Berke Can Özcan – The shepherd

Berke Can Özcan – the setup

Here is a musician who surrounds himself  with an intriguing collection of sound sources. These include steel drums, chimes, gongs, log drums, a harmonium (!) – and a large array of homemade ‘instruments’ including old keys, soda caps, flower pots, bamboos, bicycle bells, straw brooms, old toys, garden hoses …

And that’s before we consider all the antiquated samplers  and recording machines which provide him with an ample range of unplanned hissings, hums and rumbles. 

Normally when I see pictures and videos of solo musicians surrounded by this sort of stuff and the obligatory looping pedal, I fear the worst. (See my article “The pros and cons of live looping”)  What you often see and hear are a seemingly random hitting and plucking of disparate instruments where there is often no obvious or discernable  musical structure or purpose. But not so here.

Here, the textures are clear, the sounds combine together well and, importantly, the various loops are well crafted. Özcan is a  drummer – so  we might expect the usual flashy percussion pyrotechnics and cross rhythms but this, refreshingly, is not his priority with this music. Yes, rhythmically the piece is very tight and everything is in its right place, but his focus here is not with the developing melodies, harmonies and rhythms. He is concentrating much more on the sounds themselves. How best to put them together in musically satisfying textures and structures. On a first listen, nothing much seems to happen,  but this simplicity and restraint belies considerable subtlety. 

Listen, for instance, to the floor toms which underpin the piece and the subtle tonal variations he creates here. Listen to how the natural and processed cymbal sounds complement one another and how the various shaking and rattling devices are used sparingly to provide musical punctuations at exactly the right moments. And how we wait until almost the very end of the music before the harmonium drones make a welcome appearance. 

The entire album “Mountains are Mountains” is well worth a listen and the video below gives a good idea of this fine Turkish musician at work. 

Visit his website here

One thought on “Berke Can Özcan – The shepherd”

  1. Having now had a chance to listen and reflect on this music a little more, I can hear how Berke manages to overcome the problem of predictability when using looping techniques. It’s to do with use of variation. Take that opening mallet phrase – a few notes ascending then ending in a trill. The number of repetitions, before the answering phrase is played, constantly changes. Then a bit later on, the space between repetitions increases. Then further on some notes are left out or the associated rhythm pattern changes. Constant change and development ensures even a simple musical phrase such as this will bear repetition and continue to engage our attention. Loopers take note!


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