“As long as the artists do their home works with getting to know the other culture, working together can create wonderful results.”- Latif Bolat


The musical traditions of Turkey have been brought to the United States by Berkeley, California based multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and folklorist Latif Bolat. A teacher at the Mendocino Middle Eastern Music camp and Honolulu Music And Dance Camp, Bolat is the director of the Latif Bolat Turkish Music Ensemble of San Francisco and the musical director of the Mevlevi Association Of America, a Sufi organization the produces public performances of dance and Turkish classical music. Bolat was heard on the soundtrack of the George Lucas-produced television series, "Young Indiana Jones". Bolat, who holds a degree in folklore and music from the University of Ankara, was active in the music of Turkey before emigrating to the United States. In addition to teaching traditional music in Eastern Anatolia, he served as manager of Ankara Halk Tiyatrosu, a musical theater company that specializes in traditional musical plays. Shortly after moving to the U.S., Bolat received a grant from the California Arts Council for his work in preserving Turkish folk music.

You have been an M.B.A from San Francisco State University, worked as a computer expert for 22 years in the United States. How did your tryst with sufi music happen?

Turkey is like India, a very musical culture. Therefore we grow up in all sorts of music, including the Sufi genre. Actually secular and spiritual genres are mixed in a sense. Therefore without knowing everybody grows up listening such music and lyrics. In the USA, there was a wonderful interest by a small group of people. They sort of pushed me into the Sufi music tradition which I was already familiar with. The more I got involved the more I started appreciating.  And since then getting into even more with the philosophy, poetry, history and stories.


The music of the Sufi is practiced across the entire Islamic world, from Senegal to Indonesia. How would you explain the special features of Turkish Sufi music?

Actually, as a music genre, Sufi music also carries the Turkishness in it. That means technically it is in the same modes etc as the secular music of Turkey. Maybe the most defining part of it is the lyrics.
Poetry used in Sufi music is very old and very different from the general folk or court music tradition. Therefore with strong melodic structure Sufi music can create magic.

There has been an overload of the term “Sufi” in India in the recent times — Sufi-Rock, Sufi-Kathak, Sufi-Bollywood, Sufi-Festivals at the big metros.We're seeing considerable fusion being applied to traditional music forms now — what are your views on this trend?

Globalization has been designed to do exactly what you are mentioning. Under the name of global culture, globalization watered down everybody’s traditions in every aspect; music, dresses, food, behavioral patterns etc. By creating a very similar society around the globe, Globalization creators aimed a unified market where they can have no cultural or commercial barriers to sell their stuff to all of us.  That's why nothing sacred for the commercialization. In Turkey Whirling Dervishes dance in cafes, restaurants, weddings etc. It was supposed to be a sacred ritual. But it became a money making tool.  I really strongly against such developments. I am very much into the genuine cultural exchange among cultures. As long as the artists do their home works with getting to know the other culture, working together can create wonderful results.  Actually such fusion has been happening for the past several thousands of years anyway, nothing new. That's why Turkish, Persian, Arabic and Indian music and overall cultures have lots in common. We owe these commonalities to those wonderful people who got together in caravanserais or the old-time-hostels and exchange their talents by working together.

Hows been your experience performing in India? Do you have plans of collaborating with Indian musicians?

Playing in Ruhaniyat in India has been my annual highlight of my musical career for the past 8 years or so.  It is very satisfying in terms of the presentation, other musicians and the very receptive audience. Playing the ancient Turkish music and poetry in places like Purana Qila in Delhi, or close to Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad, or any ancient locations in India is like a dream for me.  It takes me into a wonderful time-traveling back to the times of the Great Akbar, Kabir, Amir Husrev.  This is alone an enough reason to come back every year.



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