The Mercan Dede Ensemble was founded in 1998, as the culmination of Mercan Dede's extensive musical experience over the past decade both in Turkey and in North America. The primary aim of the Ensemble is to foster an environment in which music can be created and enjoyed freed from restrictive categories and concerns related to the division of music according to various disciplines. A combined wealth of practical training as well as years of experience in performing traditional eastern music enables the members of the Ensemble to realize this aim to a degree not often encountered. Mercan Dede’s additional experience with modern western music, and in particular electronic music, helps to create a new and powerful musical expression in combination with the eastern-inspired music and improvisations provided by the other members of the ensemble. Together, these styles of music work to highlight their similarities, both in style and intent.
As suggested by the title of his second album, Journeys of a Dervish, Mercan Dede is interested not only in the place where he happens to be at any particular moment; he pays careful attention also to the processes by which he arrived there. The Ensemble is concerned as well with these changing considerations, and seeks to express them in the various layers of their compositions.
The inspirational force behind the work of Mercan Dede and the Ensemble is that which has carried the message of Rumi through centuries and around the world; "dervish" means threshold, and the ultimate aim for any Sufi is to meet and be met at the point where one space becomes another.
The Ensemble, originally founded by Mercan Dede, Mohammad and Farokh Shams, and joined later by Toronto-based world-musician Ben Grossman, will now be graced by the accompaniment of Isaiah Sala, a young Sufi whirler. This new element will add another, visual, dimension to the Ensemble, as well as opening up new realms of potential for the spiritual practice of whirling.