Mercan Dede @ Joe's Pub
Dede's flute: alive in spirit
July 18, 2004
What is it within us that compels us to categorize and label? Several
performances this week will challenge audiences to give those
pigeonholing faculties a rest and simply appreciate what they see and
hear for the singular experiences they will be.
Turkish-born Mercan Dede plays music that is rooted in his study of the
Middle Eastern flute called the ney and of the 13th century Sufi
philosopher Rumi, but he makes use of state-of-the-art electronics.
Dede says he's fine with any label people give his music, but that
"names and titles, I believe, are the reason we are unhappy."
Born Arkin Illicali in a small Turkish village, Dede studied journalism
in Istanbul, then relocated to Canada, where he eventually became a DJ
under the name Arkin Allen. When he put his two musical worlds together,
he chose another name, Mercan Dede, from a feisty old character in a
novel. Now he is rereleasing two of his discs as one set, "Sufi
Traveler" (Caroline), for U.S. distribution.
Because "dede" means "grandfather" in Turkish, when he returned to play
his hybrid music in Turkey several years ago, many people were surprised
he wasn't a grumpy codger playing the ney. Now, he says, more young
people no longer see the ney as old-fashioned and have taken up playing
it. "People started to realize that if you can make something alive, it
doesn't matter if it's 13th century or contemporary."
The philosopher Rumi, Dede says, believed that music "was the highest
form of prayer," and that instruments such as the ney had the power to
dissolve "the wall between God and human."
But, he says, the instruments, whether a simple flute or a computer,
"have no meaning - you put the meaning in them."
The power of music, he says, is that it "has the capacity to give
everyone the feeling of being alive."
However, Dede adds, "I'm not interested in music. I'm interested in
sound, and it doesn't matter what the source of that sound is, whether
it comes from the lightning or if it comes from a ney. Somehow you catch
this wonderful harmony that's there, and in that moment you feel
connected to that. That's what I'm really interested in."
Dede will play three shows in the area this week: Monday at Joe's Pub,
(425 Lafayette St., Manhattan, 212-539-8778), Friday at Celebrate
Brooklyn in Prospect Park (Prospect Park West at Ninth Street, Brooklyn,
718-965-8999) and Saturday at Satalla (37 W. 26th St., Manhattan,
At The Public Theater in January, Dede played alongside three
traditional instrumentalists and behind a bank of his "toys," which
included CD players that allowed him to pull a bass line off one tune
while sampling his bandmates as they played. As the group improvised
melody lines on top of hypnotic grooves, a young woman spun like the
Sufi sect's famous Whirling Dervishes, who spin to connect with an
ecstatic, higher consciousness.
Marty Lipp can be reached at Martylipp@hotmail.com.
Copyright (c) 2004, Newsday, Inc.
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