Faculty Recital: Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol + DÜNYA

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

At this special concert, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol & the DÜNYA Ensemble will be celebrating their 20th year. The repertoire will include classical Ottoman/Turkish music along with original jazz and concert music compositions by Sanlıkol. 


Program note

 It was exactly 20 years ago during the November of 2003 when we performed our first concert entitled “Greek & Turkish Holy Days/Sacred Music Celebration” at Harvard University’s Paine Hall. Even though that program featured traditional music, the birth of DÜNYA (the Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Greek word for “world”) was in part due to my own frustrations with the challenges of the jazz and concert music scenes in and around especially New England. Trying to book concert dates at clubs and concert halls was (and still is) nearly impossible. As a result, my wife Serap and I thought that rather than going to clubs and concert halls, we could reach out to Turkish student organizations as well as local colleges/universities through a non-profit organization in order to produce our own concert series. In order to achieve this goal, DÜNYA was co-founded by myself, my wife, Serap Kantarcı Sanlıkol, and my former professor (at NEC) and colleague Robert Labaree.

Since I was focusing on traditional Turkish and related musics in my own studies during 2003, our concert series in its early years primarily featured a diverse array of traditional Turkish and related musics with fewer jazz or contemporary music presentations. However, even when DÜNYA presented traditional music, we were always interested in creating lively programs that included unique perspectives on or unusual combinations of such repertoires. In fact, our very first concert was quite unusual due to the participating Greek Orthodox cantors as well as Turkish singers performing both the Byzantine and the Turkish Sufi music sections of that program together. That premier event was a sold out concert with Governor Michael Dukakis, a Greek-American with roots in Turkey, in attendance. Since then we have produced hundreds of concerts in the greater Boston area, toured internationally, released 14 albums, 3 singles, 1 concert film, 1 documentary film and 1 full-length film of an opera. Over the past 20 years we always tried to maintain a pluralist and an inclusive vision as a result of which the DÜNYA collective included many musicians specializing in Ottoman music, early European music, Middle Eastern Christian and Jewish music, ethnomusicology, jazz, contemporary composition and popular music. I can never thank Robert Labaree and Cem Mutlu enough for the crucial roles they played at countless DÜNYA productions. And I cannot be happier to include Beth Bahia Cohen, who has been with me on this journey since the very beginning, at tonight’s concert.

I must admit that it was not easy to come up with a way to reflect on 20 years of programming. In the end, in tonight’s program I decided to feature the kind of stylistic diversity that has been a staple of DÜNYA concerts with a focus on my own compositions and titles referring back to older programs or specific pieces. In fact, even in the opening set, which places emphasis on classical Ottoman/Turkish music, both the opening peşrev (prelude) and the closing ilüzyon (lit. illusion) are my own compositions. The two şarkı (classical songs) come from Euterpe (1830), a collection which included classical Ottoman/Turkish vocal music written in Byzantine neumes.  The Euterpe versions of these pieces are different from the way they survived in the oral tradition and our interpretation is strictly based on my transcriptions from Euterpe on which I have recently published a book. While the majority of this first set follows the conventions and norms of classical Ottoman/Turkish music strictly, the Rast İlüzyon is an unusual piece with a made-up name: there is no form named as ilüzyon in classical Ottoman/Turkish music. Since I composed the repeating section of this piece simultaneously in two different meters, 8/8 and 9/8, you can take that repeating melody and draw barlines according to 8/8 or 9/8 and it will still work musically whichever way you choose to play. As a result, I thought that the game I played here was like a musical illusion, hence the name.

The title of the second set comes from a poem by Yunus Emre, a 13th century Turkish mystic, which was also the name of our first CD released in 2005. However, I chose this title mainly because this set ended up becoming comprised entirely of my sacred music compositions influenced by Sufism (Islamic mysticism) the majority of which combine principles of Renaissance polyphony with the microtonal subtleties of the Ottoman makam (mode). While a Rast Naat by Buhurizade Mustafa Itri (1640-1712), traditionally sung by a single chanter, often precedes the rituals of the so-called whirling dervishes, my Rast Naat, opening this set, does not have a melodic connection to that piece and it is entirely polyphonic. The following piece, Şehadet, combines the Hüseyni and Uşşak makams in a similar polyphonic setting as well – both pieces are receiving their world premieres tonight. And, while Ben bir acep ile geldim adds percussion instruments and modulates through a dozen makams, the set closes with a recent composition, entitled كن (Kûn), written for violin and piano based on how the creation took place according to a particular Sufi interpretation – this piece will receive its US premiere tonight.

