Turk­ish em­bassy cel­e­brates Na­tional Repub­lic Day

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

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.

mbenoit@in­de­pen­dent.com.mt

The Hezarfen Ensem­ble

Sul­tan Ab­dul Azziz Khan

Leonard Co­hen

The pi­anist Müge Hen­dekli

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