Mercan Dede,
(Escondida, 2005)

Su is a world fusion CD by Mercan Dede, a Sufi musician. Sufism is, generally speaking, the mystical path of Islam. Dede's bio says he is "pioneering the bridge between Turkish Sufism and contemporary Western electronic music." Many artists are attempting this type of thing, but Dede seems to be particularly successful here.

His compositions are quite listenable to Westerners unfamiliar with Turkish music. But the sound and feel of the Middle East is here, with the use of Western and Eastern acoustic instruments.

Dede has a light touch with the electronic keyboards and sounds that he adds, although a few times the sounds of dripping water or crickets distract from the music instead of enhancing it. There are actual percussionists on the CD instead of electronic beats. Dede plays some of the percussion, as well as reed flute.

"Su" means water, and the names of each of the compositions begins with "Ab-I," which also means water. Hugh Marsh plays violin on each track and keyboards on some. Most of the 12 tracks are dominated by a guest star, usually a vocalist.

On "Ab-I La'l," Sheema Mukherjee of Trans-Global Underground is the lead instrumentalist with his sitar, and naturally this track sounds more Indian than Turkish. "Ab-I Tarab" sounds quite Middle Eastern with Aykut Sutoglu on clarinet.

Well-known vocalist Susheela Raman co-wrote "Ab-I Beka," a mysterious minor-key track. Female vocalist Sabahat Akkiraz co-wrote "Ab-I Cesm (Kerbala)," based on a traditional melody. "Ab-I Beste" features a poem with Ozcan Deniz on male vocals. Dhafer Youssef contributes a more classical male vocal on the slower "Ab-I Hazan."

"Ab-I Nafi" features rapper Ceza. Dede gets a bit more modern with the effects here, which include the sound of breaking glass. The short rapping sequence fits in surprisingly well.

With the occasional use of synthesizer, acoustic guitar, and double bass, this CD may be a bit too Westernized for those wishing to hear Sufi music. Most people, however, should find it a thoughtful balance between East and West.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 2 July 2005

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