Turkophony is the latest and most unusual work of the German-born, Turkish-Greek bouzouki player, Orhan Osman. If you subscribe to the hypothesis that personal history is what informs musical style more than training, you could use Orhan as the poster child.
Loosely categorized as “ethno-jazz”, Turkophony moves effortlessly between Anatolian, Greek, Bulgarian, modal jazz, funk and jazz-rock. This music is as smooth as it is exciting and groundbreaking. But the breakthrough is not only in the amalgam of styles, it is also in the center-staging of Orhan’s instrument, the bouzouki that makes this work astounding.
The bouzouki is historically perhaps the oldest fretted instrument of the lute family, and in its present form was considered a modification of the long-necked Turkish Saz, hence the term Bozuk (Turkish for broken, or modified). Although the instrument itself, in its earlier form, dates back to ancient Greece, one must search far and wide for its use in the jazz world. Orhan is pushing the envelope here, and in doing so has earned the name that has made him synonymous with the instrument itself - “Bouzouki Orhan.”
Orhan Osman was born in Germany in 1976, and is from Greece with Turkish roots. His first instrument was a self-made piece of wood with 4 nails and 2 pieces of clothes lines. When he was 13, he embraced the bouzouki as his main instrument and quickly became known as a wedding and tavern musician, playing all-night sessions in Western Thrace, before moving to Athens, where he played on the main Rebetiko stages.
Noted for his personal warmth and broad experience in so many musical styles, through the past years Orhan has been invited to host a number of national Turkish television shows, appearing with a long list of musical celebrities in a variety of programs that have served not only to excite audiences, but to expand Orhan’s own view of music and how to integrate these into his own personal genre.
In Turkophony, unusual textures abound; listen to the “Weather-Report” like bass lines played percussively on bass clarinet and the polyrhythmic wizardry of drummer Dave Weckl (whose work with the Chick Corea Electric Band was seminal), combined with the pyrotechnics of keyboardist Eric Levy, who slides in and out of makam-like synthesizer settings and hot 1970’s Rhodes piano pentatonic sheets of sound. After all that, turn your attention to the luscious bamboo flute raga of Serkan Bagkesen soaring above the band. If this all sounds improbable, think of the hard-driving grooves of James Brown, then add a blend of Coltrane, Balkan, Georgian, middle eastern and far eastern makams and ragas, and you have Turkophony.
The result is breathtaking. According to the Turkish press, “Orhan is filled not only with a passion for music, but for journey as well. He summons his audience to discover the world... [and] shoots you right in your heart with thousands of emotions.”