This spring, Nublu Records is proud to announce the release of Ilhan Ersahin’s WONDERLAND “The Other Side” adding to the canon of Nublu experiments, Ersahin salutes turkish traditional gypsy sounds via his eclectic modern touch to “the music of now”. Wonderland’s sensuous chill-out sound is infused with a languorous arabesque essence and tinged with opiated dub effects. “The Other Side” exists in its own zone, floating beyond boundaries of space and time.
This very special album is a summit meeting spanning space and time, decades, cultures, genres, countries and continents. It involves traditional music, international pop, boldface names, young hotshots, strains from various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and an internal logic that makes the resulting music practically jump at the listener out of the speakers. The story behind this very special record involves sessions held over a span of a number of years between friends, collaborators and acquaintances. Spearheaded by Ilhan Ersahin on saxophone and Wurlitzer electric piano and clarinet master Husnu Senlendirici, the project coalesces behind the vocals of three famous vocalists: Gilberto Gil, Jane Birkin and Seyyal Taner (often described as the Tina Turner of Turkey). Along with those legendary figures, the project also features an impressive array of players exploring a gypsy/arabesque musical strain.
Founder, keyboards and saxophone player Ilhan Ersahin was born into a Turkish-Swedish family. Though he was raised in Stockholm, primarily exposed to European and American music, he spent many summers with his father’s family in Turkey. Says Ersahin, “The sort of Turkish music we explore with Wonderland reminds me of happy vacations. There were no trains in those days, and we would all jump onto a bus to go to the beach. This dramatic, glamorous music would be blaring out of the speakers and I still love it. Now I collect vintage Turkish 45s.” Ersahin’s affection for Turkish music has inspired other projects, such as “Istanbul Sessions” and a Wax Poetic album, “Istanbul.” Through Wonderland, Ersahin taps into a particular, lush Byzantine strain he describes as, “Nublu NYC exploring its romantic, arabesque gypsy colors.”
The Wonderland story began twelve years ago, when Ersahin met Husnu Senlendirici, a master clarinet player who was able to expand his traditional conventions and jam in the inclusionary Nublu aesthetic. Husnu Selenderici is a prodigy, one of the main exponents of the gypsy/balkan musical tradition, an impressive feat for a musician under 40 years old. He is a Turkish celebrity from a traditional musical family whose fame stems more from his musical acumen than from his frequent TV appearances.
After their glorious initial experiment, 2003’s “Wonderland,” Senlendirici became a sought-after star in Turkey and the region; and Ersahin got busy with his Nublu club on New York’s Lower East Side, then label, and his many other projects. “The band got put on ice,” Ersahin explains. But the remembered seduction of Wonderland’s drifting yet dynamic world never left them. It took a long time to round up the disparate Balkan clan of musicians.
The other musicians on this project include a host of players who are in demand among assorted jazz and pop stars. Violinist Adnan Karaduman has been featured on countless recordings, and the late kanun player Nuri Lekesizgoz is also present via recently-discovered tapes recorded some years back.
“These musicians are all the hottest players, the cats of the Istanbul scene. But Gypsy and Kurdish musicians have a hard time in Turkey today. They have that larger-than-life, outsider edge, even more than in New York. The stress leads to some of them being troubled, because of dealing with being a historically oppressed minority in a crazy society. It took a minute to find the right people for the recording.” Ersahin explains. One thing the players all share – a rebel spirit.
Gilberto Gil and Jane Birkin were both approached by Ersahin and came on board because they saw the beauty of Wonderland. Birkin was won over by the string arrangements on her track, reminiscent of the work she did with Serge Gainsbourg on “Valse De Melody Nelson,” and chose to perform one of her own poems, “Fathers and Daughters.” As Brazil is central to the Nublu aesthetic, the presence of the Tropicalismo founder and former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, singing and scatting with abandon, is very fitting. He laid the vocals in a Brazilian studio, and was overjoyed to express himself amidst the Turkish sounds; he told Ersahin that he loves Istanbul and sees it as a dreamlike painting.
The songs were all recorded at Babajim Studios in Istanbul. “The Other Side” is an album that shouldn’t really be classified as a “world music” album despite its obvious international nature, but rather listened to with open ears, heart and mind. It’s as special as anything you’re likely to hear this year.