Yesari Asim Arsoy (Bey), born in 1900 in present-day Drama, Macedonia, was a legendary composer and singer of Turkish folk, classical and pop music. In his childhood, because of his strong, beautiful voice, he was a muezzin, which was the person who announced the Islamic call to prayer twice a day. From 1929 until his death in 1992, he composed and recorded about 300 songs. Arsoy is regarded as a very important musician because he innovated the singing style, lyricism, diction and songwriting approach of popular Turkish music of the 1930s and 40s.

Here he sings the self-penned duet “Kadinlar Erkekler”, “Men and Women” in English, with another famous Istanbul-based singer (and cinema star), Madame Mahmure Hanim. From the 1920s through the 1950s, she was very well-known in Turkey and in Anatolian culture around the world, recording many Turkish folk and pop sides and also appearing in over 30 films.

Besides the vocal duo, the accompaniment I hear is an oud, extra male and female voices, and violins, with one of the violins typically doubling and/or harmonizing the singing melody.

 

 

 

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Pastora Pavón Cruz, best known as La Niña de Los Peines (“the Girl of the Combs”), was born in Sevilla, Spain in 1890 and is probably the most important flamenco singer of the 20th century. She never learned to read or write, but began singing at 8 years old and was a prodigy. She was already celebrated in her teens and came to be regarded as a genius of many Spanish song-forms, or “palos”, including: tangos, tientos, malagueñas, tarantas, cartageneras, granaínas, peteneras, and the bambera. Cruz has been compared to historical illuminators of music like Bach, and her mark on Spanish cultural history is indelible.

In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; the contribution of La Niña de Los Peines undoubtedly playing a large part in this distinction.

Here she sings an absolutely haunting “saeta”, a revered style of Spanish religious song, here simply titled “Saetas”, and she is joined by cornets, trumpets and a tambourine player. Stark and striking, her voice so thick and impassioned, this kinda of performance slows down time with it’s gravity and almost certainly evokes mortality. This is one of the great songs of all time, and I am so lucky to have found an impeccably clean copy of this Columbia-reissued classic.

 

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