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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Muammer Ketencoglu

By Malachai Phelps
Published June 19, 2008

Izmir Hatirasi: Smyrna Recollections

As one of the oldest cities on the, Izmir (known to the ancient Greeks as Smyrna) has long been a cosmopolitan hotbed for musical styles from all over Europe—its rich history has fascinated accordionist and singer Muammer Ketencoglu since he was a youngster. A native of the nearby town of Tire, Ketencoglu has emerged as one of the most highly regarded musicians in Turkey, so it’s only fitting that his hand should be the one that guides this beautifully packaged set of Turkish, Greek and Judeo-Spanish folk songs. He’s backed by an impressive group of players (on guitar, oud, violin, tanbur, bouzouki, baglama, the threestringed kemenche and assorted percussion) and equally gifted guest vocalists (particularly Janet Esim, who sings with an elegant simplicity in the Ladino language on the Jewish song of love and separation “Alma Miya”), but the real lynchpin here is the pristine, expertly layered sound of the recording—a testament, no doubt, to the fact that Ketencoglu, blind since birth, has his ears wide open to the world.