Various Artists

Turquie: Ceremonie du Djem Alevi (Turkey: Djem Alevi Ceremony)

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This album is a record of a complete service by the Alevi sect in Turkey, a group related to the Sufis that has been persecuted by the old Ottoman government and now by the fundamentalists. As such, the disc is better understood as an anthropological or religious document than as art. It consists of 15 tracks; the odd-numbered ones are spoken prayers, invocations, and the like. The even-numbered ones are songs for solo male voice or small chorus accompanied by two men on saz djura, the small Middle Eastern lute with the slightly banjo-like sound.

The songs all have the same basic pattern: The sazes play a riff (there's no other word for it), sometimes a single male and sometimes the group sing-chants a line, and the sazes play the riff again. Each song has its own riff and they are all musically captivating, dense, and harmonically complex. Sometimes the group breaks into a faster freeform chant. The effect is repetitive but not boring, because it is so hypnotic and because each riff is so delicious. Still, with the spoken parts it's a little difficult to enjoy this as pure music and, truth be told, it feels a little sacrilegious even to try. If it doesn't bother your conscience, you could program out the spoken portions of the disc and play just the "good stuff."

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