Bolat brings the Mideast to Juneau

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

The poetry of Islamic mystic Rumi, images of Turkey, songs of the Sufi dervishes and the culture of the Middle East will come alive Friday night in Juneau.

Turkish musician and Mideast scholar Latif Bolat will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Northern Light United Church. Bolat will sing, play Turkish instruments, show slides and talk about Islamic, Turkish and Mideast cultures.

Bolat is currently touring in Alaska. Asia Freeman, director of the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer, attended his concert in Homer last week and called the music intoxicating.

"It was very different," she said. "At the very beginning he said, 'Let's make an agreement. Instead of clapping, just let the music fill you and let there be quiet between the pieces.' The music is also devotional music, so it seemed better not to disrupt it."

Freeman said Bolat has a relaxed and informal style and introduced the music by talking about relevant aspects of Turkish culture.

His repertoire includes classical, folk and Sufi music styles. He plays the baglama, a long-necked lute, and other instruments from the Turkish folk music tradition. He sings devotional Sufi songs, called Ilahi and Nefes, from the Anatolian peninsula. Many songs feature the lyrics of the 13th-century mystical poets Rumi and Yunus Emre. Sufism is a mystical aspect of Islam.

Freeman said the performance was like taking a magic carpet ride through Turkish culture.

"He did that by spicing his performance with Sufi poetry and these slides of Turkey in the second half," she said. "There were beautiful images of sacred sites, street children, landscapes and cities. It felt so good to go there, to travel for the night."

Although this is a solo tour, Bolat has toured with whirling dervish groups, providing music for the spinning and dancing meditation and prayer practiced by the Sufis. Freeman said Bolat invited participants to dance during his performance.

"He played some really intense whirling dervish-connected devotional music," she said. "Music that's traditionally combined with movement. That created this nice tempo to the slide journey. He plays the saz - he taps it with his hands and strums it, so it's melodic and percussive."

Bolat is a native of the Turkish Mediterranean town of Mersin. After earning his degree in folklore and music at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, he taught traditional music throughout Eastern Anatolia. He managed a musical theater company that performed traditional Turkish musical plays.

He now lives in California and tours throughout the United States. His recent performances include the soundtrack music for the television series "Young Indiana Jones."

Tickets to the concert Friday are $15, $10 for seniors and students and $45 for a family, available at Hearthside Books, Rainy Day Books and Observatory Bookstore.

Bolat will give a free informal talk on the Middle East, interwoven with traditional Turkish music, at 1 p.m. Friday in the Lake Room at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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