Omar Faruk Tekbilek :: Rare Elements
"The first time we had remixers take my music, they did not change too much, so that it still sounded very much like my originals," Turkish ney master and multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek told me one afternoon from his upstate New York home. "But this time, I thought they went to that much more extreme sound."
Extreme = good, in this case. It's always hard to watch your children leave home—you're never quite sure in what state they'll return. Tekbilek was pleased with the maturation, or, should we say, re-gestation. If anything, he found the dance-heavy mixes amusing and inspiring, the fact that other musicians would re-craft his materials within the context of their own artistry. Later, when I asked him what music was currently plastered in his playlists, he replied, "I'm still a bit uneducated about what is going on in the outside world of music," pointing instead to his Sufi heritage and breathing practices which continually force him to look internally for music. Still, he said, he did have fun dancing around to the Joe Clausell take on "Sufi," as well as Junior Sanchez's dancefloor-ready "Selemet."
Those wouldn't have been my choices. They're not bad; this is such an excellent remix album, it's difficult to define favorites. I appreciate Sanchez's production skills. His beat just bores me—it's exactly what I'd expect, not pushing any boundaries. I'm a longtime fan of Clausell, and his is a percussively rich midtempo gem. Thing is, Nickodemus and Zeb's take on "Whirling" hits me on a gut and hip level. Zeb's additional oud adds a rich and rounded dynamic that even the original didn't have. (Always a danger that the artist faces when sending out a song's parts to skilled musicians for remixing.) The electronic version is true to Sufi intent: the introduction, a slow, sweeping warm-up, before the spinning, the communion with the divine. I've dropped the track on dance floors and pretended a few hundred white skirts were flailing before me.
Cheb i Sabbah created a journey out of "Shashkin." In dependable Sabbah style, he plays on the darker elements to draw you in: it's a hard beat with a sparse bass line; the synths are moody but not gratuitous. The effect: stunning. Smooth, clean, refined. Brooklynite Jordan Lieb pumps his version of "Laz" in a four-on-the-floor house cut. Its effects are jarring, in a warming sort of way. Minimalist techno shards fused with old school New York beauty. Brilliant. I play this whenever my first chakra needs a boost.
I assume Tekbilek would agree. We talked about pranayama and yoga. He references winds like a Chinese herbalist: your humor has to be lively, clean, regular. His words: "Yoga is the healthy coordination of mind, joints, and muscles. In order to help your mind, you must polish your joints by stretching and bending, and bend your muscles. If they are not open, they cannot coordinate together. This is the key to happiness. You have to control your mind by meditation, and exercise your body. Then comes breath control. Your diaphragm is your master."
Your hips become masterful on this batch of remixes, which, for some god-awful reason, opens with a generic version by Tommie Sunshine. It sounds like he took a few Turkish elements and slapped them atop a pre-programmed Garageband beat. I was bracing for the worst thereafter. Reality is, the sunshine arose as soon as his is track was over. Other notables are the Amon Tobin cut, which sounds like it sprinted through a thousand filters in a large hall (Tobin's creedo), and a nice broken-beat Kodomo remix, which plays out like a call to arms for space warriors. I also got my hands on a solid Kaya Project remix of "Toros" that wasn't released on the record, but would have been much more meaningful in the opening slot. We can shift our iTunes around to appease our appetites, but never those of the producers.