Folk music from Turkey, Norway have much in common: Acclaimed Norwegian conductor

Folk music from Turkey and Norway have a great deal in common, according to an acclaimed Norwegian conductor and musician.

“Turkish folk music and Norwegian folk music have so many similarities and so many points where we can meet so that makes it interesting for a whole concert like we have done now,” Ragnar Rasmussen told Anadolu Agency in the capital Ankara. “So we put together a concept based on exactly that. We have a lot in common.”

On Saturday, Turkey’s State Polyphonic Choir is set to play the works of Scandinavian composers under Rasmussen’s baton at the CSO ADA Ankara concert complex.

“The first thing that I think about Turkish culture is that it’s ancient. It has so much history going way, way back and which makes it interesting in itself. But then after starting working together with Turkish musicians and singers, then it was very clear to me how similar, in many ways Turkish folk music and Norwegian folk music is,” he said.

Turkish folk music sounds like it contains a lot of different things, he said.

“I mean, you have music that comes from three different coastlines,” he explained, referring to Turkey’s coasts on the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Sea.

“So, of course, I’m from Scandinavia. This is exotic to me. At the same time, it’s very touching so it hits the same strings.”

Rasmussen said he has played in Turkey previously. “It’s a privilege. I feel very privileged to be back in Ankara, Turkey. I had one concert before with this ensemble in this hall where we are sitting right now,” he said.

He said getting the opportunity to do another concert in this new “fantastic venue that you have here in Ankara is a big privilege for me,” referring to the new concert hall, which opened in December 2020.

On Turkish people’s interest in art and music, he said: “What I know from my conversation with normal people I met at my hotels or restaurants in Turkey is that it seems to me like people are very interested in this. And that, of course, makes it even nicer for me to be allowed to perform here.”

Stressing that the power of art and music can bind people to each other, despite political and other differences, he said: “Music is powerful, really powerful, and it can be used for better or for worse.”

Rasmussen said that as a musician and choral and orchestral conductor, he feels he can bring people together. That is why he works with collective musicianship.

“Bring us together and also then make us see things in a different way. See that we all live under the same sun,” he said.

“We are brothers and sisters and we should cherish and celebrate over differences and we should work hard to love each other. This is not easy.”

Praising music’s role in the harmony of humanity, he said: “I don’t want to do nationalistic music. I don’t think we need it now, but we need different cultures coming together. That is what we are trying to do in this country.”

He added, without specifically mentioning the ongoing war in Ukraine: “War is outdated. War is not necessary at any point, not today.”

– Fantastic to visit new hall in Ankara

For Norwegian musician Henning Sommerro, playing in Turkey will be a first in his career.

“I have been to Turkey before, but I never had a concert here in Turkey, so this is my first time. And I’ve heard a lot about the new hall. It’s should be fantastic to visit the hall and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Sommerro will be featured in the Under the Same Sun concert with his accordion and vocal performance.

Sommerro’s compositions reflect Norwegian folklore and music he composed specifically for Turkey. This River, a poem by 13th-century Sufi mystic, poet, and Islamic scholar Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, has also been set to music.

“I have also made a piece. It was four or five years ago. And I did use a text by Rumi from the 13th century. And that’s the piece, which is a mix of Turkish and Norwegian music I think. It is a lot of emotion,” he said.

“I think much of the music of Turkey and Norway is very similar,” he added.

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