The art of the Buzuq (1)

L'Art du Bouzouk


01. Chahnaze en 5
02. Maqam Ajam
03. Maqam Kurd
04. Qadi Sero
05. Maqam Nahawend
06. Maqam Husseyni
07. Voyage à travers les Maqams
08. Maqam Hidjaz
09. Retour aux sources




Issa Hassan (artist name also: Issa), born December 25, 1970 in Lebanon, now living in France, is a Kurdish musician, Bouzouki player and composer. 
Issa’s story began long time ago, in a small village in Turkish Kurdistan, when his grand-parents took the road to exile, to a country which, at the time, represented a degree of safety: Lebanon. About thirty years later, someone was born there who is becoming one of the Masters of the bouzouk and one of those Eastern musicians whose contact with other musical horizons make it possible to look forward enthusiastically to what the century present will offer. Because Issa has become a Parisian and gives us the pleasure of hearing a music both rooted in Kurdish culture and impregnated with the flavours and scents of his travels.

His playing shows virtuosity together with the originality one expects from a great musician and the broadminded spirit and musical humour that his fluency in the modal system of the Eastern music allows. But, whether he plays with jazzmen or flamenquists, he is never separated from what constitutes the heart very heart of his music: the Kurdish soul. With his bouzouk he has crossed the world and sung in places as varied as the Institute of the Arab World, the Wild Cabaret, the festivals of Ris Orangis or of Médina of Tunis, Jerusalem or Kensington Town Hall in London. Today, as cultural consultant of the Paris Kurdish Institute Foundation, Issa is as enthusiastic about traditional as by contemporary Kurdish artistic expression.

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The word buzuq is Turkish and occurs in 'bashi-buzuq,' the name given to the Ottoman troops, literally meaning 'burnt head' or 'uprooted.' In its folk form, the buzuq is a larger and deeper-toned relative of the Turkish saz and has a body carved from a single piece of wood. In its modern, urbanized form, the body is constructed from separate ribs and has mechanical, rather than wooden pegs.

A long-necked fretted lute, the buzuq is usually furnished with two courses of metal strings, a double (C4) and a triple (G3), played with a thin piece of horn or a plastic plectrum. The metal strings give the instrument a bright sound quality, while the fret distribution (~24 movable frets) offers many microtonal possibilities.

The buzuq, typically used as a solo instrument, is not considered a member of the standard Arab ensemble. It is found in both folk and urban contexts in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, and is associated with itinerant Gypsy musicians. The Rahbanis (Lebanon) latety popularized the use of this instrument and made it more mainstream.

The buzuq is slightly limited for the execution of the Arabic maqam, given that it's fretted. However frets are usually added for the most common quarter tones (E, A and B), and can be moved for additional fine tuning. Despite that fact a slight difference in intonation is noticed when the buzuq plays alongside a oud or a qanun for example.

Masters of the buzuq: Mohammad Abdel Karim (Syria), Matar Muhammad (Lebanon - Gypsy), Ali Jihad Racy (Lebanon).


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