Playing Is Praying

Omar Faruk Tekbilek finds the divine in the downbeat

Faruk would get together with fellow musicians and practice what they called Turkish jazz -- a style using traditional Turkish melodies. "A sense of the jazz was really similar to our traditional way, which they play the melody and then they always take the improvisation," says Faruk, who has since worked with the likes of Don Cherry, Ginger Baker, and John McLaughlin. "In Turkish music we do this in the middle. We play the melody, somebody takes the solo."

Even though Faruk hopes to one day incorporate the melodies of Charlie Parker or Miles Davis into his music, he stayed with a decidedly less adventurous approach for his latest album, Alif -- taking elements from various musical traditions in the areas surrounding Turkey and blending them with his own sound. "It's a Mediterranean concept in my mind that I was dreaming since my childhood," says Faruk. "Mediterranean cultures are really a common culture ... from Spain to Greece, Turkey, Persia, Arabia. People always interacted in these civilizations, cultures are very interwoven. So through music I wanted to celebrate it."

To achieve this, Faruk brought together singers like Greece's Glykeria, Persia's Mamak Khadem, and Israel's Zehava Ben, along with flamenco guitarist Jose Antonio Rodriguez Muñoz and multi-instrumentalist and world-music producer Steve Shehan. The result is a mélange of influences wrapped around the Turkish core of Faruk's masterful playing.


Performs classical Turkish music, with dance performance by Ghazal Rohani, at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, April 19. For information call 305-672-5202
The Lincoln Theater on Miami Beach

But through all the gyrations of his fluctuating career, and for all his recent success, Faruk never wavers on the point of his calling. "The music is a universal language; through music we become universally bonded to each other. It's a beautiful thing that we can experience each other without seeing differences," says Faruk enthusiastically. "People always come and talk to me, and even though they don't understand what I say, they say they feel what I do when I perform. So this is a beautiful thing. Music is our ultimate salvation to celebrate our humanity, our brotherhood."

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