Mixed Media: Music
Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu (Hologram Empire)
by Gaye Su Akyol (Glitterbeat Records 040, CD, LP+digital)
A long time has elapsed since the release of Fatih Akin’s Crossing the Bridge, his 2005 documentary on the sheer diversity of sounds emanating from the then-contemporary clubs of Istanbul. This recent silence is one that makes the drama of Gaye Su Akyol’s Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu (Hologram Empire) all the more welcome. Akyol’s theatrical twist on Turkey’s traditional folk forms is exhilarating – especially when her smoky voice is paired with a thumping surf rock band that rumbles away behind her.
In some ways, Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu is a paean to the figure of the diva. Akyol’s voice rises and falls, twists and turns like a Middle Eastern Siouxsie, with all the theatricality characteristic of the post-punk Banshees. But for all the tips of the hat to the big names of Western rock – Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick is present in spirit – Akyol’s dialogue also extends back into history, to the grainy voices of Greco-Turkish rembetika and more recently great singers such as Selda Bagcan. The latter, who expressed a brave defiance towards Turkey’s military governments in the 1980s, hovers over Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu like a beam of inspiration. Akyol’s title already feels like a sharp jab against current political repression there, and a love song can be a vehicle for expressing dangerous thoughts, which are here aplenty.
by Kefaya (Radio International Records RIR01, CD + digital)
‘The chains of nationalism seek to restrain us within borders and boundaries,’ reads a statement from the British-based Kefaya, an international musical collective organized around Giuliano Modarelli and Al MacSween. Their stance, and that of their collaborators, is based in the very word, ‘kefaya’: in Egyptian Arabic it means ‘enough’ and it was a word much in evidence during that country’s Arab Spring protests.
Kefaya’s internationalism manifests itself in its range of musical influences, many roughly within the vicinity of the Mediterranean but also tapping into Indian classical song, courtesy of Deborshee Bhattercharjee. The concept of music as a radio station that transmits its message across boundaries is not new; for Kefaya, the process of recording and broadcasting is a political act.
Radio International is a 14-track album that uses flamenco, sound system reverberations and Arabic ouds to make its case for justice. Italian folk, including the 1940s anti-fascist song ‘Bella Ciao’, is pressed into action. Radio clips appear between some tracks: one, detailing the desperate state of migrants attempting to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, precedes ‘New Routes’. It is rootsy reggae in format but Alessia Tondo’s lyrics are a lamentation. One of the undoubted highlights is ‘Intifada’, an explosive mix of droning electronics, blistering oud from the Palestinian player Ahmed Eriqat and looped protest chants recorded in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. ‘Whistleblower’, a brooding electronic track, closes this excellent debut and you can imagine the pulses of digital subversion buzzing through it.
This article is from
the November 2016 issue
of New Internationalist.
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