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World Music CD Reviews Europe

BIROL TOPALOGLU

By Robert Kaye
Published June 22, 2006

The Best of Heyamo & Aravani
7/8 Music Productions

The electronic guitar’s prominence in modern popular music frequently overshadows the timbres of thousands of indigenous instruments. Yet there are those who doggedly promote the use of and excel on more long-established instrumentation. Topaloglu expertly performs on the kemençe, a horizontally held, 3-stringed bowed fiddle and the tulum (often referred to as the gaida) an East European bagpipe made out of unadorned sheepskin. His music celebrates the enduring people of the Laz, a narrow, mountainous strip running through Turkish territory between the town of Rize to the Georgian border, along the Black Sea. Most of its 250,000 inhabitants still speak their native language, yet diminishing is the ancestral music that Topaloglu, a former electrical engineer and now committed ethnomusicologist, is trying to save from oblivion. Rendered in their folkloric stylings, each of the album’s 18 songs reveal the bittersweet modes of the region. Indicative, too, is the frequent use of “crooked dance meters” often found in East European music. Rich in tradition and skilled performances, this album sings volumes about an enduring people.