Israeli percussionist Yinon Muallem, whose main expertise is Middle Eastern percussion instruments such as the darbuka, def, bendir, and the Iranian zarb, decided three years ago to pursue his career in Turkey. It was a wise decision. In Istanbul, Muallem continued to refine his style under the direction of one of Turkey's foremost oud player, Yurdal Torkan, and soon joined one of the leading instrumental ensembles of Turkey, the Istanbul Sazendeleri.
Muallem's second disc, Klezmer for the Sultan (after Changing Moments, Magda, 2003), was recorded in Turkey and in Israel under the musical direction of Torkan, with members of the Istanbul Sazendeleri and Muallem's former Israeli colleagues. Muallem managed to synthesize influences from traditional Turkish music, Sufi music, gypsy music, klezmer music, and even glimpses of Balkan and Indian music into a mature, convincing, and cohesive musical statement.
In the title tune Muallem cleverly fuses a piece from the repertoire of one of the forefathers of klezmer music, clarinetist Naftule Brandewin, "Fun Tashlikh" (recorded in the 1920s), with a Turkish dance from the time of the Ottoman Empire. The slow opening Eastern European klezmer part, led by Israeli clarinetist Eyal Sela, melts naturally into the faster Turkish part, led by Turkish clarinetist Serkan Ã‡ağrÄ±, who improvises on a 9/8 rhythm which is typical to Turkish gypsy music. "Heavy Drops" mourns the terror attacks on Istanbul, when "the raindrops were much heavier," as Muallem writes in his liner notes, and features the meditative ney playing of Israeli Itamazr Shahar and the vocal improvisation of Selim Güler. "Spanish Girl" references gently themes from the Sephardic Jewish Ladino tradition.
"The Tale" features Muallem for the first time as a sensitive oud player, accompanied by his teacher, Tokcan, and the sensual vocals of Sumru Agiryürüyen, who delivers the lyrics of Ercümend Behazat Lav beautifully. "Triangle" is a piece for percussion, bass guitar, and tabla which moves swiftly between 5/4 and 4/4 rhythms. The closing piece, "Unlimited," is dedicated to the gypsy soul as Muallem interprets it; it features a brilliant violin improvisation, Taksim, by Baki Kemanci, and sums up Muallem's captivating command of these close traditions of music.
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