Singer and composer Mircan has created a Pre-Raphaelite tapestry of a CD. It’s construction includes Turkish materials but the design is highly original and eclectic, owing less to tradition than to the work of innovative singer songwriters like Kate Bush and Tom Waits.
The title is a reference to a Muslim prayer for the dead and is the keynote for the CD. Lyrically, the songs are explorations of melancholy that includes Sala itself, the original Seed Of A Denial (in English), settings of English and Turkish poetry and a Black Sea lament, Bgara.
The melodies make extensive use of Turkish modes and are harmonised intelligently with a good dose of jazz. Mircan has a confident and disciplined voice, daring to go places many singers would avoid and successfully investing the words with requisite gravitas. Mircan’s band includes piano, clarinet, trumpet, guitar and bass. The standout instrumentalist, thoough, is cellist Ugur Isik, who prefaces many of the songs with gloriously original miniatures. His technique, inherited from the kemence, evokes the human voice and in his jazzy context evokes the baritone sax ( it occurs to me that a jazz band fronted by cello played with this technique would be a very fine thing indeed).
Another instrumental highpoint is Muammer Ketencoglu’s accordeon-he has a distinctive style, and contributes a lightness that leavens these songs. Lastly there is the unexpected but highly successful use of the didgeridoo, played by Serdar Ayvaz.
The recordings were made in Istanbul but the CD was mixed and edited to a high creative standard by Roger Mills in the UK: sala is very much a comlete artefact rather than an anthology of disparate songs. This is romantic, original and deeply-felt work full of fascinating juxtapositions. It will not be to everyone’s taste but those who do like it will love it.