Istanbul may not be a traditional hub of electronic music but a scene is emerging that’s getting us pretty excited. Gantz broke the mould with his Turkish infused dubstep, and Tektosag Records does a great job of giving young producers a foot up. Another Istanbul offering is Algerian born, El Mahdy Jr. His influence of Islamic and Turkish culture makes for some of the most original stuff around and his latest EP, Gasba Grime, is a testament. By adding a dark twist to Turkish folk instruments and utilising call to prayer samples, the five-track EP transport us headlong into a Sin City of the Middle East.
‘Zarga’ is a steady introduction, recalling Fatima Al Qadiri with tambur guitar plucks beside skittering hats, but is abruptly ended by the guttural Arabic in ‘Gasba Grime’. A track more ‘grime’ than ‘gasba’, it’s primed for the rewind in UK clubs. Next, El Mahdy lures us back into his tumultuous world with the ominous march of ‘Lost Bridge’. Chains clatter and tefs shake while the bass plods on under shrill cries, with the Killing Sound version on the flip giving the original an even more chilling edge. The heart wrenching call to prayer crashes into nothing and we are left with only a rattle of chains and sub tremors. ‘Crack-Addicted Belly Dancer’ is as distressing and erotic as its name suggests, with its undeniably Arabian sound snaking alongside frantic drums.
Even as the needle glides over the centrepiece we remain in Mahdy’s grip. The EP has laid bare a stark image of an eastern culture but one that gripped us from start to finish and created a more intimate relationship between Western ears and the Middle East than many of us could hope to experience.
For more Turkish inspired music check out Gantz’s 100% Turkish mix for STW.