The third set starts out with works influenced by Renaissance polyphony as well. However, the microtonal subtleties of makam are no longer the center of focus anymore. Instead, the first piece in the Buselik Suite introduces harmonic accompaniment inspired by jazz which is the style that dominates the rest of this set. While the very strict canon in the first movement is followed by the kind of polyphonic writing reminiscent of a canzon from the early baroque in the second movement, the composition starts incorporating improvisation shortly after the bass and drums are introduced in order to set up a cathartic moment involving the entire band. The piece I chose to name this set after, My Blues, was written back in 1995 which may be my earliest composition I still like to perform. On the other hand, the final piece in this set got its world premiere with an orchestral version in Bursa, Turkey about a year ago. That entire composition takes the two main characters of the Turkish Shadow play, Karagöz, and places them on Agatha Christie’s Orient Express – this was, somehow, the only way I could imagine creating a plot that would allow me to combine jazz, classical Turkish music and Western classical music within a new composition!... This particular tune is based on the characters of Count and Countess Andrenyi from the Orient Express but they are now Mısırlızade Necati Bey ve Leman Hanım (similar to the Çelebi and Zenne found in the shadow play).

A DÜNYA tradition since our very first recording has been to connect the ‘classical’ with the ‘popular’ through improvisation. We have done this in many programs often moving from a classical Ottoman/Turkish vocal piece to vocal improvisation through which we transition to a recent Turkish pop song. This was our way of connecting and contrasting two different people commenting on a similar theme (such as love) from different centuries... Tonight we will have another piece from Euterpe, attributed to Indian musicians, speaking of mighty rulers and their thrones start our final set. Following our DÜNYA formula, we will then move from this classical vocal piece to a number of improvisations by several different instruments and voices. We will eventually get to the Turkish arrangement of a French pop song from the 70s which remains incredibly famous in Turkey. The Turkish lyrics of this pop song referring to the many ways of this world, our dünya, is perhaps the most fitting way to end this concert.                                                                 
Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol


This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community herehttps://necmusic.edu/live.

  • Mal Barsamian, clarinet, oud
  • Yandi Chen, piano
  • Beth Bahia Cohen, bowed tanbur, violin
  • Rick DiMazio, soprano saxophone
  • Burcu Güleç, voice, percussion
  • James Heazlewood-Dale, double bass
  • Betram Lehmann, percussion
  • George Lernis, drums, percussion
  • Dan Meyers, sackbut
  • Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, piano, rebab, oud, voice
  • Sophia Szokolay, violin
  • Mark Tipton, trumpet, flugelhorn

    Improvisation:     Oud Taksim

    Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol:     Pencgah Peşrev  (instrumental prelude)

    Anonymous:     Nihavend Şarkı

    Kemençeci Usta Yanni (19th c.):     Mahur Şarkı
    Text: Anonymous

    Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol:     Rast İlüzyon

  2. COME SEE WHAT LOVE HAS DONE TO ME (Gel gör beni Aşk neyledi)

    All music composed/arranged by Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol

    Rast Naat
    World premiere
    Text: Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi    

    Şehadet  (Islamic profession of faith)
    World premiere

    Ben bir acep ile geldim
    Text: Yunus Emre

    كن(Kûn): 7 Vignettes Portraying the Creation According to Islam
    US Premiere
          Nur (Light)

          Kûn (Be)
          Eflâk (Galaxies)

          Anâsır (Elements)
          Mevâlîd (Kingdoms)
          İnsan (Man)
          Hû (He)


    All music composed/arranged by Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol

    Buselik Suite       

    My Blues

    Mısırlızade Necati Bey ve Leman Hanım
    (Çelebi ve Zenne)[Count and Countess Andrenyi]
    Text: Anonymous

  4. BU NE DÜNYA KARDEŞİM (What a world, brother)

    Bowed Tanbur Taksim

    Music/possibly text: Hintliler:     Bestenigar Nakış 
    (classical song)
    (lit. Indians)  

    Modulating improvisation over ostinato:    
    Perde Kaldırma  

    Enrico Macias:     Bu Ne Dünya Kardeşim?
    arr. Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol
    Turkish lyrics by Oktay Yurdatapan

    Turkish version performed by Yeliz Eker (b. 1957)       

  5. Tonight's musicians

    Mal Barsamian is from a family of oud players. Also trained as a classical guitarist, he obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in classical guitar performance, studying with Robert Sullivan at NEC. Barsamian currently teaches the Middle Eastern ensemble at NEC and is also on the applied faculty at Tufts University's World Music Department teaching oud and clarinet.  

