Turkish duo "Painted on Water"

March 12, 2010 10:05:20 AM PST
Vocalist Sertab Erener and composer/guitarist Demir Demirkan are superstars back home in Turkey. Now they would like to increase their fan-base in the United States.

Last summer they completed their first U.S. tour playing to 6000 people in New York's Central Park. They've returned for another tour to perform and to promote their new single "Love" from their "Painted On Water" album. They will appear at Chicago's Copernicus Center on Saturday, April 3.

Erener and Demirkan are among Turkey's most celebrated musicians. Erener's 12 albums have sold in the millions in Turkey, and as far away as Japan. Guitarist, composer and Painted on Water album co-producer Demirkan is one of Turkey's true rock stars. He has released three solo albums and two film scores. He and Erener co-wrote the 2003 international hit, "Every Way That I Can," Turkey's first and only winner in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest

They are hoping that "Love" will be an international hit as well. Recorded in Istanbul, "Love" has been released to radio and is currently available for digital downloads and online purchase. "Love" is the English translation for the Turkish word "Ask;" the song was originally written in Turkish about the personification of love which is based on Sufi philosophy. The original Turkish lyrics were penned by Erener and Demirkan; the English lyrics were written by renowned lyricists Ken Williams and Kenny Seymour

Painted on Water, the album, was produced in Los Angeles and Istanbul by Painted on Water's Demirkan and nine-time Grammy winner Jay Newland (Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker)., The album combines traditional music and art from eastern culture with America's roots music, jazz and blues, with added pop and rock elements. Each of the album's songs is inspired by the melodies of Turkish Anatolian classical and folk music, with English lyrics written by Demirkan and by veteran No.1 songsmith Phil Galdston (Madonna, Celine Dion, Vanessa Williams).

What really sets the Turkish duo apart is their multi-media concerts where the work of a Turkish artist is projected on-stage. He creates as they perform. Their band and album are named after the traditional Turkish marbled-paper art known as Ebru, created by floating dyes on the surface of water, which is painting on water. They say the technique demonstrates the shifting, tangible and intangible qualities of music, emotion and art. Their upcoming concerts will be accompanied by a live projected display of Ebru art, created onstage by the master paper-marbling artist Bingul Sevilmi.

"We chose Ebru as the visual counter point because you can do it live on stage," says Demirkan. "When we are playing, there's a projection from the artist as he's painting in his tray. It's spell-binding. Magical. After the artist is done, you have a printed paper -- like recording music on a tape. These techniques will be familiar to Westerners who have seen the abstract oil-based projections tagged as psychedelic art in the 1960s."

For more information on Painted on Water or to download their music, visit www.motema.com/artist/painted-on-water

Painted on Water

8 pm on Saturday, April 3
Copernicus Center
5216 W. Lawrence


Sertab Erener has been among the most acclaimed female artists on the Turkish pop music scene for over 15 years. A conservatory-trained coloratura soprano, Erener's versatility in opera and pop styles has won her an army of devoted fans, and global sales of over four million records.

Erener's unique vocal and stage presence have led her to duets with international artists as diverse as Jose Carreras and Ricky Martin. In 2003, she represented Turkey at the Eurovision Song Contest in Riga, Latvia, and became the first and only Turkish singer ever to win the Eurovision first prize with "Every Way That I Can," co-written with her partner in PAINTED ON WATER, Demir Demirkan. She celebrated her career's 15th anniversary with the September 2007 open-air concert event "Autobiography" with several of her longtime friends and collaborators and a 28-piece orchestra, before a rapturous Istanbul crowd of 5,000. A lavishly-packaged document of this live concert appeared on DVD the following year.

Her work in PAINTED ON WATER represents a new creative plateau in an already accomplished career, Erener says. "To work with great musicians was a great experience. You learn things about music. And to create something you've been dreaming of -- to make a different aspect of an international career -- it's a step."

