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One of the world's best-known Turkish musicians, Omar Faruk Tekbilek brings his ensemble here this week for three concerts.
A child progidy in his native land, Tekbilek quit school as a teenager to pursue music and study Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. He became an in-demand studio musician in Istanbul, and toured the US with a traditional Turkish music ensemble in 1971 at the age of 20.
By the time he returned to the US in 1976, this time for good, he was already married and a father. Settling in upstate New York, he took a job in a clothing factory to make ends meet and continued playing music in New York City on the weekends.
This all changed in 1988, when he met producer Brian Keane. The two began a fruitful collaboration that continues to this day, and their signature brand of synth-heavy, accessible Near Eastern music enabled Tekbilek to return to making music full time while introducing Western ears to the beauty of Turkish melody.
Tekbilek, besides being an accomplished singer in Turkish, Greek, Arabic and Persian, is a master of traditional instruments, especially the saz (a long-necked Turkish lute) and the nay (reed flute). His ensemble is a shifting arrangement of the best Middle-Eastern fusion players.
Tekbilek has been to Israel many times and has developed deep friendships among the ethnic music community here, so his shows will be packed with good vibes. His most recent album, the richly textured Alif (co-produced with studio wizard Steve Shehan) features a duet with Zahava Ben, and Tekbilek has worked for years with Yuval Ron, the Israeli composer based in Los Angeles whose ensemble is scheduled to play at the next Jerusalem Oud Festival.
Wednesday and Thursday (May 16 and 17) at 9 p.m. at Tzvata in Tel Aviv. Tickets: (03) 695-0156; (03) 695-0157; May 18 at 9:30 p.m. at Heihal Tarbut in Petach Tikva. Tickets: (03) 912-5222.