Saturday, May 3, 2008

Abidin Ensemble,Nazim Hikmet's poetry

The Abidin Ensemble presented an evening of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet’s poems January 12 at Confederation House in Yemin Moshe. The Abidin Ensemble was formed in 2001. Together with singer Victoria Serruya, ‘cellist Yagi Malka, double-bass player Ehud Gelreich and percussionist Oren Fried form the group which uses a diverse range of musical sources, including western classical styles to Middle Eastern modes and ethnic jazz to produce a unique fusion of sound and form. Poems not set to music, translated into Hebrew by T.Carmi and projected onto a screen, were read by Zvi Jagendorf and some black and white photographsof Hikmet shown added authenticity to the evening.

Nazim Hikmet was born in 1902 in Salonika and grew up in Istanbul. Popularly known and critically acclaimed in Turkey as the first and foremost modern Turkish poet, he was a fighter for his Communist conviction and paid the price of persecution, imprisonment and exile. He died in Moscow in 1963. Hikmet’s wish had been to bring his humanistic message to the world.

The Abidin Ensemble’s performance focuses on poems written between 1938 and 1955, documenting Hikmet’s experiences in prison and his longing for freedom. Hebrew translations by Aza Tsvi of songs sung in Turkish by Serruya were also shown on the screen for the benefit of the audience. Serruya, an actress who has also made a study of Arabic music, was first introduced to the songs by musician and accordionist, Tuval Fater. Turkish exiles in Paris produced a recording of Hikmet’s songs. Erdam Buri’s melodies were the inspiration for Serruya to learn and perform the songs. The singer began working on the material with ‘cellist Yagi Malka, the group’s musical director. Malka is a member of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Gelreich and Fried joined them later and the program was first aired in 2002. Gelreich’s background is orchestral; however, he plays ethnic- and jazz music in ensembles. Fried, a teacher and jazz musician, is involved in ethnic-, African- and Jewish music.

As the evening opens with a plaintive ‘cello solo, you take leave of the world outside and enter the haunting, introspective atmosphere of Hikmet’s mind and soul. Musical arrangements are exotic, oriental and delicate: the instrumentalists are communicative and expressive and a sense of spontaneity pervades the program. Serruya’s singing is powerful and compelling. Although not a native Turkish speaker, she uses the language as a means of evoking color and emotion. There are songs and poems about village life and people, about war and imprisonment, about the poet’s loves, about nature’s colors and changes. A Turkish folk song, “Urganda Gerdan Iniler” finds its way into the program. It is vehement and intense, with ‘cello and double bass being plucked, with a delicate drum backing them. Jazz rhythms color the texture. Two of Hikmet’s poems, composed and arranged by Yagi Malka, are sung in Hebrew.

Zionist Confederation House was the ideal venue for this concert. Behind the stage, two arched windows looked out onto the walls of the Old City. The combination of fine musicianship and poignant readings was a good one. It was an evening of magic, a sobering but inebriating experience.

“From the Day I was Tossed into Here”
A tribute to the poetry of Nazim Hikmet
Abidin Ensemble
Victoria Serruya-vocals
Yagi Malka-‘cello
Ehud Gelreich-double bass
Oren Fried-percussions
Zvi Jagendorf-readings
The Confederation House
January 12, 2008

No comments: