Barbaros Erköse


Roman clarinetist Barbaros Erköse grew up steeped in the sounds of Turkish popular and traditional Rom (or Gypsy) music. Born in 1938 into a family of accomplished musicians - his father was the family’s music teacher, his brother Ali played violin and Selahattin played oud - Barbaros found his voice in the clarinet. One of his early teachers was the legendary Saffet Gündeger. Though his first professional performance was at the age of fourteen, it wasn't (according to Barbaros) until he reached the age of twenty-two that his father was truly satisfied with his son’s clarinet playing.

In 1961, after hearing a performance of Gypsy tunes by the three Erköse Brothers, the government owned Istanbul Radio offered them jobs. (In Turkey it is common practice for radio stations to hire musicians to play in studio.) The Erköse Brothers fast became the favorite musicians of Turkish stars of the time such as Zeki Müren and Gönül Yazar. They recorded for several European and Turkish labels and their tours took them to the US, Europe and the Middle East. Erköse had become, and still is, recognized as a virtuoso Gypsy musician who plays with passion as well as refined technique.

An inquisitive musician intrigued and excited by all forms of music, Erköse became involved in projects that took him on a journey into different styles in the early 1990s. He played with Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem on Brahem’s 1992 recording Conte de l'incroyable amour (ECM) and became a frequent member of Brahem's trio, which includes percussionist Lassad Hosni. While performing in Europe, Erköse met German musician Peter Pannke which led to their collaboration on a project related to Heinrich Von Morungen, a German traveler from the 13th Century. This project, which involved seven musicians including Erköse's long-time percussion accompanist Güngör Hosses, resulted in an album called Morungen/Songs from Visionary Musical. Erköse toured with the project, performing in Europe, India, Pakistan and Tunisia.

Erköse's interest in fusing different forms of music resulted in a recorded collaboration with American jazz trombonist Craig Harris and his Nation of Imagination project. Turkish, Rom, jazz, reggae, funk, hip hop and many more genres fuse in this project which melds old and new musical dialects into a music truly of the world. A world music where the sound of the soul is more important than the tongue in which it speaks. Though Erköse is a highly accomplished musician, he views technical abilities as mere vehicles to carry emotions and that the ability to play soulful music must come from one’s own experiences. Erköse's clarinet speaks volumes as it wraps itself around the emotive tongues of Gypsy music, jazz and the many new musical territories and their languages into which his insatiable musical curiosity leads him.