Friday, 27 September 2013

Presenting Kurdish Singer Çiğdem Aslan, a rising star in the revival of Rebetiko.

This talented Kurdish singer whose name is pronounced Cheedem is trying to revive the musical genre Rebetiko, once considered socially degenerative and as a result banned in Turkey and Greece.

For those of you not in the know this genre was the bitter-sweet songs of an exiled underclass, performed in dubious Greek and Turkish establishments with strong roots in Izmir. More than a genre it was a culture that united these two nations. It wasn't long till both countries outlawed it due to its underworld connections and as too oriental.

Çiğdem's album Mortissa (meaning a strong independent woman) features Smyrneika (Smyrna = Izmir) and Rebetiko songs in Greek and Turkish but also with musical roots in Anatolia.

Rebetiko, sometimes called the 'Blues of the Aegean' came into existence during the turbulent 1920s. It is the music of the alternative, the underground scene, the music of freedom-loving people and is therefore appropriate for the current situation in Istanbul. 2013 is not the first time that the beautiful city of Istanbul has been in turmoil.

As singer Çiğdem Aslan, who was born to Kurdish Alevi parents not far from Taksim Square, the focus for the pro-democracy protests, has felt concerned and deeply involved, even from a distance. 

Although there have been many recordings of Rebetiko over the years, Çiğdem Aslan presents a fresh take, an immigrant herself from her homeland, a person from a minority ethnic group, a female singer in a usually male genre. But above all she brings personality and a voice that communicates deeply, the kind of voice that can help unlock the riches and relevance of this “Blues of the Aegean” to new audiences. 

Having made her mark singing as front singer of award-winning She’Koyokh Klezmer Ensemble in which she has won plaudits for the “clear, natural ease” with which she sings (Songlines Magazine) and her “no-nonsense from the heart passion" (fRoots Magazine), and also having graced the stage at the Royal Albert Hall as opening act for Turkish diva Sezen
Aksu and for Yasmin Levy at London’s Cadogan Hall, with this debut album Çiğdem is ready to take the stage as a star in her own right.

Çiğdem has a sweet and delightful tone to her voice, which is effortlessly complemented by the fellow artists that feature on Mortissa. The fusion of Turkish and Greek music that is Rebetiko/Smyrneika can be felt especially the joyful instrumental melodies.

I loved the way in which the violin and woodwind instruments fit seamlessly into the somber tone of track 3 -  To Dervisaki. Track 8 - Nenni also deserves a special mention as Cigdem's vocals are in a class of their own, as the track features minimal backing but instead relies solely on raw lyrics.

Track 9 - Cakici sounds like it is backed by a full sized orchestra.

Generally all the songs featured on Mortissa were an absolute delight to my ears, so much so that I was hard pushed to choose a favourite track as they all appealed to me in their own special way.

Mortissa is on official release from Monday, September the 30th but can be pre-ordered from
Amazon by clicking here -

Çiğdem is also set to perform at Vortex on Friday the 11th, Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th of October, tickets for these gigs can be purchased through the events section of her Facebook page.

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Post By - Boulent Mustafa

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