Sulukule, Sulukule, Rom Music Of Istanbul

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Originally issued in the '70s (and lovingly remastered for this re-release in 2000), Rom Music of Istanbul showcases some magical rom, or Gypsy, music from Turkey. Named for the Istanbul area famed for its bellydancing, Sulukule offer more than music to accompany the dance: they're a master-class in Turkish makams, or modes, and virtuoso playing. Violinist and group leader Kemani Cemal Cinarli shines brightly, featured in glittering improvisations on a couple of tracks, such as "Kirkpinar Ciftetellisi," where the ideas and fingers simply flow. But everyone here is a standout: Ismail Sencal plays his kanun (a hammered dulcimer) at a breathtakingly manic speed on "Aslan Bacanak," while on the finale, "Karsiima," all the players attempt to outdo each other. Three singers bring a grace to "Bu Yil Bekar Kalalim," floating and exhorting the musicians while a relentless rhythm pounds underneath. As bellydance music, it's peerless; as a listening experience, it's exquisite, full of surprises and instrumental joys.