Her brand new album Hevra (Together), is Aynur’s first in four years and sees her established format of mixing traditional, Kurdish musical origins with new influences, taken to a new level, creating a more diverse an ever more colourful sound. At the heart of the new sound is the Spanish composer, producer and flamenco guitar virtuoso Javier Limón. The five-time Latin Grammy winner has enriched Aynur´s music through his signature guitar tones and together they have created a new and unique fusion of Kurdish music and Spanish flamenco. Aynur makes the most and her strong expressive voice completes the picture, making Hevra a gorgeous piece of work and one of this year’s discoveries.
Aynur may not be a new name to all of you. She released her debut back in 2002 in her native Turkey, and it caused sufficiently large ripples through the world music community to set up a number of collaborations including some film soundtrack work. In 2004 fRoots Magazine put her on their cover and The Times followed suit for a special supplement on Turkish culture.
Aynur is Kurdish and in 2005, with growing international standing she attracted more publicity, falling foul of the delicate political balance in Turkey. Her Keçe Kurdan album was deemed to support the Kurdish separatist cause, inciting women in particular to head for the hills in rebellion. All copies were ordered to be removed from the shelves by court edict, although the decision was overturned within a few months. It’s tempting to think that both the title Hevra and the fact that the lyrics and indeed her website appear in Kurdish, Turkish and English might finally quash such thinking, however delicate the balance.
In so many ways ‘world music’ is an unhelpful term, a convenient tag where lots of music is lumped into one polyglot category that offers no explanation of the variety involved. Yet without it, it’s doubtful that this review would be being written. There’s also the sense of the fusion, which liberates the music from some of its geographical boundaries, whilst paradoxically drawing on specific roots and traditional music forms. Whilst it might be overly fanciful to suggest that such fusions then belong to the wider world, it at least speaks of the common language of music that we share and our experience of it is as much shared as it is exclusive.
Just look at the five-time Latin Grammy winner Javier Limón, who has worked with such illustrious names as Jasmin Levi and Buika in the past. He enriches Aynur´s music through his Spanish flamenco guitar tones massively, yet also has an ear for the distinctive tones of Kurdish instruments such as the flute like ney and bilûr, or the two or three stringed tembûr. He’s not afraid to combine them with bass and percussion, piano, cello, clarinet, bouzouki and even the sounds of flamenco dancing. Yet he does it all without crowding the soundstage and more crucially still allowing Aynur’s considerable vocal skills to take centre stage.
Proof of her range and power is amply demonstrated by the two live tracks, the traditional Sîsilê and Xerîw, which translates as Poor Fellow. The latter sees her accompanied by just a sparsely arranged piano that almost strays into a sort of minimalist jazz vibe. There is the hint of war in the separation between father and son, with mountains between them. But the son also knows he’s on the wrong path. The former is an equally powerful performance and again the setting is just a single instrument, although this time the tembûr. Again there is conflict afoot and Aynur voice is swathed in echo at the finale.
As for the instrumental palate, the opener, Pȇs Nare (It Makes No Headway), is nicely complex, starting with a flurry of Spanish guitar, that has it’s ear bent to a tune from the opposite end of the Mediterranean featuring tembûr, the distinctive ney, with a nice clarinet interjection. Aynur’s voice is more wistful in tone than the live tracks highlighted above and the song seems to be a search for peace of mind.
By contrast Ûrmiye is playful and flirtatious and one of the lightest and prettiest songs on the record, which in turn makes more of a dramatic impact of Sîsilê which follows. Tobedar im, which follows in turn, is urgent and driven along with a percussive rattle, funky bass and some more extremely tasty nylon strung guitar. The layering of voices is used to good effect, sometimes with just Aynur but also the use of backing singers and flamenco voices.
The mood continues to shift with Derya Kenarinda Bir Ev Yapmişam offering us another lament, this time at the hopelessness of love and the need to leave the house built by the sea. Min Digo Melê translates as My Little Angel, which has a sprightly dancing tune. Diyarbekir is both wistful and powerful in it’s mid section, as it appeals for peace but also laments the sorrows, again presumably of conflict that has blighted the region from all sides.
Arguably the album saves its best for last and after the second live track, there are three of the best songs on the album. Reng Esmerê (Come, Come You With The Nut Coloured Skin) is simply framed with guitar and percussion and what sound like the equivalent of a tabla. Dil Ji Min Bir (She Stole My Heart Away) is built around guitar and Laúd, with a nice skittering percussion and varying tempo. Again the layering of Aynur voice also changes the focal point and emotional pull of the music.
Of all the tracks though, Yar Melek e (My Lover Is An Angel)is just sublime, but busy with its complex shifting rhythms. It also features flamenco dance and probably makes the strongest case for this cultural fusion. Although perhaps it’s simply that it caps a very strong album that just gets better with each spin.
The jury is probably out on the translations. In one way it’s nice to get a sense of what the song is about, but the directly transcribed English equivalent doesn’t best serve the obvious subtlety of expression in Aynur’s wonderful voice, coming across as rather stark and blunt. Still that’s a minor quibble and you certainly don’t have to read them to enjoy this CD. Nor do you have to be Kurdish, Turkish or Spanish. The sole requirement is a desire to hear some wonderful music. Press play and you’re away.
Review by: Simon Holland
Hevra is out now via Membran / Network