Jun 10

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

The Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek performed with his ensemble at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago on Thursday, June 17, 2010. The music was lively and engaging and it was fascinating to see the mostly unfamiliar instruments being played.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek Ensemble at the Pritzker Pavilion

Tekbilek played several sizes of end-blown flutes [ney or nar, derived from the Persian nay. They are made of hollow cane and have six finger holes on the front and one on the back.]. For one song, he played a zurna, an instrument with a double reed mouthpiece and a bell-shaped end. (It’s similar to the duduk.) He also played a bağlama, a seven-stringed long-necked lute similar to an oud, but smaller and with an oval-shaped wooden body (shown in photo above). He sang the vocals in Turkish, so I had no idea what the songs were about, but it didn’t matter. In several songs, he begin with the ney, alternating with vocals and then switched to the bağlama.

The ensemble consisted of Tekbilek’s son, who play Turkish drums and others who played acoustic guitar, electric keyboard, drums and kanun, a type of zither that was played with metal picks on the fingertips.

Whenever I attend a concert like this, I always wish there was at least a brief overview of the instruments at some point. I’m always curious about what they’re called, how they produce sound or how they are played. It would save a lot of Google time trying to figure out what I saw.

I usually enjoy music more when the musicians seem to be having a good time, as this ensemble did. I think this is the first time I’ve heard Turkish music live and would definitely not miss an opportunity to see Omar Faruk Tekbilek again.

Jun 10

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba (6/10/10)

Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba played at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on Thursday, 10 June 2010. Their music was exhilarating and thrilling. It continues to amaze me that they can get so much music out of such “primitive”-looking instruments as the ngoni.


As someone who is still learning to play a six-string fretted guitar, It’s hard to imagine how one can play a four-stringed unfretted instrument with such apparent ease and precision. They played their hypnotic music for a little over an hour.

As an introduction to the Chicago Blues Festival that began the following night,  Barry Dollins came on stage and announced the Howlin’ Wolf tribute (yesterday was the 100th anniversary of his birth). Otis Taylor came out with Eddie Shaw and Hubert Sumlin. They played a few Wolf tunes (“Spoonful,” “Back Door Man,” “Shake It”) with the Kouyate group. Taylor played a white Fender Telecaster, Shaw played sax and sang, and Sumlin played his well-worn Strat. He had his oxygen tank with him and had to sit, but he seemed to be having a good time.

The jam was a chaotic mess. Taylor mostly just played a rhythm line. Sumlin’s guitar was hard to hear whenever he got a chance to solo. I imagine they never rehearsed, but I’m surprised that they didn’t do it so everyone got a chance to be heard. Fortunately, I’d heard Otis Taylor and Hubert Sumlin before so I knew what they were capable of, but it wasn’t a good introduction for new listeners.