Ken Belferman
United States
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MESEL Kicks Out the Ethno Jams MESEL takes ancient Middle Eastern and Asian instruments, adds some traditional folk music and jazz, and invigorates a relatively new musical idea. Apostolos Sideris is a bassist who graduated from Berklee College of Music and has a lot of experience playing jazz in New York. While researching the interaction between jazz and Eastern music, Sideris met Sinan Ayyildiz, a bağlama player who was touring in America at the time and who shared the same musical interest. Following their move to Istanbul, Turkey, Apostolos and Sinan formed the Ethno Jazz group MESEL. Sideris and Ayyildiz were later joined by Ismet Aydın on vocals. Aydin is  fluent in the sound techniques of Anatolia (the westernmost portion of Asia, which makes up the majority of Turkey), as well as trained in classical and jazz. Added as a guest to the group is famed kemane performer Uğura Önür. The group’s foundation is the folk music of Anatolia and its neighboring regions. MESEL’s aim is “to honor tradition but at the same time to modernize those traditions by adding elements from jazz and other styles of music.”     “The idea is to redefine and explore these traditions in a modern way without [these traditions] losing their originality and folk element that gives them their soulfulness.” MESEL is planning to record their first album by the end of the summer, after doing some touring in Turkey and abroad. A few academic words about the instruments for all you musicologists out there: The kabak kemane is a bowed Turkish folk instrument, with a body made from vegetable marrow or wood. The handle is hardwood and there’s a thin wooden or metal rod underneath the body which enables the instrument to move to the left or right. The bow is made from horse hair. In the past, the strings were made from gut but have now been replaced by metal ones. The kabak kemane is especially useful for playing chromatic scales. The bağlama is shared by various cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean, Near East, and Central Asia. It’s sometimes referred to as a saz, and has been used in a variety of musical forms, including Ottoman classical, Turkish folk, Azeri, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Armenian music. Stringed instruments resembling the bağlama have been found in archaeological excavations of Sumerian and Hittite mounds in Anatolia dating before the Common Era, and in ancient Greek works. MESEL’s first single, Getme (Don’t Go), was recently featured on World Music Network’s website as one of the top videos for July. Some listeners may not hear this type of music as having anything to do with jazz. To these listeners I would say that jazz is more than a musical construct – it’s also a state of mind. The high level of musicianship, creativity and passion with which MESEL approaches their music places them squarely in the same camp as some of America’s great jazz innovators. MESEL is not “new age” jazz – it’s jazz for a new age.   [ MESEL on Facebook ]   This article originally appeared 8-6-2014 on Ben Cisco's World of Music .   more
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