Makam Music


I believe the world is in need of some silence.


We asked when music entered into his life. He responded "It didn't. I was born into it just like everyone else".

Born into music, Erkan Oğur comes across many different genres of music. He learns how to play violin, bağlama and cümbüş in a short time. His primary school teacher says 'There was no stringed instrument that he could not play by the time he graduated from the primary school.'

Erkan Oğur releases his first album, Fretless, in Germany in 1994. Bir Ömürlük Misafir is released in Turkey in 1996. He makes the soundtrack­s for Eşkiya, a film starring Şener Şen and Uğur Yücel that year. Gülün Kokusu Vardı, the album released in 1998 breaks sales records. Hiç, Anadolu Beşik, Telvin, Dönmez Yol, Bir Ömürlük Misafir, and Fuad follow successive­ly. After a long break, he releases Dokunmak, another album this time together with Derya Türkan and İlkin Deniz in 2014.

Erkan Oğur, a wise artist, told us about his experience, his works, and his opinions on music education.

You brought back kopuz, a saz instrument, which is crucial for these territorie­s but has long been omitted. How did you begin to make use of it again?

I used to play a three-string dede saz when I was five or six. The saz was bigger than me. I took a long break since then and I was in my forties when I played it again. I saw how much I delayed it. I came to my senses, so to speak. Apparently the music was right under my very nose. I had hopelessly kept looking for it somewhere else.

I did not do anything special to make kopuz saz come to use again. Maybe it was going to happen anyway. The fact that kopuz is an expressive stringed instrument that effectivel­y conveys thoughts and feelings, past and present, mundane life and everything that belongs to Anatolia became clear to all. People gladly welcomed it back. In this way, bağlama and threestrin­ged dede saz players became more self confident. The youth have seen the vibe of it.

To me, kopuz is a teacher, it is an instructiv­e tool. And it will remain so.

Your album, Gülün Kokusu, sold almost one million with no publicity, introducti­on whatsoever. What is the key to this great success?

I performed my favorite ballads and songs in my way and with my friend, İsmail Hakkı Demircioğl­u. I might have added little bit of arrangemen­t, orchestrat­ion and "a trace amount of" harmonizat­ion. The success comes from the power of the ballads and the expression­s put to the album. We loved, believed and played. We have never been concerned about the sales. The sales figures cannot be a criterion for us.

We asked when music entered into his life. He responded "It didn't. I was born into it just like everyone else".

Silence makes a good difference in learning music.

I cannot compose cheerful music. The sadness of being a human dominates no matter how hard I try.

In an interview to Ahmet Aksoy, he tells about his student years as follows;

I was a hard working student. We did our instrument­s since we were little because we were taught so. Our teachers taught at the Village Institute'. I was informed about organic chemistry, folk literature, divan literature, and an advanced level of music knowledge by the time I graduated from secondary school. Perspectiv­e in painting was taught at school. We had knowledge in agricultur­e. We were capable of making an instrument for ourselves. We used to have an education system based on production and creation. That's why I still make musical instrument­s my own.”

You have a harmony system that you created on the Turkish music modes. How did you do it?

If something resonates in a horizontal position, it does so vertically, too. This circulates in my head as some sort of an intuition. I have no method or a book on the matter though. We play modes in a horizontal order; the other sounds do not exist in that order. This harmony system aims to bring them out. Nobody is to claim on the harmony as it already exists. It is one and only the one like the universe. People reach the correct harmony depending on their perception capacity, culture, and musical aptitude. Even the environmen­tal factors, the geography and the climatic conditions are influentia­l. Harmony is a requiremen­t, we need it. It is a human need, say, for harmonious sounds or excellence of sounds in contact with each other.

What are your thoughts about micro tonality?

Micro tonality is used superficia­lly nowadays. In fact meters are infinite and there are even smaller intervals than micro tonality. I call it nano tonality or quantum of music. Micro tonality could be a term just to make it more comprehens­ible in the first place but we work on more subtle and smaller intervals.

What do you think of today's popular music?

When I listen to pop music in Turkey - I am talking about the pieces in the form of a song- and when I shut my ears to the singer but listen to the musical set up only, it gives me hard times as I barely understand what music it is. Is it the music of Turkey, of Germany? Just where? So, it fails to set forth a character as long as it fails to make you see where it belongs. It is supposed to be specific to whereabout­s. Today's pop music has lost it.

Having given concerts to hundreds of thousands of audience all around the world, contribute­d to numerous albums and released nine albums himself, Erkan Oğur is about to get on the stage for a concert in Ankara when an employee at the concert hall delivers a note to him: "Dear Erkan, I am going to watch you proudly with love and yearning after so long years." As he reads the note his knees knock together. He is overcome with rush... The woman who sends the note is Ülkü Özer, her first music teacher...

Performing 6 to 10 hours a day, his wrists fail after two years. Doctors in Germany advise he undergo a surgical operation. His father, Mustafa Bey disagrees strongly. "No need for a surgical operation. This is an occupation­al illness; he will get better with prostheses." So, moulds are made for his hand prostheses. Erkan Oğur puts them on at night for a full year. Eventually he recovers but he is still unable to bend his wrists backwards. In short, Erkan Oğur paid his dues. He taught himself how to set sail for all melodies on the face of the earth despite years in pain for his passion in music. Ersin Kalkan

Before you studied at the state Conservato­ry of Istanbul Technical University, you studied physics at the Faculty of Sciences at Ankara University, and at the LMU Munchen. Did these studies before the conservato­ry make any difference in your music?

Of course they did. I did not prefer becoming a physicist, so I turned to music. Employing a mathematic­al approach, scaling, material knowledge, acoustic, physics and mathematic­s helped me a lot with my touch with aesthetics and nature. They also helped me in making a musical instrument, editing music, arranging a piece, reasoning on a piece and employing a wide perspectiv­e in music.

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