Soprano Ayşe Göknur Shanal presents a concert at the Sydney Opera House of both Greek and Turkish Cypriot songs, in a plea for peace, and a stand against prejudice and tribalism. Her goal is both simple and terribly complicated: to bring both sides of the community together in a single celebration.
Many Cypriots fled war to Australia, which now has the second largest Cypriot community outside the island. The concert will feature 600 years of Cypriot music along with a world premiere. Unsurprisingly, many of the hauntingly beautiful songs feature a Romeo and Juliet theme – lovers separated by race, religion and manmade borders; love and resilience overcoming all. One such song is a new work by Yalçın Oytam, who by day works as a NSW government scientist and by night writes Turkish poetry and music.
Acclaimed soprano Ayşe Göknur Shanal, who has performed with Opera Australia and all the state symphony orchestras, will be accompanied by rarely-heard traditional instruments, including the bouzouki played Achilleas Yiangouli, fretless bağlama and ney (Middle Eastern flute) played by Gazi Yalçın, and percussion played by George El-Azar.
For Ayşe, the concert is particularly poignant, following the recent loss of her mother and rediscovery of family on a chance visit to Cyprus. She invites all music lovers to come and discover the unique sound world of this island at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East.