Burhan Öçal + Istanbul Oriental Ensemble
Turkish music specialist Burhan Öcal has made the bridging of musical cultures his central mission. A native of Kirklareli, near Istanbul, he grew up in a musical family. From his father, he learned a variety of percussion instruments, while his mother introduced him to religious vocal music.
After his first contact with Western music, he became interested in combining other genres and cultural traditions, such as jazz and Western classical music, with his own.
Burhan Öcal’s instruments are as diverse as his music. In addition to a wide variety of percussion, such as the Darbuka (a vase-shaped drum played with the fingers), Kös (kettle drum), Kudüm and Bendi, he is a highly skilled player on a number of stringed instruments, including the Divan-Saz, Tanbur and Oud. His expressive voice adds to the spectrum of musical elements at his command.
Since 1977, Burhan Öçal has divided his time between Istanbul and Zurich, Switzerland. He has become widely known for touring and recording with his Oriental Ensemble, which performs traditional gypsy and Turkish folk music.
Seeking out a range of world-class collaborators, he has also performed with Maria Joao Pires, keyboard specialist Joe Zawinul and, more recently, guitarist Eliot Fisk. He appears regularly with his own jazz band, the Burhan Öçal Group, and as a guest artist with George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band from Switzerland. His newest projects including the formation of the duo with the remarkable Australian pianist Peter Waters and, his most unusual venture, the creation of a Oriental/Funk/Hip-Hop band with the American bass players Jamaladeen Tacuma.
Burhan Öçal made his U.S. debut in February 1998 joining Eliot Fisk for performances and a residency at USC in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, he returned to North America on tour with George Gruntz Band, performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival, in Vancouver, at the Ravinia Festival, and at the Knitting Factory in New York City.
Other highlights of his recent engagements have included two performances with the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble at 1998 WOMAD Festival (U.K.) and three performances with the Ensemble at EXPO’ 98 in Lisbon.