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Friday, November 21, 2008

Of Things Turkish

Recommendations of Things Turkish; Cappadocia in Turkey, Ancient Turkish Music in Europe, Turkish film Issiz Ada and Louis de Bernieres' 2005 novel Birds Without Wings

I've decided to share a small collection of interesting sites in recommendation of things Turkish. These Turkish flavoured links are connected by the fact that they also indicate how Turkish things are often isolated, overlooked or an acquired taste to the modern western world.

Recommendations of Things Turkish

  1. Ancient Turkish Music in Europe (16th - 18th centuries), Kecskes Ensemble, Hungaroton Classic (2003): This is a little-known Hungarian classical album with a remarked difference. Presenting classical releases of Turk-esque compositions, and recorded in the mosque named after Suleiman the Magnificent, it highlights the links between Hungarian and Turkish music, and the impact of three centuries of Ottoman musicality on the continent's classical conscience.

  2. "Ugh, the Ottomans", John Lusk, The Guardian (July, 2007): Continuing with the tentative relationship between Turkish music and Europe but this time in its modern incarnation, in his article for The Guardian, Lusk investigates why music from a nation of more than 70 million on Europe's doorstep has remained so obscure, suggesting it is indicative of Turkey's wider isolation from the West after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The article highlights the ever increasing conundrum of Turkish identity amongst modern Turks, too.

  3. Louis de Bernieres' Birds Without Wings (2005): The celebrated author, well-known for his book Captain Corelli's Mandolin, brings the backdrop of a collapsing Ottoman Empire to life in a sensitive love story, but what sets this lesser-known book apart is its foreign depiction of the Anatolian region of the Ottoman Empire as a community that once transcended religious differences.

    Book cover of Louis de Bernieres' Birds Without WingsIt is a rare book to come out of a western publishing house, which deviates from twentieth century propaganda to paint the Ottoman Empire as a container wherein Christian and Muslim lives and traditions had co-existed peacefully for centuries, until the outside world intrudes in the guise of World War I and the twin scourges of religion and nationalism lead to a large rip in the peaceful fabric of life. It is a view backed up by an objective research of history, but it is no surprise that the story has failed to resonate with a western consciousness seemingly tuned out to an old enemy.

    In Frank Kane's 2005 article in The Guardian, "Chasing the ghosts of a forgotten war", the travel writer goes in search of the Turkish ghost village immortalised in Louis de Bernieres' novel and finds a tragic truth in the book that the Great War had turned parts of the Ottoman Empire into a terrible sideshow.

  4. UK MSN Travel's "The world's most extraordinary landscapes presents Cappadocia, Turkey": On the subject of Turkish travel, MSN contributor Charlotte Amelines recommends the surreal volcanic landscape of Cappadocia in central Turkey as one of the world's most breathtaking in a promotional slide-show.

    The landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey © Turkish Culture and Tourism OfficeDescribed by the local Turks as fairy chimneys, towers dot the landscape that were hollowed out by ancient peoples and re-inhabited by early Christians and Byzantines. This well-kept tourist secret is a must-see in everyone's lifetime wishing for a non-typical Turkish holiday.

  5. "A Beach View of Turkey" (Joep R., flickr, 2008): From the non-typical to the typical, visual hosting site flickr holds plenty of easily recognisable views of Turkey. However, there are also photographic gems that startle with originality.

    Beach View - Beldibi Turkey © Joep RoosenOne example comes from Dutch photographer Joep Roosen's flickr photostream, which reveals a photograph that takes a different look at the popular summer resort of Beldibi in Turkey (see left pic). Beldibi is a well-known resort for sun-worshippers situated about half way between Antalya and Kemer on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, but takes on an almost ethereal quality through Roosen's lens.

  6. Çağan Irmak's Issız Adam (2008): Seen through the eye of another talented lens is a Turkish tale of modern love between a thirty-something single heartthrob chef and a feisty, independent girl in contemporary Istanbul. Depending on how you read it in Turkish, the film's title Issız Adam is a play on words that stands for "The Isolated Man" or "My Isolated Ada", which is the name of the girl and also means island. Portraying a love that arrives inexplicably and endures despite human insecurities, the film will probably remain a hidden jewel for only the most ardent of Turkish movie fans to dig up.

    Film poster for Çağan Irmak's Issız AdamIssız Adam doesn't have that much to offer in the way of originality for Western audiences, who will recognise this plot device of "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl" all too readily, however the film's director Çağan Irmak always knows how to push those buttons specific to Turkish audiences and works a tried and tested story effortlessly into the heart and mind of the viewer. It is a method I used for my book Little Miss, and similarly the film makes an attempt to give those of us peeping in from the outside an insight into what makes Turkish hearts tick, while at the same time showcasing Istanbul with a beguiling character all of its own.

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Read more about: Turkish culture | Music of Turkey

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