Spirit of Turkey & India with Master Musicians
October 3rd, 1999
Ihsan Özgen (kemenche, tanbur & rebab)
Turkish Classical Music
October 8, 1999
Benefit Concert for The Turkish Earthquake Relief Fund
October 9th, 1999
Ihsan Özgen (kemenche, tanbur & rebab)
Born into a musical family in Urfa, Southeastern Turkey in 1942, Ihsan Özgen was immersed in the sound of Turkish music as a child and he absorbed the language of music as innately and naturally as he acquired his native tongue. Learning to play Turkish instruments at such an early age has made music the first language of this eloquent performer who seeks to construct new forms of expression using dialects from many times and places to create phrases that can be evocatively understood by all who hear the haunting voice of his kemençe.
Self-taught, Özgen performs on kemençe (kemenche), lavta, violoncello and tanbur but the kemençe remains his first love. He has applied new techniques to the instrument, such as new left hand positions and bow techniques, that he learned studying violoncello and violin while at University. Özgen’s kemençe playing evokes soft, full and rich sounds from this instrument and he is renowned for his sublime kemençe playing and melodic taksims (improvisations). Özgen’s virtuosity on a variety of instruments has led him to be hailed as the new Cemil Bey: a legendary turn-of-the-century performer and composer noted for his brilliance on a variety of instruments and a master musician who’s works Özgen has intently studied and absorbed. His expertise is such that in 1976 Özgen became the head teacher for tanbur, kemençe and lavta at the Istanbul Conservatory.
After working for the State Radio of Istanbul and Ankara at the beginning of his career, Özgen decided to pursue his interest in presenting Turkish music within a broader context by incorporating the new with the old. He performed internationally with Turkey’s foremost musicians including Necdet Yasar, Niyazi Sayin and Kudsi Ergüner. He worked on Renaissance music with Mutlu Torun and, in 1993, he performed with Dutch improvisational composers Guus Janssen and Theo Loevendie.
In 1991, Ìhsan Özgen was awarded the Abdi Ipekçi Peace Award in recognition of his work with the Bosphorus Ensemble - a group composed of Turkish and Greek musicians. By bringing together musicians from these two historically hostile and warring nations, Özgen illustrated how music can serve as a universal language of peace used to create harmony out of discordant situations. Appropriately, Özgen has named his most recent ensemble Anatolia. Regarded by many as the cradle of civilization, Anatolia (or Asia Minor) has been the meeting point of many of the world’s cultures over the centuries. Consisting of professional radio musicians, teachers from the school of and graduate and undergraduate students, Anatolia covers new and old music from Turkey, Iran, Arabia, Greece, the Balkans, the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
Özgen’s label, Golden Horn Records will be releasing two new recordings by this Turkish master in 1999 and 2000. The first, Remembrances of Ottoman Composers is a solo recording of taksims on kemençe. The second is a live recording of a concert at the Ottawa Museum of Civilization in November, 1998. For this concert, Özgen shared the stage with highly respected Canadian violinist Hugh Marsh and the Mercan Dede Ensemble for a performance that gently stretched the boundaries of tradition while still bowing respectfully to the rich musical heritage of antiquity.
Özgen has brought his knowledge and love of Turkish music to North America as both a musician and an academic on many occasions. He has lectured and participated in seminars on the practical and theoretical rules of Turkish music in Boston and at the New England School of Art, Wesleyan and Maryland Universities. Currently the head of the Stringed Instrument Department at ITU Turkish Music Conservatory where he teaches in kemençe, tanbur and lavta playing techniques and history, Özgen has also written a book in which he considers the significance of Tanburi Cemil Bey’s taksims.
Shujaat Hussain Khan
Shujaat Khan is amongst the finest sitarists of the younger generation. He is the son and deciple of the sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan, a legend in his own lifetime. Shujaat Khan (born 1960) represents the seventh generation in an unbroken lineage of distinguished musicians, known as the Etawah Gharana (tradition/family). This family, which regards Shujaat’s great grandfather, Ustad Imdat Khan (died 1920) as its fountainhead, has developed a distinctive style of playing plucked instruments which simulates the vocal idiom with utmost fidelity.
Shujaat Khan started life with a priceless advantage- having Vilayat Khan as guru, and being exposed to him all hours of the day during the most formative years of his life. Close associates of Vilayat Khan observed the painstaking grooming young Shujaat received from his father in order to carry family’s torch into the next century. This is important because Vilayat Khan, having lost his father Ustad Inayet Khan (died 1938) when he was barely eleven, is largely self-made musician. Vilayat Khan’s training with both his father and his uncle Ustad Waheed Khan (died 1961) constitutes an unconscious legacy which he can impart only unconsciously to his desciples. But this legacy is a relatively minor part of Vilayat Khan’s music. The dominant facet of the Vilayet Khan magic is the creation of his own genius which is therefore amenable to a far more explicit process of revelation. Thus, in comparison with his contemporaries on the concert platform, Shujaat Khan has been a uniquely privileged recipient of training.
