LATIF BOLAT: BEING A HUMAN BEING IS THE BASIC
Latif Bolat is a distinguished Turkish musician.He is born in Mersin, Turkey. After receiving a degree in folklore and music at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, he taught traditional music throughout the country. He then went on to manage Ankara Halk Tiyatrosu, a musical theater company, which performed traditional musical plays. He also received additional degrees in Turkish History and Middle East Religion and Politics from Ankara University and an MBA from San Francisco State University. Now Latif Bolat is residing in Santa Fe. His concert and conference itinerary has taken him all across America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and England. With a vast repertory that includes songs in classical, folk and Sufi mystic music styles, he accompanies his singing on the baglama (long-necked lute), and various other traditional instruments. He is the author of the soundtrack music for the George Lucas Studio's TV series "Young Indiana Jones". He performs at the international festivals in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Poland, Indonesia and Turkey. He has also been in the teaching staff of the World Music School in Bali, Indonesia, Mendocino Middle Eastern Music Camp and Honolulu Music and Dance Camp.
Latif Bolat was one of the participants in the workshop “Music without borders”, organized by the club “Ethno art” in Balchik, Bulgaria, June 20-22. He performed together with the Russian musician Poman Stolyar.
- In your lecture in Balchik, you told that the philosophy behind the text "If you give it to me, ll give it to you" is not democratic. What kind of text you would write, if you were the writer?
Actually, with that statement, I was trying to take everyone's attention to the very low quality of lyrics in the Western musical world, especially in the Hip Hop and Rap music circles. Just imagine that most of the rappers come from the black ghettos of New York and Los Angeles. You would expect that they would deal with their struggle for justice and equality in America. They are really in very bad shape in this society so you would think that they would talk about being oppressed, being humiliated, old days of slavery, injustice they face due to their skin color etc. However with a small exception, most of the hip hop world is full of explicit sexuality, looking down on women, drugs, glorification of violence. That's why I think these musicians are not in touch with their own reality. Otherwise they would not be using such lyrics as "give it to me, I'll give it to you".
- You performed together with Roman Stolyar, who is a typical northern musician. What is the most strange music mix that you have ever done and with witch musician?
Yes, It was a wonderful experience for me to play with someone from Siberia with all that passion for music. I hope I'll get to do more of such collaborations with musicians from Bulgaria and other neighboring peoples. Actually, I always enjoy working together with different musicians so I don't have a memory of a "strangest collaboration". For example I really had great fun with working together with Indonesian musicians in Jakarta last year. Their music was very different from mine. But we created a wonderful sound together. The main reason for such pleasant collaboration is that nobody was trying to impose their music onto somebody else. So it was very democratic in that sense.
- How did you collaborate with George Lucas?
When I lived in San Francisco California several years ago, his studio contacted me to add some Turkish music to their Young Indiana Jones TV series. That particular episode was taking place in Istanbul during the First World War. So I played some songs from that time period. It was great work. But I didn't get to see the movie on TV.
- You have also a degree in Middle East Religion and Politics. What is the difference and the resemblance between the politic and the culture, especially the music?
Actually, politics is in the center of every other thing for me. Our cultures are being heavily affected by the politics of the world and especially by the politics of our own countries. For example these days this "globalization" idea has been pushed into our brains by the Western world especially by America. This is the politics of these days. These ideas in return are affecting our cultures so much that we are losing our cultural identities very rapidly. For example when I was in Turkey, I realized that even the most traditional music has guitars, keyboards etc. And every musician is trying to be accepted by MTV or mainstream media. Playing the most traditional music or doing the old fashion dances are NOT really very acceptable. They label you as an old fashion person immediately. Therefore, I think in order to rescue our national values and identities, we need to be very political and involve in politics. That way we can prevent losing our heritages this rapidly.
- Do you have many students and followers?
I don't teach too much since I am on the road most of the time for my concert tours. However due to my hard work for the past 20 years in America, I think I have a nice following all over. Small but very deep. These people are the cream of the American society, I believe. They are very curious about other cultures. They respect very much what we have in the Balkans or in the Middle East. So they are very much into what I am able to present them from Turkey.
- What is your favorite traditional Turkish instruments, except the baglama and why?
I love the sound of the NEY (cane flute). This is probably the most spiritual musical instruments in Turkish music. It gives the effect of heavenly sounds. The breath coming from this instrument reflects the life and love very directly.
- Do you feel yourself like an artist between two nations?
It seems that I became an artist of the world due to my involvement with many other musical traditions. However I consider myself a very traditional Turkish musician before anything else. That's what I play and sing. But with my universalism, I am able to connect with other cultures very easily since I am seeing the value of being HUMAN very clearly. At the basic level, being a human being is the basic. National or religious differences came much later. Humans are almost 50 thousand years old. However the oldest organized religion is only 4000 or so years old. Therefore we need to keep that fact in mind when we talk about religious differences or national differences. Besides when we are born, nobody asks us if we want to be a Turkish person or an Indonesian person? Or nobody asks us if we want to be Muslim or Jewish or Christian? We are born thru a coincident, and just because our mothers or fathers are from a country to a religion, we become one of that nation or religion. I am saying this to indicate that being a human should come first and than religious or national differences can be a good thing, not a divisive thing.
- Would you perform together with the Bulgarian musician Theodossii Spassov in some future world music festival in Bulgaria (Balchik)?
When I come to Balchik next year I would like to do more music, definetely. This time I didn't play much since the conference setting was different from the Festival. Next time, I would like to colloborate with whoever shows interest and whoever thinks that making music together is a good idea. In this context, I hope I get to work with Theodossii Spassov as well. I am sure we would create a beautiful sound together.
- What is the most stupid question that you have ever answered?
No question is stupid of course, but this question is not too bad in that department!! Just kidding.
© Elena Vladova, 2003