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by Kristen Stevens

ISTANBUL - By turns classical and popular-folk, harpist Þirin Pancaroðlu’s new album with Israeli percussionist Yinon Muallem feels like a tide rising and falling between continents and musical styles. On the Anatolian song "Kervan," her lyric harp rises like Sandro Botticelli’s "The Birth of Venus," accompanied by foreboding sea drums.

Turkey’s most renowned harpist, Þirin Pancaroðlu, plays music as an extension of herself: with a disciplined reverence for local origins and an uninhibited and organic ability to take classical and folk sounds to new shores. Her fourth album, "Telveten", released last month by Kaf Müsik, is a joint effort with renowned Israeli percussionist Yinon Muallem. The musicians take their instruments to heights independent of each other while allowing the sounds to meet and tell stories and, as if by chance, occasionally soar together.

Recognized in international musical circles for her interpretative skills, Pancaroðlu blends her instincts and training to delight the listener with the unexpected. "The sound is only for them," she told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. "When you listen to the harp playing music you discover not only the harp but I try to include something people haven’t experienced before." Last Saturday she played for a crowd at the distinguished Cemal Reþit Rey Concert Hall accompanied by flute and viola soloists.

At home with folk music
Folk music holds a special appeal for Pancaroðlu, who said hearing its various forms during her life abroad formed a sort of narrative of her own time spent among other cultures. "With traditional music you feel like there’s a story being told," said Pancaroðlu, who is a fan of reggae music. "Over the years my life has been in Southeast Asia, Europe, the U.S., and Turkey and I really found a taste for local music along the way."

While classic music is in her training and her repertoire, it does not define her sound. A lot of good classical music openly borrows from folk music, she said. "Classical music takes a lot of its form from folk music and many composers moved away from that intentionally. Among many classic musicians, there is a sense of ’purest’." By contrast, she adds, there is no attitude in traditional music.

On Telveten, her harp, a string instrument with the tonal intervals of the piano, blends with Muallem’s Eastern-Mediterranean percussions. The unlikely pairing is unexceptional for Pancaroðlu who has formed other instrumental combinations considered unusual for the harp: a jazz quintet, viola and voice.

On collaborations with composers, she said dialogue with local composers is necessary to take music forward. She is active in raising awareness about funding such collaborations that include compositions for all instruments in Turkey, where such funding is next to none. It is important for musicians to connect with composers living in their own countries, she said, "because you can be in your time with what’s in the air and with the culture around you. It’s not enough to play with dead composers." After being directed toward the harp in conservatory as a preteen in Turkey, she then attended school in Indonesia and at the Geneva Conservatory before heading to Indiana University School of Music, one of the top music schools in the world, where she was drawn to the instrument in a different way. "My teacher really thought I had a unique voice and I started to feel wonderful about it, you know?" But she said it took a while for her to become a professional with sufficient nerve and balance.

Around the world
Since then Pancaroðlu’s concerts have taken her around the world, including on stage in such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Konserthuset in Stockholm, Sejong Cultural Arts Center in Seoul and Takemitsu Memorial Hall in Tokyo. Her previous CDs include Barokarp (solo harp) in 2005; Kuyruklu Yýldýz Altýnda "Under the Shooting Star" with violinist Ignace Jang in 2000 (Doublemoon Records); and Hasret Baðý "A String of Longing" (solo harp) in 1998.

Having a baby can put nerve and balance to the test for any woman. After her son Mengu was born two years ago next month, Pancaroðlu said during pregnancy and after delivery she was more productive and efficient. "I could remove the useless parts of my life and was more in touch with what was essential to me. Then I found I was doing things that made me much happier."

When she plays, Mengu says "arp" and "anne" for mom. His mom said he seems to be a fan of the new album. "Children like drums because it makes music easier to understand and puts a frame to it," she said.

Pancaroðlu says she wants to share her love of music by trying to be as natural with people as possible. "I try to be myself on stage without trying to mask any weaknesses. I have a really big love for music and I want to share that wi - Hurriyet Daily News

Yinon Muallem-Shirin Pancaroglu, TELVETEN, KAF, February(2009), World Music.


