From heavy metal via Turkish tradition to an idiom all of his own
Discovering the Ney
The name Cengiz Arslanpay is indisputably Turkish, but Cengis spent most of his youth in the Dutch Bible Belt, surrounded by a circle of all-Dutch friends. Guitar and piano were his first instruments; heavy metal, psychedelic rock and abstract jazz his first musical loves.
It was only while studying sound design at the conservatorium that he happened upon the qanun, an Eastern version of the zither. And when that qanun – a rickety second-hand specimen – snuffed it, a friend introduced him to the instrument that Arslanpay would permanently make his own: the ney.
Turkish tradition as inspiration
The sound of this seemingly simple reed flute is completely determined by breathing and resonance, something that fascinated Cengis immediately on account of his background in sound design. In the idiosyncratic musical idiom that Arslanpay has developed since then, the Turkish tradition has formed a rich source of inspiration, but certainly not a straitjacket. ‘Culture is fluid,’ he comments. ‘People who stick to traditions often have no idea what they are actually preserving. It’s usually an illusion they are clinging onto, something that never existed in the first place. For me, tradition has a right to exist only if it is constantly reinterpreted in the present.’
Cengiz Aslanpay performed at the small-scaled festivaledition of Music Meeting in 2021. Get to know him by checking out his Music Meeting Concert, his Music Meeting Talks interview about his special instrument and his music and by reading the article 'Tradition calls for contemporary interpretation.'