GREECE/TURKEY: Both Sides of the Aegean - Hüsnü Şenlendirici & Trio Chios
A folk album with a lovely sentiment, this album aims to showcase the shared musical heritage of their two nations
One of the great joys of music is its ability to bring people together, despite other factors that may otherwise divide them, be it religion, language, culture, or the political relationships between their respective countries. Often the fractures in societies and between countries that are laid out before us seem unsurpassable, but occasionally cultural projects can try to bridge the gap. That is the apparent aim of Both Sides of the Aegean, a collaborative album by Turkish musician Hüsnü Senlendirici and Greek folk ensemble Trio Chios. Though Greece and Turkey have been at the centre of political and diplomatic disputes and conflicts for many decades, as is always the case, the reality between the people of these countries is often very different, and this album helps to show another path forward. The album title, referring to the Aegean Sea that is found between Greece and Turkey, aims to bring together the two nations that sit aside the aforementioned body of water through a shared history of folk music. Senlendirici is a clarinettist, and Trio Chios play a selection of bouzoukis, and together they have managed to create a musical style that is very much Aegean, rather than specifically Turkish or Greek.
“It is beautiful music that charms and delights in equal measure.”
The album is mostly a collection of instrumental songs that combine virtuoso clarinet playing with the beautiful backdrop of Greek bouzoukis and almost Middle-Eastern drumming and rhythms. It’s a rather lovely combination, with a great example being Pare Te Hnaria Mou. It really sums up the selling point of the album, a fusion between two similar styles that help create something new from old traditions. Some songs, like Ta Ziliarika Sou Maria which could almost be used in the soundtrack to a remake of Zorba the Greek, are clearly more in the Greek style than the Turkish one for example, and Entarisi Ala Benziyor to my ears sounds more Turkish, but it still helps to create the overall impression of fusion. That said, there are some great vocals on this album as well, with perhaps my favourites being Gel Gel Kayikci, which has a beautiful, almost mournful tone of longing to the vocals, as well as the two versions of Bekledim De Gelmedin, one of which has male vocals and the other female, both of which work spectacularly well with this entrancing song.
The album is very consistent. I’ve named a few of my favourite songs above, but equally I could have picked others in their place. Senlendirici and Trio Chios are all consummate musicians, and there’s nothing I can nitpick at and say was worse than anything else. While this also means there is no standout track either, and it never reaches dizzying heights of musical ecstasy, that doesn’t necessarily matter. It is beautiful music that charms and delights in equal measure. I also feel that because of this overall pleasantness and consistency, I certainly got the vibe of it straight away and I enjoyed it from the off. If you’re new to this sort of music and are interested to get to know a new genre, this collection of tunes would be a great place to start. I would be remiss not to mention the political aspect to a piece like this, which I personally find admirable. These efforts might be dismissed as well-meaning but pointless, failing to resolve any grievances, not making any material change. They may well be right. As we have seen throughout history, the sentiments of individuals and communities can be completely swept up by the contrary actions of governments. However, it remains my view that while sitting down and playing music with each other won’t change the world, it can’t hurt either.