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Chinka A musical Tale

“What is humanity’s greatest invention? But surpassing all stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind was his who dreamed of finding means to communicate his deepest thoughts to any other person, though distant by mighty intervals of place and time! Of talking with those who are in India; of speaking to those who are not yet born and will not be born for a thousand or ten thousand years; and with what facility, by the different arrangements of twenty characters upon a page!”

With these words Sagredo praises the alphabet as the greatest human invention.

Being able to speak to those who are not yet born and will not be born for a thousand or ten thousand years…

According to Noam Chomsky , all the people of the world inherit the general properties of language, its system and structure specific to our species that is humans. But why and how do languages differ so much from one geographic location to another all around the world if there are universal principals guiding them? This has been occupying my thoughts for years. I have always found it an incredible phenomenon regarding human beings. Chomsky provides us with some answers: “A human being or any complex organism has a system of cognitive structures that develop much in the way the physical organs of the body develop. That is, in their fundamental character they are innate; their basic form is determined by the genetic structure of the organism. Of course, they grow under particular environmental conditions, assuming a specific form that admits of some variation. Much of what is distinctive among human beings is a specific manner in which a variety of shared cognitive structures develop.” During his interview with Wiktor Osiatynski (1), Chomsky proposes to imagine a different world where another species developed a different linguistic system comprising every language.

I was born and raised in an environment where many different languages were being spoken. Laz-Mingrelian, Georgian, Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian. Adding to this bunch were Arabic and English as part of my education, feasting my ears. This was a unique natural environment for me to develop a personality with a sympathy and respect to all other intellectual structures, languages, cultures of different origins. Understanding others can only be possible by lending our ears to their languages, cultural elements. Here, for me, the most imortant element is music next to language. We can not express all of our feelings and thoughts with only words. There are so many cases where words become insufficient to express the whole content of what we feel and think. There are for sure other means like visual images and music. Music is the way I express the unexpressable.

On this compilation album CHINKA” I have put a selection of songs that I composed or rendered in my incredibly beautiful native language of Mingrelian/Laz, a language that has been spoken for centuries but which is now only used by a handful of people and which faces the threat of not being passed on to those who are not yet born. Written with an alphabet of not twenty, not thirty, but thirty-nine letters, Mingrelian is melded in the album with the English language and English artists, launching the language and musicians of different origins on a journey into the distant future. Like an otherworldly, mystical sound from the past echoing through space, trying to connect with others…

This is my musical journey in which I sometimes fellt like wandering over broad plains shadowed by mountains in some unknown land with the mystical sound of bagpipes.

And until that universal linguistic system comprising every language is found, music will continue to be my universal language to interact with others.

The songs compiled here have been recorded partly in Bristol with the Jazz group Limbo and partly in Istanbul with the musicians of different ethnic groups living in Turkey. The percussionists İzzet Kızıl and Ismet Kızıl are Kurdish while Adem Temiz, the accordion player is Georgian. Kurtuluş Cengiz who plays the kemenche is Laz and the bassist Doğan Kayıkcı is from Bosnia.

Chinka: This is a Mingrelian/ Laz word meaning forest fairie. It is also used to refer to people who are very reserved and uncommunicative but hide a very unpedictable and shrewd nature. It was my nickname when I was a child.

1-In Wiktor Osiatynski (ed.), Contrasts: Soviet and American Thinkers Discuss the Future (MacMillan, 1984), pp. 95-101

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