It seems that no barrier stands against conjunction between musical worlds, far from each other as West from East. And that is the whole matter- the interaction between East and West; Between a string instrument as the Harp which has the tonal intervals as the Piano and Percussions from the Eastern-Mediterranean species. Were they destined to each other? Listen to the Disc. The answer is there.

Yinon Muallem on the percussions is an Israeli musician who moved his activities, both the personal and the professional, to Turkey. Shirin Pancaroglu, a classical harpist. To those joined the Persian Kemanche(an oriental string and bow instrument) player Arslan Hazreti. TELVETEN in Turkish means “ String and Skin”. The tunes of the Harp are heavenly. The Percussions tunes of Muallem-earthly. The conjunction is beyond any definition. Don’t try to rely on “World Music”’ for it is too general and trend; neither “Fusion” because it is a term describing a new stile. What is enchanting in interaction like those is the fact Yinon and Shirin didn’t try to be “Something” definite or to ride a trend, but being embroidered from what they are-each separately and then the two together; and when a string instrument like the Kemanche joins the ensemble it sounds like a Creation which the ear and heart would love without paying attention to the gap between cultures.

The aim of Yinon and Shirin was to disclose a variety of possibilities(styles) out of Ethnic-classic dialogue between the instruments, of those which haven’t been disclosed yet. Thus they chose a wide spectrum of styles – Spanish classics(Albeniz), Argentine tango (Carlos Gardel), Anatolian folk music and Azerian music, Baroque(Francois Couperin), and original music from Yinon Muallem(Minor variations). If you chose, this is a journey between musical traditions but in a very exclusive and exotic way, chosen by the three Artists.

The entrance of Kemanche in Malaguena (track 3) sounds to m fantastic for Kemanche descends to the earth of Yinon. The sound of the Harp there is beautiful, thaw just hovering around. AS a whole-the musical texture sounds to me astounding. The Folklore dance element exists in Basgali, performed astonishingly in which the Kemanche presents the dominant color. Yinon Muallem picks up here a percussions solo where the Harp retreats to embellishment. Actually the tone and the tint develop according to the musical context. Some times the tendency is toward Classical. Others to Ethnic-popular. Albeniz Asturias is already a compound concerted adaptation with rhythmic emphasis of exact dosage. Flamenco elements and a special interweave of the Harp sounds. In the Anatolian piece Kervan , the lyric sounds of the Harp turn to be dominant, with the accompany of the rather dim and threatening of the sea drums. In the short dance-like Lejana Tierra Mia from Gardel ‘ the joint between the Harp and Percussions is most effective. The joint of the three instruments in Minor Variations presents the rhythmic-melodic-harmonic high-light of the disc. Simply a pleasure. At end- the adaptation of “The Good Life” , the melody in Nicola Piovani’s movie, is rather a tapping dessert for the Finale.

After listening thrice to the disc I realized that a fourth and fifth will be coming, and I shall never depart from that Disc.

Yosi Charsonsky



Sirin Pancaroglu has 3 albums of her own released in 1998, 2000 and 2005.

Yinon Muallem has 3 albums of his own released in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

Telveten is the first album released in 2009 by the duo of their project in collaboration.



The idea for Telveten - meaning Skin and Strings in Turkish - started with a knock on the door. In hindsight, that makes sense! After having listened to her album, A String of Longing, Yinon wondered if Sirin would play with him. Sirin had always wanted play with percussion and was curious to experience this unique combination.

We immediately gave it a try with a Baroque piece by Couperin and thus brought to the foreground the delicate syncopations around which this little gem is woven. The result seemed delicious to us. Following with Spanish baroque and romantic pieces, it seemed very natural to play a body of music which could be played with rhythmic instruments but traditionally is not. We enjoyed playing Gardel's two milongas and the timeless traditionals, "Kervan" and "Efsaneyim" ("I am a legend") from Anatolia, as well as Yinon's "Minor Variations". Arslan Hazreti, a fantastic kemanche player based in Istanbul as well as a great person, joined our concerts as a guest artist and introduced us to "Basgali" by the Azerbaijani composer Aftandil Israfilov. Yinon suggested to play the bittersweet theme from "Life is Beautiful", by Nicola Piovani. We felt something really unique happened to this tune when Arslan played it. In short, we didn't try for a "fusion". We come from different musical paths which intersected, bringing out something which was already in the music itself.