WITH FEELING Okbari.
I owe just about all my Turkish music knowledge to Okbari. With their fourth album, they introduce us here in Portland to the music of the Asiks, a sort of Turkish bard fond of love songs and imbued with some religious leanings.
For this eight-song Turku, the band both strip down and ramp up. It's a much simpler instrumentation than you're used to with an Okbari disc, with just an oud, a duff (a type of drum), violin, and assorted flutes. But they've tacked on two players: Amos Libby and Eric Laperna are joined here by Michael Gallant (violin; he played as part of the most recent Tarpigh CD release) and Carl Dimow (flutes, Casco Bay Tummlers).
Maybe what I'm most struck by, though, are Libby's seriously buttery vocals. Their work in the past has generally been more of a drone or a bark, but "Nasibolsa" opens the album with his wonderfully resonant tone and it helps immediately engage the listener, despite it being sung in Turkish. The sentiment, however, is standard pop fare. Translated, a typical lyric runs: "Talibi Coskun declares that another girl such as this cannot be found anywhere in the world."
Because the tones are so foreign, the songs can seem to run together a bit. "Esimden Ayrildim Yamandir Halim" opens quicker than the rest; "Zeynep Bu Guzellik Var Mi Soyunda" features violin and flute in lock-step, with the flute especially low. Sometimes, as on the open of "Bulbulum Altin Kafeste," it seems as though maybe they had some issues mic'ing the low-end flute, but that buzz might be welcome. It's hard to know.
I particularly like the way love is expressed in "Divane Asik Gibi": "If only your father had asked permission from my father, just once."
The album finishes with more subtlety. The pairing of the duff and oud in the open of "Havada Bulut Yok" is wonderfully delicate, as is the oud playing in "Iste Gidiyorum Cesmi Siyahim," mic'd closely enough that you can hear the scrape of Libby's fingers on the strings.
While you might need a supplied lyric translation to know exactly what Libby is singing, the emotional investment is easy to discern.