Sufi-electronic sounds swirled into the Saint-Denis cathedral on Tuesday night and the 1300 captive audience set out on an audio-visual journey of Istanbul through the centuries. When Turkish born, Montreal-based musician, DJ, and ney player Mercan Dede took the stage with a cross-cultural, multi-talented troop of musicians he moved beyond theoretical treaties and peace accords and displayed that music is the ultimate unifier.
Following the April release of his latest album, Nefes (Breath), Mercan Dede was invited to Paris to serve as artistic director for the “creation” portion of the 38th Festival de Saint-Denis.
Entitled “La Tentation d’Istanbul (The Temptation of Istanbul), Mercan Dede created a program that highlights what was left in the rubble of the Ottoman Empire when it crumbled into obscurity a century ago. Drawing heavily on the rich cultural and ethnic traditions of the vast Ottoman Empire of yesteryear, the program was divided into five segments. Beginning with a slideshow of images from Istanbul to accompany the opening “Where the Journey Begins”, the real pictures were soon replaced by pictures imagined to the voices of Armenian vocalists Sibil Pektorsoglu and Lusi Kahvecioglu in the “Garden of Anatolia” portion of the show.
During “Moonlight”, the Kurdish songstress Aynur Dogan treated the crowd to a spellbinding finale. Accompanied by Göksel Baktagir on the kanun, Yurdal Tokcan on the ud, Aykut Sütoğlu on the clarinet, Neva Özgen on the fiddle, Serkan Çağrı on the clarinet and constant collaborator Hugh Marsh on the electric violin, Mercan Dede & co. entertained the full house under the Gothic flying buttresses and enchanted the hundreds of fans viewing the concert on screens set up outside the royal necropolis’ sold-out doors.
Receiving a standing ovation from the packed house, Mercan Dede’s music transcends manmade “concrete” definitions and floats above feuding factions in a world where the rule is understanding and the law is to make, create, and live music that is not only beautiful to listen to, but also a powerful and pacific path to peace and harmony. On June 14 Mercan Dede will perform a DJ set in the shantytown of Villetaneuse to propel the marginalized and disenfranchised immigrant community to non-violent action. Recently the subject of international scrutiny due to the riots caused by ethnic tensions, Mercan Dede reminded a divided and disillusioned Paris how much more beauty inclusiveness can bring to our ever-pale, divided world.
Continuing to lead by example, Mecan Dede spreads his message of peace and understanding using music as his platform on June 16th, 17th, and 18th with concerts at Magic Mirror in Paris.