    Chinese-born pianist Yandi Chen is a recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the Second Prize of Le Prix de la Fondation Maurice Ravel, the Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award, and the NEC Honor Ensemble, and has appeared as soloist with the Juilliard Orchestra, New England Conservatory Philharmonia and Fort Worth Symphony.

    Beth Bahia Cohen has been playing with Dünya since its inception in 2004 and has been performing Turkish, Greek, and Hungarian music for many years throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. She specializes in bowed string instruments from various cultures and is on the faculty of Berklee College of Music and Tufts University.

    In addition to leading ensembles under his own name, Rick DiMuzio performs regularly as a sideman with the Greg Hopkins Jazz Orchestra and Quintet, Bert Seager, Fernando Huergo, Phil Grenadier, Leo Blanco, and Kevin Harris. Rick has served as a Professor at Berklee College of Music for the past 25 years.

    Burcu Güleç completed a bachelor’s degree in child development as well as a master’s degree from New England Conservatory in contemporary improvisation. As a performer and educator, she works in several genres, including Jazz, Turkish, and Balkan musics.

    James Heazlewood-Dale has performed with some of the world's most prominent jazz musicians including Maria Schneider, Terrence Blanchard, George Garzone, Ernie Watts, James Morrison and Will Vincent. He is currently at Brandeis pursuing his PHD in Musicology.

    Bertram Lehmann teaches drums, Ear Training, and Liberal Arts at Berklee College of Music when he's not busy performing with a variety of Jazz, Latin, and World music ensembles in the New England area and beyond, which also has taken him to far-flung places including India, Ghana, South Korea, Turkey, and Russia. 

    Born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus George Lernis is a drummer and world percussionist. George holds a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in Jazz Performance and two master’s degrees from Longy Conservatory and the Global Jazz Institute at Berklee. George has performed in venues such as the Carnegie Hall andLincoln Center. 

    A versatile multi-instrumentalist, Dan Meyers is a flexible and engaging performer of both classical and folk music; his credits range from premieres of contemporary chamber music, to headlining a concert series in honor of Pete Seeger at the Newport Folk Festival, to playing Renaissance instruments on Broadway for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company.

    Grammy nominated composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol (DÜNYA, president) holds a Master's Degree in Jazz Composition and a Doctoral degree in Composition from New England Conservatory. He is currently a full-time faculty member at New England Conservatory and is the recipient of a number of awards including the Live Arts Boston Grant from The Boston Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music Grant as well as a South Arts Jazz Road Creative Residency Grant.

    Canadian violinist Sophia Anna Szokolay is a Doctoral Candidate at the New England Conservatory where she serves as Donald Weilerstein’s teaching assistant. Lauded for her “stirring, singing” tone (Vineyard Gazette), Sophia has won top prizes and awards at international competitions and has performed across Canada, the United States, and Europe as a recitalist and chamber musician.

    Trumpeter Mark Tipton is currently a 3rd year DMA student at NEC, and holds degrees from Oberlin and Mannes. He received the 2023 Presser Graduate Studies Award, is an NEC Teaching Fellow, and has studied with Jason Palmer, John McNeil, Jerry Bergonzi, Billy Hart, and Joe Morris. He teaches through NEC, NEC Prep, and the University of Maine at Augusta and Orono.

    DÜNYA (the Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Greek word for “world”), a musicians’ collective and a record label, is a non-profit, tax exempt educational organization located in Boston, Massachusetts. Its goal is to explore a cosmopolitan view of the world through the lens of a wide range of Turkish traditions, alone and in conversation with the musics of the formerly Ottoman peoples—Greeks, Jews, Armenians, Arabs, Kurds, mystics—as well as with western and other world traditions. The DÜNYA collective includes specialists in Ottoman music, early European music, Middle Eastern Christian and Jewish music, ethnomusicology, jazz, contemporary composition and popular music. In DÜNYA projects, research and translation combine with original composition, improvisation and musical experimentation to create lively presentations, recordings and publications aimed at engaging contemporary audiences. DÜNYA seeks to work with a wide range of cultural and religious organizations and relies on no particular political, governmental or religious affiliation or support of any kind.

  6. SPECIAL THANKS to my dear wife, Serap Kantarcı Sanlıkol,
    for continuing to support me while playing a crucial role as DÜNYA’s chief development officer.