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Dervisáki if you keep playing / At the cards and at the dice / And keep smoking black hashish / Then your fate will never be good. --Andónios Dalgás "You have your beauty, I have my love / Yours the tyranny, mine the patience / Every moment they increase, they don't grow less / Unending, limitless." --Hafiz Burhan Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul, by whatever name it has been known, this great city bestriding the Bosphorus where Europe meets Asia was, until the rise of Kemalism and modern Turkey in the 1920s, a truly cosmopolitan, polyglot melting pot of many races and cultures. During the later years of the Ottoman Empire there were born in this city two of the twentieth century's outstanding singers of vernacular music. One Greek, the other Turkish, both the inheritors of rich and ancient tradition.
Historically, Istanbul has always been a land where cultures met (and clashed). Great Voices of Constantinople takes a point/counterpoint angle in its showcase of two vernacular music greats, Andonios Dhiamandidhis, or Dalgas, and Hafiz Burhan Sesyilmaz. Dalgas, a Greek, specialized in the "amane," an unmetered song consisting of single couplets, while the Turkish Burhan was more a Cantor, but also tackled the amane. Dalgas alone cut over 400 sides for the Greek HMV catalog between 1926 and 1933, and Burhan's numerous Columbia 78s are a testimony to his fame at the time. On this CD, both performers shine, with Dalgas providing some truly interesting lyrics--the translation to "Mia Smyrnia Stin Kokkinia" reads like the vocals of a ragtime number--and Burhan showcasing some truly inspiring backing instrumentation. As a bonus of sorts, one of the best cuts is a total wildcard: a frenetic 1930 "Kemani Cevdet Bey" instrumental track, thrown in for good measure. --Jason Verlinde