Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Angels' Songs, Wild Imaginings

The place: A popular bakery in Church Hill, Sub Rosa, subbing for Istanbul in the '60s.

The cast: Friends and fans of Yeni Nostalji, a band devoted to performing new interpretations of Turkish pop classics along with some original compositions at their inaugural performance.

The stars: Christina, she of the haunting vocals and Low Branches fame, Evrim, baker extraordinaire and handsome Turkish guitarist/vocalist and Jeff, husband of a Turkish woman, playing all other parts.

The scene: Some people have arrived early enough to occupy the few chairs set up for the audience, but people continue to arrive until every inch of the bakery floor is supporting someone. People are not only standing behind the counter, they're standing outside on the sidewalk to listen through the open door on this beautiful Sunday night.

The libations: Turkish all the way. The choices are Efes beer or raki, an anise flavored liqueur that is considered the national alcoholic beverage of Turkey. Mixed with a little water, it becomes cloudy and the source of a mildly dream-like buzz (think absinthe) and is naturally my choice.

The friends: Not surprisingly, I run into lots of people I know. The baker/teacher, the poet (date-less for a change), the dance party enthusiast, the musician and jewelry maker happy couple, even the young duo who used to live in my building and whom I haven't seen in a couple of years.

The Hair: Christina and Evrim have been styled by a Church Hill salon, Seven Hills, and while Evrim's is dapperly arranged to complement his mustache, Christina looks like a vision from 1966 with part of her long hair arranged on top of her head and the rest hanging down as a backdrop for her big earrings.

The music: Turkish songs of love, loss and happiness, or at least that's what I hear in the inflections of a language I do not know. Each song is more beautiful than the last and as the evening sky's deep blue gives way to navy blue, it is easy to forget we are in Church Hill.

Evrim says, "I want to thank Christina for re-introducing me to these songs." They do "Love Story (Where Do I Begin?)" and while I can hear the English words in my head, the Turkish ones are infinitely more beautiful.

The review: It's hard to conceive that this is their first time playing out. The trio is so comfortable with each other, their music so much a part of them and the vibe they create that surely they must have been playing these songs at a dim, smoky Turkish bar in another life.

Sipping raki listening to Turkish pop music in a bakery in Church Hill. Could there be a lovelier Sunday evening?

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