I was nothing but a scraggly, stargazing, stumbling teenager when I was first struck by the immense power of the human voice. Guided stealthily by John Peel and Andy Kershaw on the radio, I recall hotfooting it to the record store to buy a couple of Voix de Bulgares and Sweet Honey In The Rock albums on the same sunny afternoon and that was it: I was hooked. The super-charged emotion and the beauty of those albums were depth charges released deep into the soul: I’m glad to say they are still reverberating clearly all these years later.
Much like the magical Bulgarian and American voices above, Tulay German is a Turkish folk / jazz singer with a vocal that sounds like sweet sorrow distilled in a jar, and Berlin’s Zehra Records are re-issuing a couple of her early `80s albums, recorded in Paris in conjunction with double bassist, Francois Rabbath.
The self-titled album and Homage To Nazim Hikmet both contain wonders: based on traditional Turkish folk songs and poems from Nazim Hikmet, there is a graceful swoon to the tracks within, that foregrounds Tulay’s astonishing performances. Each track is a deep dive into affairs of the heart. Ne Bilir and Kirdilar, for example, layer restrained orchestration under beautiful vocal melodies: the effect is absolutely spell-binding. Turn out the lights, tune out the world and let yourself be transported to other realms.
Mapusane ups the tempo slightly: a ragged riff underscoring the lyrical theatrics, the kind of delicious vibe that would sit nicely next to The Penguin Café Orchestra or Jon Hassell in an outernational DJ set. Rabbath’s double bass anchoring the whole shebang, rocking gently – just beautiful, beautiful music.
It`s when the tempo drops back to a crawl, though, that the real strength of the offerings becomes apparent: this is for those 4AM moments when sleep is just a mirage and you need something to hold back the night, a charm against the void.
With Tulay German alive and well and living in Paris, hopefully these two albums will spark a renaissance in her career: certainly her voice is one that will echo down the ages for sure. Surrender and swim in the splendour. This is heart-wrenchingly wonderful music.
The collected recordings of Tülay German and Francois Rabbath are available now on Zehra Records.