“Greek jazz ensemble Mode Plagal collaborate with Bosphorus, a group with Turkish musicians and traditional instruments who bring forth the sound and experience of the Eastern and Anatolian musical tradition. The symbolism of the Bosphorus straits as a passage from one world to the another, from one sea to the other and from one continent to a new world.”
"'It was bound to happen, someday.'
That was the first thing that crossed my mind when I came across the news that Bosphorus and Mode Plagal were to collaborate on a record.
Bosphorus, a group of Turkish musicians from Istanbul who for almost twenty years now have been studying the musical tradition of that city through its many periods have been churning out amazing records off the mainstream. They have been exploring, among other things, the musical tradition of Greek composers of the city, as well as the interplay between what existed in the city (the Byzantine tradition of the time when the city used to be called Contantinople) and what came after (the Ottoman musical tradition both on the level of court music and popular one.)
Mode Plagal have already been covered extensively in Rootsworld, as they have been following a similar path regarding Greek music, but with an added focus on jazz experimentation.
So, in many ways, both groups have been dealing with the same questions: What does it mean to be at the crossroads between East and West, Now and Then? What have been the results of the influences of other people on the musical tradition of the region? Are there traces of the past to be found and are there any of those worthy of retention for the future? All that and beautiful sounds!
The latter is where Beyond the Bosphorus succeeds effortlessly: this is a compelling, seductive record that doesn't sound academic at all, while it combines music from three different musical traditions; the learned Eastern musical system (the ancient one), the folk tradition of the Alevi communities, and the western-influenced one, as is noted in the beautiful and very informative trilingual liner notes (Greek, English and French.) There were times that this record sounded pop. At others, it reminded me strongly of Morphine (the band from Boston) or an ethnomusicologist's pet research project. On "Oceania," the last song, the U2 of the late 1980s comes to mind. All that and it never sounds forced, grotesque or garish.
As in the previous collaborative work of Mode Plagal (the Yorgos Margaritis CD recently reviewed), this record sounds like Bosphorus, possessed by Mode Plagal. The way in which they go in and out of the picture, blending in or coming to the forefront, depending on the musical needs or whim of the moment, is fascinating.
Apart from the usual high musicianship of Mode Plagal (who use saxophones, electric and acoustic guitars, drums and bass) and the exquisite learned virtuosity of Bosphorus (who play kemenche, rebab, violin, ney, cello, kudum, bendir, kaval, saz, kanun and tanbur), Vassiliki Papageorgiou, who sings on almost all the tracks, should be singled out for particular praise, as her laid back, spacey yet curiously earthy voice is often the highlight of a song. Providing a stylistic unity to the record which otherwise would have been torn apart by its various musical influences, Papageorgiou inhabits the role of the narrator of this fascinating musical journey, as she sings about love in the city, important Islamic religious feasts, Sappho and most of all about the city: Konstantiniye/Istanbul. - Nondas Kitsos
The press info:
The symbolism of Bosphorus straights as a passage from one world to another, from one sea to the other and from one continent to a new world, has marked through myths the spiritual memory and heritage of migrating tribes as well as that of sea-faring people in the greater basin of the Easter Mediterranean.
Those tribes coming from the South, following the south to north migration of the cranes, believed in the a hyperborean haven and heaven whirling beyond the North Star (Polaris), whereas those arriving from the Ease longed for a Western Paradise somewhere along the shores of the Atlantic. On the crossroads, at the exact point of intersection of the axis, there at the divide between Europe and Asia, a City was founded which it was hoped would reflect the heavenly peace (Irini) and Wisdom (Sophia)- the Byzantine Constantinople, Konstantiniye of the Ottomans- the present dat Istanbul.
The space of all around seems to resound - Aghia Sophia, the Bosphorus, the mosques, the domes, the golden horn, everything seems to whirl around a mysterious and inaudible sound which is perceptible only to those who have managed to emerge free from the murky and channeled waters of urban material existence. Beyond, rises yet another deafening but silent sound, the dirge of a Metropolis which has lost the dream to embrace within her womb all the religions and people suffering tribulations and by this way, becoming admired by all the nations as an example of ecumenicity.
We have tried to capture with our music the echo of this indescribable sound. To achieve this -which is also a game with different musical systems and tunings- two different groups collaborated: Bosphorus with turkish musicians and ancient traditional instruments which bring forth the sound and experience of the Eastern and Anatolian musical tradition and Mode Plagal, a greek avant-garde group which is experimenting a contemporary approach to greek traditional Folk music. The compositions, besides the traditional songs and tunes, are by the musicians of both groups and are put to the lyrics and poetry of G. Seferis, T. Syrelis and V. Papageorgiou around the theme of "Beyond Bosphorus".
They are interpreted by Vasiliki Papageorgiou, with a traditional Alevi prayer to the 12 Imams by Engin Arslan. The musical direction is by Nikiforos Metaxas. Bosphorus and Mode Plagal have been collaborating for some time now, Mode Plagla have been visiting Turkey quite often and both groups have given joint concerts the last couple of years in Greece, Turkey -in Istanbul and Smyrni for the 100 years of G. Seferis- in Belgium, Holland etc.
Apart from the usual high musicianship of Mode Plagal (who use saxophones, electric and acoustic guitars, drums and bass) and the exquisite learned virtuosity of Bosphorus (who play kemenche, rebab, violin, ney, cello, kudum, bendir, kaval, saz, kanun and tanbur), Vassiliki Papageorgiou, who sings on almost all the tracks, should be singled out for particular praise, as her laid back, spacey yet curiously earthy voice is often the highlight of a song. Providing a stylistic unity to the record which otherwise would have been torn apart by its various musical influences, Papageorgiou inhabits the role of the narrator of this fascinating musical journey, as she sings about love in the city, important Islamic religious feasts, Sappho and most of all about the city: Konstantiniye/Istanbul." - Nondas Kitsos, RootsWorld
“Beyond The Bosphorus is a collaboration between Greek band Mode Plagal and the most recent incarnation of the Turkish group Bosphorus, which now includes such leading performers of Turkish art music as Hasan Esen (kemençe) and Murat Aydemir (tanbur). On vocals is Vasiliki Papayeoryiou, who has worked with Bosphorus in the past. In short, this is an impressive line-up. - Chris Williams”
01. Improvisation: Rebab-Cello
03. The Tumult Of Torrents
04. Ey Zahit
05. Shuttle Boats
06. Beyond The Bosphorus
07. Until Such Time
09. Twelve Imams
11. For Sappho
12. Erotikos Logos
14. Faraway Lady
15. This Night