Barana & Co’s Live at the Music Meeting is excellent music that combines the traditions of Turkey and jazz to form a cohesive blend of polyphony and rhythm. For the uneducated or unworldly listener it will come as a challenge, but with just a little perseverance, the reward for the listener is great.
The music is mostly rhythmically driven. With a mix of six-eight, eight-eight, nine-eight, eleven-eight rhythms (and combinations thereof), the rhythmic vibrancy and complexity is never ever lacking. The best example of this is perhaps "Zula". In this piece the basic melody is stated in seven-eight, with one bar missing a beat, changing that bar to six-eight. The beat reappears in the next phrase, however, which contains one eight-eight bar. The album is full of rhythmical tricks and jokes such as this.
What the Western listener will notice first is the traditional Mid-Eastern scale that is used. Although it takes some getting used to, it makes for truly beautiful melodic refrains. The vocalists on the album help to enhance the air of choral effects. "Gurbet" is particularly powerful. The melody is presented vocally, stylistically slightly inarticulated. There is more trouble when you add to the mix the lyrics are in an Arabic language no longer used in Turkey (much less in Western countries). However, after the vocal line, the same phrase is stated emphatically by a symphony of strings. This blend is not only effective, but truly moving.
"Dokuzluk Gezintiler" and "Kopma" do well to show off the instrumentation of the group. The first showcases the percussionists’ agility on their instruments (as well as presenting the cello, fiercely being thumped, as a percussion instrument). The second showcases the three "baglama" players (similar to a guitar). The tune begins with each of the three soloists alone. It is meant to present how differently the same instrument can sound in the hands of capable musicians, even from similar backgrounds, interests, and musical training. The three solos are unique, but each is equally interesting.
Each piece is interesting in its own right. The poetry of Yunus Emre is presented here as well as by Karac ‘oglan. The songs have their own styles, melodies, rhythmic interests, instrumentation, dynamic, and uniqueness. However, the album presented as a whole is also extremely interesting. Although only one of the songs is traditional in the folk sense, the poetry is well-known through Turkey, making a common-bond among many peoples. Many of the songs have a familiar tone to them. I can picture the caravans of olden-days traveling the country-side. One person have happened to bring their flute, another - their baglama, another - their cello. The ones who don’t play can sing, and the ones who don’t know the words can improvise percussion on whatever they have. The music elicits a certain imagery that sets forth imagination.
Although I will admit it was challenging, I enjoyed this album immensely. It is a joy to have my ears opened by a style of music that I have not had the opportunity to hear before. I appreciate this opportunity and hope I can hear more of Barana and Co., as well as other Turkish jazz in the near future.