omar faruk tekbilek
Geboren 1951 in der Türkei, trat als Zwölfjähriger bereits im professionellen Rahmen mit der Sufi-Flöte Ney und der türkischen Laute Baglama auf. Mit 20 einer der gefragtesten Musiker der Türkei, angeleitet von bedeutenden Musikern und spirituellen Lehrern (Sufis) seines Landes. Ab 1971 Konzerttourneen in Europa und den USA. Beherrscht Blas-, Zupf-, Tasten- und Schlaginstrumente. Lebt seit 1976 mit Frau und Kindern in New York. Gilt international als der Repräsentant nahöstlicher Weltmusik. Zahlreiche Aufnahmen und Konzerte mit Gitarrist/Keyboarder/Komponist Brian Keane.
His name is Omar Faruk Tekbilek, but you can call him Faruk. "Everyone does," says his longtime producer and collaborator, Brian Keane. Faruk has an unusual story, one in which Keane's Connecticut studio figures prominently.
Faruk's first international exposure was on Keane's 1988 album Süleyman the Magnificent (13023-2). A film was being made about the Ottoman emperor Süleyman to coincide with the opening of an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Brian Keane was hired to do the soundtrack. "I knew I wanted to incorporate Turkish instruments and players," he recalls, "but the Met saddled me with a bunch of professorsall intellect and no emotion." Desperate to move the recording along, Keane called Arif Mardin, the legendary Turkish producer of the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, and so many others, and asked if he knew any Turkish musicians. Mardin didn't. "But two or three days later, he called and said his cooks went to Fazil's, a belly dance club in Manhattan. So I went for five nights and suffered through really bad belly dance music. Then one night Faruk shows up, looking like he was right off the boat." (In fact, he had just driven down from Rochester, NY, over 330 miles away.) "You could tell immediately that he was different. His playing was so emotional; he really stood out."
Keane had already seen the opening of the film and knew what he wantedthe mystical sound of the Sufi flute, or ney, added to his own synthesizer. As far as he knew, this combination hadn't been done before, but Keane invited Tekbilek to his studio to try it. "When Faruk started playing," he says, "the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was magic from the start." Their very first take became the opening of the movie and the recording. Faruk brought in some of his friends, and the soundtrack was soon finished.
But that's not the beginning of the story...
"I have a picture I carry in my mind," Omar Faruk Tekbilek reveals. "I call it The Tree of Patience." The road to becoming a professional musician was long and winding, a journey which required a fair amount of patience and acceptance of some unusual situations. It began at home, in the small town of Adanali, Turkey. "My brother was a born musician," Faruk recalls. "He was really my guru, my inspiration." His brother Hadji played the flute, but as he grew up, Faruk found himself drawn to other instruments as well. "My first teacher taught baglama (the longnecked Turkish lute)," he explains. "He had a music store, but he also had a regular government job during the day. So he told me, come after school, open the store, and I will teach you." Working in the store, Faruk learned the intricate rhythms of Turkish music, how to read scales, and more. But if the roots of Faruk's Tree of Patience were sown at home, the trunk, he explains, grew up in the big cityIstanbul
Faruk had been studying Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, with the thought of becoming a Sufi cleric. At 15, he quit school to become a professional musician. "But I never quit studying, though," he maintains. "In fact, I am still studying; it's endless. Music for me is not something to show off. It's my life. It's the shortest path to God. Playing is prayer for me." He went to Istanbul and at the age of 17 met the Mevlevi Dervishes, the ancient Sufi order of Turkey. He did not join the order, but felt profoundly influenced by their mystical approach to sound and to the spirit.
Another, almost equally mystical influence would soon appear, from an unlikely source. The young Tekbilek became friends with a saxophone player named Burhan Tonguch, who had some unusual ideas about music theory. "He would say things like, let's play for birds, let's play for pictures. He put the idea in my mind that everything is a rhythmic instrument. And everyone is a percussionist. Without the strike, there is no sound." Despite, or perhaps because of, this unconventional outlook, Faruk's skills were much in demand in the studios of Istanbul, and in 1971, at the age of 20, made his first brief tour of the United States with a Turkish classical/folk ensemble. The Tree of Patience was about to put out an unexpected limb.
