Turkish embassy celebrates National Republic Day
he Ambassador of Turkey to Malta has been generous with the Embassy’s programme celebrating his country’s National day. H.E. Mr Reha Keskintepe and his pretty blonde German wife, Martina held a reception at the Hilton, which I could not attend. However I went to both the concert at St James Music Room where the Turkish band Hezarfen Ensemble played in a concert entitled and also Prof. Conrad Thake’s illustrated lecture, in the same music room, which was about the Ottoman Muslim Cemetery in Malta.
Well, the music. The musicians of the Hezarfen Ensemble were brilliant: flute, piano, violin, viola and cello were beautifully played. There was nothing about them in the programme but one knows a good musician from an indifferent one.
When it comes to the programme it was one of contemporary music by mostly Turkish composers ‘influenced by the flavours of the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions of Turkey.’
One of the compositions was by a Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and another by Michael Ellison who is co-director and “is Principal Investigator on the five-year, Bristol-based European Research Council project
Quite a mouthful.
Basing myself on the extensive programme notes about each composer, they are all very well trained and their compositions have been played in several countries.
I am not at all qualified to comment on this programme of contemporary classical music. Atonal and dissonant music is not something I can ever enjoy, rather like most contemporary art I am afraid. An old friend of mine is an expert on John Cage. I have never understood the meaning of this composer’s music. One thing is certain: I shall not be rushing out to get one of this ensemble’s CDs. There are those who have studied contemporary music and I am sure they would have found the evening very meaningful and enjoyable.
Last year we had the Tanini Trio and we loved them. This type of music is much more attractive to the average music lover and certainly suits my plebian tastes better.
Professor Conrad Thake on the exotic Turkish cemetery in Marsa
Who hasn’t been intrigued with the makings of this cemetery by that creative genius Emmanuele Luigi Galizia? Well, Professor Thake has now written a book about it and his talk was based on his book which was being launched that evening. There was a full house at St James Music Room. The architect who transformed the stark St James cavalier, part of the Valletta fortifications, and turned it into the creative centre it now is, Prof. Richard England, was there, too, as were several personalities.
Prof. Thake, the writer of several books, gave a most interesting illustrated talk and brought to his audience many fascinating facts discovered during his extensive research. I am now able to look at that cemetery with new eyes.
This has nothing to do with the talk but my conscience will not allow me to refrain from mentioning the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917 in which the Ottomans massacred millions of Armenians. Helen Caruana Galizia was in Malta and present at the talk. One of her reasons for coming to Malta was to organize a reunion of the Armenian Asphar family (her mother was an Asphar) whose ancestor Joseph John Fatullah Hannah Asphar arrived in Malta with his mother in 1854 and married a Maltese woman, Angelica Bonavia,
Helen told me after the talk how much she had enjoyed it.
It is not irrelevant for me to also mention the ongoing Kurdish-Turkish conflict the result of which has been the displacement and heartbreak of so many.
And then there is the seemingly unreasonable behaviour of the present Turkish prime minister. These serious matters cannot be simply swept under the carpet and forgotten. They have been the cause of so much unnecessary unhappiness.
But let me leave these sad matters aside and go back to Prof. Thake’s talk. I take my hat off to the fact that the Turkish government is paying for the restoration of this architectural gem, which is no small matter and will be completed over three years. But I put my hat firmly back on again for the fact that a few months ago an application was submitted by Cassar Fuel Service Station Ltd for a disused factory to be replaced by a fuel station and car wash over a footprint of 3,300 square metres right near the cemetery. The Turkish Embassy has objected to this, Prof. Thake told us, and so have several NGOs. I am not the only one who is hoping that this permit is not going to be given EVER. What a disgrace that would be – an insult to the living and to the dead, too. Let us show our appreciation to the Turkish Embassy and government for putting their hands in their pockets and taking the restoration of this beautiful building in hand.
Prof. Thake: “It transpires that Muslims buried here were mostly members of the military corps and navy personnel or prisoners who died while detained in Malta.”
He said that this ‘unique cultural gem’ was entirely financed by the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz and opened in 1874. “Upon his accession to the throne in 1861, the Sultan sought to cultivate good relations with the Second French Empire and the British. It was during this tour that he appeared to have briefly visited Malta, on June 26-27, 1867 to pay tribute to the Ottomans who had died in the Great Siege of Malta.”
Here was a forward looking, cultured man of vision, who came to a tragic end.
Prof. Thake will be conducting guided tours of the Cemetery on November 19th at 10am and 11am. I am looking forward to finally having a good look at this exquisite piece of architecture with a knowledgeable guide. I don’t know if there are any more places but you could email Prof. Thake and ask him if you are interested:
Leonard Cohen is dead and gone
I discovered this singer fairly recently. I cannot say that I like all his songs. My favourite is Dance Me to the End of Love, sung in the film Scent of a Woman, in the touching Tango scene with the blind retired Lt. Col. played by Al Pacino and Gabrielle Anwar, with whom he tangoes.
Cohen is a poet and his gravelly voice remained attractive to the end. He was 82 and had just finished recording his last CD when he died. He had enormous depth and it comes through in his lyrics, his music and his singing. For a time he was a Buddhist monk.
His muse, the Swedish Marianne Ihlen, died when I was on my summer holidays in July, and knowing she was on her deathbed he sent her a last letter which was read out to her. He told her that he would soon follow. And he has.
In a fairly recent interview he said he was not afraid of death but ‘of the preliminaries’ and hoped there would be a 4th chapter. I hope he has not been disappointed. To quote him: “There’s a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.” Too true.
The Hezarfen Ensemble
Sultan Abdul Azziz Khan
The pianist Müge Hendekli