The musical traditions of the East Black Sea region of Turkey are preserved through the efforts of kemenge (fiddle) and baglama (a three double-stringed instrument) player and vocalist Birol Topaloglu. Singing in the Laz language, Topaloglu provides a musical voice for, what he called, during a late-'90s interview, "the old ladies and shepherds of the villages in the Black Sea region." Topaloglu dedication to the Laz people was strengthened by years of cultural struggle. Forbidden to speak in his native language, in school, he was forced to learn to Turkish from the age of six. As he aged, his commitment to his heritage continued to grow. After acquiring a baglama, he began performing traditional songs at local universities. Although he continues to conduct field trips in search of material, Topaloiglu has been outspoken on the Turkish government's refusal to become involved with safeguarding traditional culture. "What I am doing should be done by the state," he claimed. "It should be embracing all cultures instead of tearing itself away from them. I am on my own visiting villages and listening to old people for their renditions of so many songs and cultural tales to enable myself to use them in my music." Topaloglu's debut album, Aravani, which reached the top notch on Canada's world music charts in 2000, was followed by the equally impressive Lazburi a year later.
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