November 19, 2012 By Shameer

Mercen Dede: Synthesizing Broken Lives in a Ney

dede photoJalal al-Din Rumi’s Mathnawi opens with the mention of a musical instrument which symbolises mankind: ‘From reed-flute hear what tale it tells/ What plaint it makes of absence’ ills/ From jungle-bed since me they tore/Men’s, women’s, eyes have wept right sore/ My breast I tear and rend in twain/To give, through sighs, vent to all my pain/Who’s from his home snatched far away/Longs to return some future day.

When Mercen Dede aka Arkin Allen reads his ney, which is a flute common in Mid-East, it seems as if the instrument personifies the ace composer’s plaintive longing for return. Dede does not appear to be reading the flute, he is wailing for the sake of the mankind. His 2007-album 800 has these lines: Is it a crime to walk with all creation hand in hand/All right; then I am the biggest criminal on the earth.

Rupture in human essance and relationships will fail to string the creations of the God in a common garland of ultimate objective, which is to return to the Creator (Inna Lilla wa inna Ilayhi Raji’un: We belong to the God and we return to him). Dede wants to piece together all broken beads in the earthly existence of creations by linking the old and the new; east and the west; original and synthetic in his music. Read in the biography of his website: ‘Mercan Dede believes that when you put digital, electronic sounds together with hand-made, human ones, you can create universal language, capable of uniting old and young, ancient and modern, East and West….

‘This contrast between electronica and classical or folkloric arts cuts to the core of the Sufi philosophy that guides this one-of-a-kind artist. ‘Those things are not really separate,’ says Dede. ‘The essence of Sufism is counterpoint. Everything exists with its opposite. On one side, I am doing electronic music. The other side of that is this really acoustic, traditional music.’

Born in 1966, Arkin Allen’s subconscious had stored somewhere in its inner receptacles the yearning for Moulana Rumi’s flute. That may be the reason why Moulava (Mevlana in Turkish) has always influenced the composer, who devoted his last album named 800 to Mevlana. Also Dede has collaborated with Tevhide Tanya Evanson who has whirled like a dervish for Dede’s Ney. In 1970s, when radio took the whole Turkey by storm, young Allen listened for the first time in his life to the sonorous, yet plaintive ney. Ney, or all such instruments for that matter, had found its space in the national subconscious of Turkey. True art is born, when an artist’s subconscious receives impetus from the collective subconscious. Hence, Dede’s ney was born. His website details how Allen, having had a poor upbringing, strove to own a ney.  His craze for the instrument had at first forced the artist to satiate it through a plumping pipe.

Dede wound up studying multimedia in Saskatoon, and he worked in a bar to earn rent money. That was where he first encountered the art of deejaying. One day the bar’s deejay couldn’t make it, and Dede stepped in.

Dede has also performed with such musical personalities as Kani Karaca, I’hsan Özgen, Misirli Ahmet, Ilhan Ersahin, Peter Murphy, Natacha Atlas, Azam Ali Musafir, I’lhan Ers¸ahin, Jamaledeen Tacuma, Hugh Marsh, Omar Sosa, Mich Gerber, Fazil Say, Susheela Raman, Trans Global Underground, Dhafer Youssef, Coldcut, Dhol Foundation, Emma Shaplin, Ludavico Eunadi, Trilok Gurtu. Mercan Dede and Secret Tribe’s summer tour 2003 included Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Arezzo Wave (I’taly), Skopje Festival (Macedonia), Moers Festival (Germany),World Roots Festival (The Netherlands), Jaen-Etnosur (Spain), Rhythm Sticks Festival (UK) and many others. The group’s 2004 U.S. debut took place at Joe’s Pub in New York in January, 2004, as part of the city’s groundbreaking world music marathon at Global Fest. Mercan Dede was invited to play at Global Fest’ (APAP Conference) in New York in January 2004, where 16 different bands from 5 continents played. He performed and completed his USA tour with 3 young gypsy musicians from turkey in their early teens.

Mercan Dede’s concert was reviewed by various press and music critics including Global Rhythm Magazine who made a cover story on him and his music calling his performance at Joes Pub; ” one of the best world music performance of recent years” .
The following year, Turkey & Germany based Production Company “Medya’ made a documentary film about his life and music which aired the same year and received great reviews.


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