Turkish Sufi Therapy
Turkish Season in France Paris.2009. La saison de la Turquie; Whirling Dervishes : Dancers performs on the music of Mercan Dede during the openning of the season of Turkey in France in Paris, 12-08-2009.
World Beat musician and producer Arkin Ilicali, better known as Mercan Dede, cleverly fuses the Eastern spiritual traditions of Sufi music with the contemporary sounds of ambient and chill out music to create a mix of old and new, East and West. An adherent of mystical Sufi spirituality, Turkish-born and Montreal-based Mercan Dede brings his holistic understanding of sound and the rhythms of nature to his interpretations of traditional Sufi music as well as his original compositions.
Mercan Dede believes that when you put digital electronic sounds together with hand-made human ones, you can create universal language capable of uniting old and young, ancient and modern. ‘Those things are not really separate ‘ says Dede. ‘The essence of Sufism is counterpoint. Everything exists with its opposite. On one side I am doing electronic music. The other side of that is this really acoustic traditional music.’
Raised poor in a Turkish village in the 197s Dede recalls the moment when listening to the radio as a six-year-old he fell in love with the sound of the ney. But even when he moved to Istanbul to study journalism he could not afford an instrument so he made his first one from a length of plastic plumbing pipe. Although he eventually found a ney teacher Dede did not pursue music as a career. He was more deeply involved with photography and by chance an official at the Saskatoon Public Library in Canada saw some of his work and invited him to come and do an exhibition.
Dede wound up studying multimedia in Saskatoon and he worked in a bar to earn rent money. That was where he first encountered the art of deejaying. One day the bar’s deejay couldn’t make it and Dede stepped in. The techno revolution was just beginning and Dede was getting in on the ground floor.
By the mid-1980s he was traveling to do ‘technotribalhouse’ deejay gigs under the name Arkin Allen. He debuted as Mercan Dede in 1996 when he released his first album Sufi Dreams recorded for Golden Horn Records in San Francisco. The album was a minimalist techno project featuring the ney flute and it earned impressive reviews.
A few years later, Dede moved to Montreal where he first studied then taught at Concordia College moving ever more forcefully into the growing techno scene. Recordings he made under the name Mercan Dede got noticed in Istanbul and a festival invited him to perform expecting an older gentleman as Dede means ‘grandfather’ in Turkish. When people saw a young band mixing techno and tradition they were exhilarated and Dede has stuck with this adapted name ever since.