Whenever I hear music like this, I'm reminded of the reversion of Premiata Forneria Marconi (a.k.a. PFM) from an outrageously talented progrock ensemble to purveyors of Italian folk and other musics. "Why o why!!!" we progrock aficionados wept bitterly and loudly when it happened, "did they DO it???" It was traumatic, and the loss is still keenly felt—there's never been any possibility of replacing bands like PFM and Gentle Giant, they were too unique—but, years later now, with my musical tastes much wider than they were back then, I understand perfectly why such impeccable musicians would be attracted to sonics from the days of yore, diving into the milieu like kids in a candy store. For one, there's no equivalent in modern repertoire; for another, roots are brought back to life; and, for a third, there was a heck of a lot more to the old musics than we often condescendingly imagine.
Çiğdem Aslan in Mortissa presents a delectable slate of Greek songs in verdant raiment—not, as one might think, amid a rackful of instruments but rather ensconced in spare virtuosic exposition poetic and bountiful in its imageries. Cuts like Trava vre Manga Kai Alani lilt and bounce along country lanes with a larksome vocal chorus surrounding Aslan's bright carefree main lines. The song is actually a scold, but you'd never know it without the translation provided in the 24-page booklet 'cause the clarinet is having such a damn good time rollicking to and fro. Probably the Leftist atmospheres Aslan came from account for that, leaving scowling and nastinesses to reptile Republicans. Life's too short, so let's dance and drink even amid complaints!
The main mode here is rebetiko, what is oft referred to as 'Aegean blues', but there are also those elements that many European/Middle East musics share in common, whether in Persia, France, or Israel, and so it's unsurprising that the She'koyokh Klezmer Ensemble appears on three tracks. In keeping with the proletarian sentiments of Leftism, the CD title refers to a rebellious woman who does not follow society's dictates, and Pane Gia to Praso is a rogue-ish song in praise of marijuana while Çakici extols Mehmet Efe, a Robin Hood of area lore. Listen to Nenni, a lullabye, if you want an example of Aslan's talents in the raw, accompanied only by a kopuz (fretless guitar): mesmerizing, like a lonely ghazal in a night desert with a full moon patiently hanging overhead as the wind sighs.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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