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Shalom, Selam, Barış! Let Music Unite Cultures

Come let us all be friends for once, Let us make life easy on us, Let us be lovers and loved ones, The earth shall be left to no one’
             -Yunus Emre

The 13th century Turkish sufi poet Yunus Emre addressed the entire humanity with these words of tolerance, peace and love for humanity. His love for the divine was integral for his love of humanity. Yunus Emre’s wisdom and call for peace and love inspired the birth of a spectacular musical experience in Los Angeles last month bringing together Israeli, Turkish, American, Jewish and Muslim Americans. Aşkına, the impressive concert presented by Turkish cultural organization Yunus Emre Institute together with its musical partners, was a tribute to the musical tradition of Turkish sufism, Sephardic tunes, modern Turkish and Israeli music. The impressive international repertoire was performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony led by talented conductor Dr. Noreen Green along with featured artists from various backgrounds.

The featuring song by Grammy award winner Israeli-American composer Sharon Farber’s exquisite piece, Ashkina, moved smoothly from Western to Eastern melodies with the mesmerizing sound of the wind instrument ney played by Turkish virtuoso Ömer Faruk Tekbilek.

The audience could hear a fusion of Hebrew, Turkish and Arabic. A number of pieces such as Nabil Azzam’s The Dance of Abraham inspired by the famous Ladino song Avram Avinu, La Rosa Enflorence (Los Bilbilikos) and Aman Aman Gülpembe (Por La Tu Puerta) performed by Chloe Pourmorady and Asher Shasho Levy were more familiar to Jewish communities. Aside from the Sephardic repertoire, Turkish composer Ulvi Cemal Erkin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was performed by Turkish-American pianist Ayşe Taşpınar Gatenyo.

One of the most remarkable and special pieces was Yan Yana composed by Grammy award winner Turkish composer Erberk Eryılmaz which is inspired by the Jewish liturgical hymn Hadesh Kekedem. The famous Turkish composer skillfully combined the hymn in its original form with modern melodies bringing this intangible heritage to the 21st century.

Aşkına ended with Ghizemli by Ömer Faruk Tekbilek and Turkish composer Önder Özkoç’s World premiere Medley Of Love inspired by two of Yunus Emre’s poems. As Yunus says in a verse: ‘If I told you about the land of love, would you swallow it as remedy?’ Music is the universal language of love, a tool to understand and communicate with each other. Music builds bridges, creates bonds and Aşkına reminded all of us in the audience the bonds we created in the past influence our music today and can bring us even closer. The concert was truly sending a message of peace to the world: Shalom, Selam and barış!

About the Author
Senem B. Çevik, Ph.D, is a communication scholar specializing in public diplomacy. She taught international studies courses at UC, Irvine and UCLA. Her research focuses on the intersection of identity, communication and psychology with an emphasis on Turkey and the Middle East. She is a member of the International Dialogue Initiative (IDI), Turkey-Israel Civil Society Forum (TICSF) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) Abraham Society MJAC. Dr. Cevik is currently continuing her research at UCI CEM.
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