Topaloglu Laz Music Group
Birol Topaloglu: solo and accompanying vocals, percussion,
kemenche, and tulum (small bag-pipe)
Selim Bölükbasi: tulum, percussion, accompanying
Three Laz women polyphonic vocalists from Republic of Georgia:
Lily Abdulishi: vocals (soprano)
Neli Vanidze: vocals (soprano)
Liana Sherozia: piano and vocals (alto)
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.
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.
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
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:
Fax: (415) 564-8266, www.lazebura.com
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.
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.
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.