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Sezen Aksu

Best of 2001

By Srajan Ebaen
Click here to e-mail reviewer

Sezen Aksu "Deliveren"

Compact Disc Compact Disc: Import, Post 2002-2 Compact Disc


Genre: Turkey's most popular female vocalist

  Divergent Technologies’ (www.divertech.com) Tash Goka, Canadian immigrant and distributor of fine audio equipment but Turkish by birth and occasionally returning to the homeland for cultural rebirth and musical shopping sprees, first introduced me to Turkish superstar Sezen Aksu. He graciously purchased an extra copy of Işik Doğudan Yűkselir (Tempa & Foneks) on one of his trips to the Middle East. He forwarded it to me taking an educated guess that I’d like it. And how right he was, bless his generous spirit. In fact, this one album had me haunt various Internet music sources on a regular basis since, always hoping to turn up another release by Aksu that an American resident without personal friends in Turkey could get his hands on.

You see, I immediately fell head over heels for Aksu’s strangely broken but oh-so expressive voice that ranges from a burnished alto to high mezzo register and fluctuates between the mystery of a seemingly fragile softness to a powerful raw intensity that can acquire an archaic fierceness to evoke images of a warrior princess. This haunting voice always appears like a rare high-carat diamond set into gorgeous instrumental arrangements, to often very memorable and beguiling melodies that are interpreted by Levent Yüksel, Ibrahim Tatlises, Emel and many others of her country’s fellow singers. Sezen Aksu is a very prolific composer and fashions her songs to acknowledge tradition while simultaneously remaining very contemporary and accessible. This makes the strange moniker Ethno-Pop surprisingly fitting.

Deliveren is her first album widely available in the US. The distributor spent the money smartly to showcase his import in listening stations across the country’s larger music retailers earlier last year. And for good reason – this is one of the most exciting musical discoveries of 2001. It’s had every visitor to my home cry out for pen and paper and jot down its specifics as a must-own surprise in a fever of sudden attachment. Depending on how Deliveren penetrates consumer consciousness, it should help establish Sezen Aksu in the same league of world music divas as Cesaria Evora, Angelique Kidjo, Najma, Haris Alexiou, Yulduz Usmanova, Khadja Nin or Natacha Atlas.

“Keskin Biçak” is the album’s first unanimous play-it-again request. It opens with a low pedal tone shared by Armenian oboe and strings. This creates the foundation for a brief free-form oud interlude before both oud and duduk introduce the main motif on an alluringly slow-rolling rhythm buoy to which Aksu adds her smoldering lower range. Once she ascends an octave higher and, replete with male chorus backup in the refrain, dons her raging goddess alter ego, the recurring majestic melody achieves a strangely hypnotic effect. It seemingly could go on forever – and chances are that, with a little help from your remote repeat button, it will linger well past its 5½ minutes.

“Rumeli Havasi” beings with harp, then piano, guitar and string synths before Sezen Aksu, subtly backed up by a solo violin, sketches the eventual melody with a few highly emotive arcs that lead to a distinctly Oriental melody atop a relaxed but limping rhythm and again male chorus. In the reprise, orchestral strings and clarinet reach for jubilant yet melancholy heights before Aksu returns again to a more introspective mode that closes this tune full-circle.

“O-kudum-da” is a kind of Turkish polka with oompah brass accompaniment and massed male vocal accents that sports a short bridge in which Aksu’s voice undergoes one of her slightly unhinged wild transformations that is both hair-raising and inspiring, sourced from some deep well of primal abandonment. “Vine mi Ciçek” features the excellent core ensemble of the Night Ark formation, with Ara Dinkjian on oud, Armen Donelian on piano and Arto Tunçboyaci on percussion. It introduces the buttery-smooth, male goose bump vocals of Cihan Okan, the only track on which Aksu steps aside. This is another guaranteed crowd pleaser that traverses unusually chromatic melodic peaks while romancing our attention with its innate exoticness. “Hoş Geldiin” is of the same caliber and equally as enchanting, again with the former instrumental collaborators of Night Ark.

Outside of Deliveren, I’ve only heard three other Aksu albums thus far but spotted plenty of her tunes on other artists’ releases that often turned out to be their solitary highlights with the most melodic sophistication. Still, I predict that even those familiar with her entire oeuvre will consider Deliveren a kind of breakout album for this amazing Turkish vocalist. If you love spine-tingling female voice and aren’t perturbed by language barriers but rather enticed to having to rely on the musical message per se, this is, hands-down, my top favorite female vocal find of 2001. Seeing that I tend to purchase a minimum of 10 albums a month and take most everything for a sneak spin when part of the shop’s customer service features allows pre-sampling, such a statement-cum-recommendation isn’t made lightly. So go ahead and bet on this wild card. It’ll turn out to be the joker that grants many free rides into glorious realms of unfettered aural imagination.













































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