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9 years ago|1.5K views

Omar Faruk Tekbilek - Whirling Dervish!

Mohammad Alam
Omar Faruk Tekbilek - Whirling Dervish!
A masterpiece from the Album "Whirling" (1994). Listen & Enjoy it.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek had been studying Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, with the thought of becoming a Sufi cleric. At 15, he quit school to become a professional musician. "But I never quit studying, though," he maintains. "In fact, I am still studying; it's endless. Music for me is not something to show off. It's my life. It's the shortest path to God. Playing is prayer for me." He went to Istanbul and at the age of 17 met the Mevlevi Dervishes, the ancient Sufi order of Turkey. He did not join the order, but felt profoundly influenced by their mystical approach to sound and to the spirit. Another, almost equally mystical influence would soon appear, from an unlikely source. The young Tekbilek became friend with flute and saxophone player named Ismet Siral, who had some unusual ideas about music theory. "He would say things like, let's play for birds, let's play for pictures." OFT says about Burhan Tonguch, his rhythm teacher: "He put the idea in my mind that everything is a rhythmic instrument. And everyone is a percussionist. Without the strike, there is no sound."

Despite, or perhaps because of, this unconventional outlook, Faruk's skills were much in demand in the studios of Istanbul, and in 1971, at the age of 20, made his first brief tour of the United States with a Turkish classical/folk ensemble. The Tree of Patience was about to put out an unexpected limb. "I try to play a song the way it's supposed to be," Faruk explains. "If I play an Arabic song, I use an Arabic style; if I play a Turkish song, I use a Turkish style."

Faruk feels a strong affinity for Arabic music, which differs in several important ways from the Turkish tradition. As a child he spent a lot of time listening to Radio Kairo and became acquainted with the giant musicians of that time like Umm Kulthum, Abdul Wahab, Abdl Halim Hafez, Farid al-Atraš, Fairuz, Sabah Fakhri. Because he was playing the flute he was inspired by the melodies and the sound of ney (nay). He was also inspired by Sheikh Abdul Basit 'Abd us-Samad recitations of the holy Qur'an whom his father was listening a lot.

Faruk pauses, considers, and then admits, "Sometimes I can't keep myself from making a bridge between them. I just try to listen to the song; it will tell me what it wants to be." The process of creating his own songs is similar: "There is no set formula or method", he says. "Each song comes out in a different way."