Although, as a rebellious adolescent, Shujaat Khan thought little of the responsibility and the opportunity offered to him by destiny. He has matured into a serious contender for the No.1 position amongst sitarists. Within ten years of hitting the concert circuit, Shujaat Khan has established himself as a mature and original musician. Aficionados of Vilayat Khan’s music will find that every time they expect a "patent" Vilayat Khan phase, Shujaat comes up with something fresh, but stylistically consistent. Shujaat Khan is not only bringing sitar music close to vocalism, but also infusing a fresh sensitivity into the treatment of the music appropriate to plucked instruments.
Shujaat Khan’s music reflects all the strength of the Hindustani classical music tradition. It represents a stylistic continuity with Vilayat Khan’s music without ever becoming a victim of the Vilayat Khan cliche. It is rooted in tradition, yet reaches out to modernity. Shujaat Khan has been performing and touring both in India and around the world ever since. He has played at many of India’s most prestigious music festivals and has traveled abroad extensively, visiting nearly all of the countries in western and eastern Europe and Scandinavia as well as the United States, Canada, and Japan, China, Mongolia and other far eastern countries. In 1993-94 Shujaat Khan was artist-in-residence at the School of Music of the University of Washington in Seattle.
As the daughter of highly respected Turkish classical musician Ihsan Özgen, Neva Özgen grew up in Istanbul surrounded by Turkish classical music and jazz. Perhaps as a means to carve her own path, Neva’s first expressed interest was in Western classical music and the flute. She learned to play both soprano and alto flutes but soon after entering the Istanbul Technical University Conservatory she switched to clarinet. It wasn't long before her interest in Turkish Classical music overtook her interest in Western classical traditions and she decided to study the kemenche, an instrument integral to Turkish classical music.
Ironically, it was during this period that her father began to experiment and pursue his interest in jazz and other forms of music. While her father, and main influence, Ihsan Özgen focused on playing experimental, cross-cultural, jazz pieces and taksims, Neva pursued her interest in Turkish classical music. She honed her skills as an accompanist and ensemble player studying under Alaeddin Yavasca. Neva has deeply immersed herself in the works and taksims of Tanburi Cemil Bey and her recent influences include composer and performer Munir Nurettin Selcuk and Bekir Sidki Sezgin. Like many kemenche players in Turkey today, she aims to continue the tradition established by Tanburi Cemil Bey which was passed on to her father. Ihsan Özgen’s influence on his daughter cannot be underestimated and Neva Özgen can be considered a student of what is recognized as the 'Ihsan Özgen school' of Turkish classical music. She has accompanied him in performances of Turkish classical music in Europe and Turkey and as Ihsan Özgen moves on to explore more experimental forms of music, Neva is preparing to take over the Anatolia Ensemble. She has already played on two recordings, Aegean and Balkan Dances and Masterworks of Itri and Meragi, by the Turkish classical Anatolia Ensemble which her father led for many years. Neva is also featured on a recording titled Women Composers and Performers of Turkish Classical Music.
Though Neva’s primary passion is Turkish classical music, she has inherited her father’s adventurous spirit as well as his talent. Neva has performed with Orbestra in England and performed last year with American jazz musician Butch Morris’ group in New York alongside Turkish ney player Suleyman Erguner. Recently she performed with Canadian violinist Hugh Marsh, percussionist Ben Grossman and vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon in the Mercan Dede Ensemble which blends Eastern and Western musical traditions. Neva believes that a musician must be well versed in the classical works of master composers but she also believes that classical forms of music can be expanded and built upon through improvisation. Truly her father's daughter, she believes in searching for new idioms through playing with the classics and that all new musical languages are built upon the foundations of the past.
Pranesh Khan is a master tabla player whose musical career includes performances with many noted European, American, and Indian musicians, including the Philadelphia String Quartet, Paul Horn, John Handy, Alice Coltrane and the Shanti and Third Eye fusion bands, Ali Akbar Khan, Aashish Khan, Nikhil Banerjee, Laksmi Shankar and G.S. Sachdev. Pranesh Khan is familiar to and beloved of Bay Area audiences, draws on the great heritages of his grandfather Baba Allauddin Khan and father Ali Akbar Khan. He has studied tabla with masters Kanai Datta, Shankar Ghosh, Alla Rakha and Zakir Hussain. He is currently studying with master Swapan Chaudhuri.