"Throughout my career, everyone has said I have a big voice because I graduated conservatory as an operatic soprano," Erener says. "In this album, I wanted to be a very simple, but very strong emotional voice. It's not as important to sing prolifically, I'm learning over the years -- the most important thing to give an emotion to the audience. Very simple. Very soft. Warm. Unique. I'm trying to be pure as a singer. Not so many variations, and big voice in the performance, but instead -- soul. Expression."

Sertab Erener's international career was launched in the wake of her Eurovision success. "Every Way That I Can" was a No. 1 hit in Sweden and Israel, and Top 10 in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Belgium, and Netherlands, reaching No. 4 on Music and Media Magazine's Border Breakers chart. It was also a chart hit in Israel, Czech Republic, and Poland, while entering the U.K. Top 75. Each of her albums has reached gold and platinum level in Turkey.

Her first English-language album No Boundaries was released in 2004, with contributions from such international songwriters, producers, and arrangers as Demirkan, Anggun, Philippe Laurent, Gilles Luka, and Peter Kvint. In Japan alone, No Boundaries sold more than 50.000 copies.

Sertab's innovative and intuitive cover version of "One More Cup of Coffee" was chosen by Bob Dylan as the lead song in the soundtrack of his autobiographical film Masked and Anonymous. "Here I Am," the first single from the No Boundaries album, was chosen for the soundtrack of the Japanese-Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters.


Demir Demirkan is the songwriter, arranger, co-producer, guitarist, and singer for the international album project PAINTED ON WATER.

Demirkan and his partner in the band PAINTED ON WATER, Sertab Erener, embarked on their world music and jazz/blues/rock fusion together after ten years of successful collaboration on Erener's pop projects in Turkish and English. This innovative work was co-produced in Los Angeles with Jay Newland, a nine-time Grammy-winning producer and engineer. "World music is about making your music, feeling your music first, then performing it in public," he says. "As individuals and as Painted on Water, Sertab and I are at a point in our lives and careers where we really want to touch people, in the deepest way. It's like food, educating your palate and feeding your soul."

Demirkan played his first guitar at age 13, and attained national stardom in 1990 when he joined the Istanbul heavy rock group Pentagram as songwriter and guitarist. In 1992, he studied at Musician's Institute in Los Angeles with Scott Henderson, Frank Gambale, and Paul Hanson, also playing studio and live gigs. His Los Angeles experience informed the current project in several ways, not least the fact that "the L.A. vibe is great for art," Demirkan says. "Every day when I was studying in Hollywood, I passed A&M Studios, and I wanted to record an album there. When we were ready to record PAINTED ON WATER, we had to search for them because they'd changed their name to Hanson. Every time I passed by, I promised myself I'd get there and record, so it was a great moment, a dream came true."

In 1996, he returned to Istanbul and started to work as a producer, guitarist, and composer for top Turkish artists including Sebnem Ferah and Sertab Erener. One of Demirkan and Erener's songs, "Every Way That I Can," won first prize in the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest and sold over 400,000 copies worldwide. He re-joined Pentagram in 1997, and in 2000 released his first solo album for Sony Music. His albums Dunya Benim (The World is Mine) and Istanbul 2004 followed in 2002 and 2004. The latter was released in 11 countries after his European tour with Mike Tramp (White Lion). Demir Demirkan has also been called to write television ad jingles, and soundtrack music for TV and film, including scores composed for the documentary about Gallipoli /Gelibolu in 2005, and the recent Devrim Arabalari. Demir Demirkan continues his solo career in Turkey.

PAINTED ON WATER represents the culmination of a truly global vision, according to Demirkan: "Writing down musical notation was a western idea, so it could be replayed again," he notes. "The eastern musician replays the music for a certain occasion, and he takes out his instrument and plays. That's a basic distinction between the two worlds. The traditional obsession of western people is to plan actions, and the traditional way of eastern people is to do it. Bringing two mindsets together was the challenge of making the album. We're taking a long musical history passed from father to son, from master to disciple, ear to ear, and putting that into a record in a western way, rationalizing it, harmonizing it, writing it on paper, recording it. That's still my challenge as a modern musician from both worlds. If I hear something in my mind that hasn't been done, I have to do it."