Arts, Culture & Media

Global hit

For today's Global Hit we're heading south to another city that bridges East and West.

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

We're talking about the Turkish city Istanbul.

It's the home of a group that's interested in bridging some musical divides.

The band's called Orient Expressions, and they blend jazz and electronica with traditional folk music.

Reporter Meribeth Deen caught up with some of the members and sent this report.

=============================================

The Radio Oxigen's office looks out across the Bosphorus in Istanbul. It's right under the first bridge linking Europe and Asia.

It's where I met the band Orient Expressions.

Richard Hamer is a member of the trio.

He was born in the US, grew up in Canada, and now lives in Istanbul.

Hamer: Istanbul is a strange magnet that draws people from all over the place. Over the past 30 years it's become representative of everyone in Anatolia-from the Agean to the East, North South and in-between.

This song, "Istanbul 1:26 am," was the first track the band ever recorded together.

Richard says it was inspired by the nightlife in the city's Beyoglu neighborhood.

Beyoglu is at the heart of the city's entertainment district.

It's known for its historic cafes, neoclassical architecture, and European consulates.

Just about a mile away is a poor neighborhood known as Okmedana.

Many Alevi Muslims live here.

Alevis' beliefs are rooted in folk traditions.

And music is central to their method of prayer.

Cem Yldz is an Alevi who lives in Okmedana.

He plays the baglema for Orient Expression. The baglema is similar to a lute, and it's fundamental to Alevi folk music.

Yldz says he was hesitant at first to integrate his culture's traditional music with contemporary electronic sounds.

Yldz: Traditional music is so important to the Alevi people. Our songs are about life, about religion and love. The music is so strong, its felt so deeply.

But in the end, he says he felt with Orient Expressions he could stay true to his roots.

That's why he invited Alevi folk legend Sabahat Akkiraz to sing on the second album.

She sings: "You're my earth, you're my water�
Bury me deeply in the earth."

This song follows the style of a traditional Alevi folk song, but the lyrics are original and integrated with the band's electro-jazz sensibilities.

Which makes the song's name, "Root and the Branch," all the more fitting.

For the World, I'm Meribeth Deen, in Istanbul.