Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
The Istanbul-based Lalezar Ensemble’s new four-CD set could charm even the most Eurocentric of ears. Titled Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio, the collection covers all kinds of Ottoman music from the past four centuries: from compositions by the sultans themselves to works by early-20th-century Turkish minority composers to songs by nightclub musicians. But the most interesting tracks are those written for the köçek, young male dancers who entertained the sultan’s courtdressed as womenuntil the 1800s. These select boys, who were trained from a very young age, would often achieve rock-star celebrity by the time they were 12 or 13. But as soon as their beards sprouted, the young men would find themselves turned into background musicians. Though they’re not performing for the sultan, the six musicians of the Lalezar Ensemble (who are on their first U.S. tour) bring the exotic strains of the Eastern music to life with plaintive vocals set against an aural tapestry of bowed, plucked, and beaten instruments: the three-stringed fiddle known as the kemençe, the dulcimer-like kanun, and percussion instruments the daire and the kudum. Hook up the hookah and travel back to the Ottoman Empire when the Lalezar Ensemble holds court at the Smithsonian. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th & Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Amy Domingues)