Birol Topaloglu Laz Music Group
Birol Topaloglu: solo and accompanying vocals, percussion, kemenche, and tulum (small bag-pipe)
Selim Bölükbasi: tulum, percussion, accompanying vocals
Three Laz women polyphonic vocalists from Republic of Georgia:
Lily Abdulishi: vocals (soprano)
Neli Vanidze: vocals (soprano)
Liana Sherozia: piano and vocals (alto)

Birol Topaloglu is one of the foremost folk musicians in Turkey today. He was born to a Laz family, in the small village Apso, which is on the North Eastern shore of the Black Sea coast of Turkey, near the Georgian border. He grew up speaking the Lazuri language at home. He started to sing in both Turkish and Lazuri, as well as his experiments in instrumentation drew serious attention. After having worked as an electronic engineer, at home in Turkey and abroad, he chose his music as his primary career.

Birol Topaloglu started collecting the lullabies, and the ballads sung by his mother. In 1997 he recorded the music of the Laz highlanders in Turkey. Later he traveled to Georgia to study the music of the Laz and the Megrels there. He used, for the first time among the Laz in Turkey, a string instrument called the "Chonguri" and a wind instrument called "Philili". Birol also helped to develop a percussion instrument, inspired by the wood used to build beehives, adding to the repertoire of Laz folk instruments.

Birol Topaloglu's US produced CD "Heyamo & Aravani" is coming out from 7/8 Music label in September licensed from Kalan Muzik of Istanbul. It is a collection of folk songs in Lazuri (the Laz language) and his own compositions. Birol and his ensemble traveled through Europe since 1999 giving concerts in Germany, France, Holland and England. Birol's CD with the title "Aravani" is dedicated to an important Laz scholar, painter and musician, Helimisi Xasani.
A third collection of field recordings of Laz music CD "Lazeburi" has just come out. The instruments in the Topaloglu live band are the traditional kemenche (a narrow, long bowed 3 string instrument) the tulum, called guda in Lazuri, (double chanter polyphonic bagpipe), various drums and piano. Further information about Birol Topaloglu and his music can be obtained on the Internet at the following addresses:; Telephone:(415) 242-4085,
Fax: (415) 564-8266,

About the Laz:
The modern Laz live in a portion of the ancient land of Colchis, neighboring the east of ancient Pontos. It is an area from approximately Trabzon in northeastern Turkey to Batumi in southwestern Georgia. The Laz and Mingrelians (Christian Laz) are a distinct Caucasian people related to the Georgians and the Svans. Their history can be traced to 8th century BC. They are said to be descendants of the Colchis, owners of the Golden Fleece, and hosts of Jason and the Argonauts. Ancient Colchis was roughly the area of the entire eastern Black Sea coast Abkhaz, Mingrelian and Ajar region of present Georgia including northeastern coast of Turkey. In the 3rd century BC there was a Lazika kingdom in competition with the Roman and the Persian Empires. In the 8th century AD the Laz came under the influence of the Byzantines, and later on under the influence of the Ottoman Empire. They were converted to Christianity in the 5th century, they gradually became Moslems during the Ottoman reign from 1462 to about 1923.

The language Lazuri is related to Mingrelian, a language of the southern Caucasus. In the past it was mostly
an oral language, now it is being written in a modified Latin script. In modern days, the Laz live not only on the Black Sea coast of Turkey and in southern Georgia, but after the Russian-Ottoman Wars (1877-78) and for economic reasons, they have migrated to other regions. They settled primarily in Western Turkey around the Marmara Sea and the lake Sapanca. Among the European countries, Germany is host to new cultural organizations such as Lazebura and about 20 thousand Laz.

The Laz are known to be light hearted, romantic yet philosophical people who love to sing, to the extent that ordinary communication may be carried out in song. They have lively festivals in spring and fall; in addition, most occasions call for exuberant celebrations with community dances and singing. The Laz love their enchanting mountains, the falcons and sparrow hawks that live in the mountains, the wild rivers that rush through the landscape, and the countless varieties of alpine flowers that dot the highlands. The Laz grow tea, corn, green collards, hazelnuts, and beans; have an extensive meat and dairy industry. Their cuisine is famous for dishes with fish and a type of flat corn bread. In big cities around Turkey where Laz have settled they acquired a monopoly on bakeries with remarkable success. The mode of dress of the Laz is unto itself. The headdress, the design on the skirts and stockings of the women has not changed for centuries, yet they are curiously modern.
The culture of the land where the Laz live is very rich. There are the Muslim Armenians, the Pontic Greeks, the Circassians, the Abkhaz, the Muslim Georgians, the Turks, as well as other peoples of distinct heritage that live on the same land as the Laz. The songs, dances, textiles and other indications of folk culture of the region reflect the unique contribution of each of these peoples. Currently, there is a serious effort to document by film and by recordings, the history, the oral folklore, and the ancient and modern life styles of the region.

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