In America and Peace On Earth (recorded live at the Jerusalem International Oud Festival), Soundscapes and Three of Us (recorded with his The Secret Trio group), Conversations with Manol (a solo oud recording), Finding Songs (featuring 12 new compositions performed by the Ara Dinkjian Quartet), and Truth & Hope (dedicated to the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide). He continues to compose, perform, record, and teach, while creating his own distinctive musical landscape. For more information, visit aradinkjian.com.