"I first met my wife on that tour," he explains. "But I had to go back to Turkey to do my army service." Tekbilek could not return to America until 1976, and when he did, he found very few options for a Turkish musician in upstate New York. He took a job with a clothing company, and by his own admission, "struggled with the idea for a while." He formed a band, called the Sultans, with his brotherinlaw. It started as a pop band but very quickly turned into a sort of panNear Eastern ensemble, with an Egyptian keyboardist and a Greek string player. For several difficult years, Faruk would punch a time card on Friday and then drive down to New York City for work in the Middle Eastern clubs there. "After a couple of years," he says, "I accepted it. And when I accepted it, I was able to do my job and my music better. And when the time came, I was ready to move on."
That time did not come right away. For much of the 1980s, Faruk continued to work a weekday job while raising three children and playing music on the weekends. The Sultans managed to record several albums during this time, and began to attract some attention within the circle of Middle Eastern dance fans. Then came the fateful meeting with Brian Keane in 1988. The Tree of Patience was finally about to bear fruit.
"When I met him, he was making pants in Rochester," Keane recalls. "But he was trained as a Sufi priest, so he took it all in stride, and found artistic merit in that. Although he probably made more money playing one wedding than in a week at the factory." The Süleyman soundtrack was soon made available on video, and that is where Celestial Harmonies president Eckart Rahn first heard Faruk. "I saw the video and thought, I have never heard flute playing like this," he recalls. Rahn noted down the name of the composer and went in search of Brian Keane. "I was handling Larry Coryell's publishing at the time, and I knew there was a jazz guitarist named Brian Keane who occasionally toured with Larry. But I never dreamed it would turn out to be the same guy, who lived just down the road!" In short order, the soundtrack was released as an audio recording.
With the obvious success of their initial collaboration, Keane was eager to work with Tekbilek again. And as it turned out, the feeling was mutual. "I felt he had such a great appreciation of Turkish music," Faruk says. "He always encouraged me." Faruk was finally able to concentrate on making music, and in the following years, he and Keane would produce another five recordings together.
The combination of Keane's guitars and synthesizers with Faruk's arsenal of Turkish flutes, lutes, and percussion presented some interesting musical challenges. "Sometimes Brian would want to put some weird chords under something I was doing," Faruk chuckles. "I'd say, Brian, that bothers my ears. Some of our scales have notes that you have to avoid, and he'd be putting that note in. So I told him about our tradition. He was always pushing me, always telling people, this is Faruk's work, I'm just helping him with the arrangements." With the advent of retunable keyboards, Keane and Tekbilek have found that their respective instruments blend much more naturally. And together they have explored not only Turkish, but also Arabic and Armenian music, in addition to their own original works.
"I try to play a song the way it's supposed to be," Faruk explains. "If I play an Arabic song, I use an Arabic style; if I play a Turkish song, I use a Turkish style." (Faruk is half Egyptian himself, and feels a strong affinity for Arabic music, which differs in several important ways from the Turkish tradition.) He pauses, considers, and then admits, "Sometimes I can't keep myself from making a bridge between them. I just try to listen to the song; it will tell me what it wants to be." The process of creating his own songs is similar: there is no set formula or method, he says. Each song comes out in a different way.
Faruk's music has now taken him to farflung corners of the globe and further collaborations. He has played with the late jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, and has recorded with the Palestinian lute and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen, with Australian percussionist and composer Michael Askill, and with Armenian percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan. Despite the violent history between the Turks and Armenians, Faruk's relationship with Arto is quite close. "We grew up together," Faruk says. "My father is from the region of Turkey where many Armenians live, and we had the same percussion teacher." (And Tuncboyaciyan, like Tekbilek, had an older brother who played a formative influence in his life.) Brought in with Armenian lute player Ara Dinkjian for the third Keane/Tekbilek album, Beyond The Sky (13047-2), the Armenian percussionist has become a fixture on Faruk's recent recordings.
And while Brian Keane has become one of the most sought-after producers in the recording industry, creating several gold records in the past decade, he has returned to work on each of Faruk's recordings. "There are some things you do for your career," he says, "and some that you do just for the music. Working with Faruk has been one of the most satisfying musical experiences of my life." Both Keane and Tekbilek helped with the selection of works that appear on this recording. It represents some of the finest flowerings of Faruk's Tree of Patience.