Instanbul Singer Brings Her Inspirational Story To Corvallis

By Nancy Raskauskas,

Corvallis Gazette Times
Nov 19 2009

CORVALLIS — Ankine Ugur, a well-known singer from Istanbul, Turkey,
will share her irrepressible and charismatic style of music at a
concert this Friday in Corvallis .

Ankine has performed an old vaudeville style of music called Kanto
for more than 30 years in Turkey.

An unlikely star, she refused to let the conservative culture in her
predominantly Islamic homeland hold her back from her dreams of being
a singer.

Complicating matters, she is a Christian of Armenian heritage. It’s
a fact she hid from most people — including her husband’s Muslim
family for many years — going by the stage name "Aysun Isik."

A few years ago, she was able to reveal her true identity to her many
fans , and since has been on tour to Germany and the subject of a
documentary filmed in 2008.

Ankine will perform traditional Turkish music and Kanto with
Eugene-based Ala Nar and guest dancer Salome at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov.

20, at Cloud 9 in Corvallis. Admission is $5.

Corvallis audiences can thank the strong bond between Ankine and
her husband, Omer, and their only son, Arda, for their chance to see
her perform.

Arda, a structural engineer, moved to Eugene in 2005.

Ankine and Omer first visited Oregon a year ago, when Arda and his
wife had their first child, a daughter they named Azra Ankine. The
proud grandparents came back for another visit recently and will be
in Eugene through January.

"My mother has always been very enthusiastic about her music," Arda
said. He agreed to translate an interview with Ankine, who does not
speak English.

"Arda is our only son, and we always had strong family ties," Ankine
said. "Before our first visit, Arda had been living in the States
for three years and seeing him again was a mix of a lot of emotions:
happiness, excitement and a lot of tears."

While visiting this year, Ankine attended a show by Ala Nar.

Leigh Ann Starcevich, a Corvallis musician who plays saz with the
Eugene-based band, recalled seeing Ankine singing along at a recent

"We were wondering, ‘who is this woman?’" she said.

Ankine was equally surprised to find a group playing Turkish music
in Oregon.

"I was very, very surprised and excited. It made me extremely happy to
see a group of talented Americans who play our music and traditional
instruments, sing our songs in this part of the world," Ankine said.

"I was thrilled. At the end of their concert I met with Leigh Ann,
and that’s how our acquaintance started."

Ankine was persuaded to join Ala Nar for several upcoming concerts
in Corvallis and Eugene. In the meantime, she’s taught the group a
thing or two.

"I found Ala Nar very entertaining when I first listened to them,"
Ankine said. "When I rehearsed with them for the first time, I
introduced some songs they were not familiar with and some songs they
had not performed at their concert but that they were familiar with."

"Most of these songs were old and classic Istanbul songs. On the
other hand, I introduced them to my genre of Kanto, which they seem to
enjoy playing," she added. "I will be sharing a mix of Turkish music,
which mainly consists of classic Istanbul songs and authentic Kanto,
at our upcoming Eugene and Corvallis shows."

"She really whipped us into shape," Starcevich said. "She is such a
charismatic performer. What you see on stage is how she always sings.

This music is such a part of how she thinks and breathes and lives."

Ankine had no problem giving up part of her vacation to the U.S. to
perform with Ala Nar.

"No, I do not mind at all," she said. "On the contrary, I enjoy it
very much, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet and perform with
such talented musicians. I am so lucky that I am able to perform in
the U.S. after Germany and my home country Turkey."

Ankine was 25 years old when she started her professional singing
career. She competed in five major singing competitions in Turkey,
and placed first in four of them and second in the other.

"That was absolutely one of the highlights in my career," she said.

Last year, during Ramadan 2008, she performed Kanto in Berlin,
Germany. During the tour, she had interviews with top newspapers and TV
channels from Turkey which are also published and broadcast in Germany.

She was also the subject of a documentary on her personal and
professional life called "Hayatin Ritmi: Aksak" directed by Yasin Ali
and translated by Bob Beer. The film received an award last year from
the Turkish National Television and Radio Network.

"As I look back at my 31 years of performing, the thing that I am
most proud of is my role of keeping authentic Kanto alive and doing
this without taking the easy way out by performing popular music,"
Ankine said, adding that she is also proud of "successfully preserving
my family and marriage."

"As long as I recieve offers and get opportunities to perform Kanto I
wish to continue singing Kanto whether I am in Turkey or the U.S.,"
she said. "As you would appreciate, authentic arts such as Kanto is
a dying part of our culture."

CHECK IT OUT WHO: Ala Nar with Istanbul Kanto singer Ankine and
dancer Salome

WHAT: Traditional Turkish music and Kanto

WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20

WHERE: Cloud 9, 126 S.W. First St., Corvallis

COST: $5.

INFO: or


The word "kanto" comes from the word "cantare" in Italian, which
means "to sing," and it was adopted from an Italian vaudeville that
was visiting Istanbul in late 1800s. From the early 1900s to the
first years of the Republic (1930s), Kanto was the most important
entertainment element of Istanbul’s night life. In fact, introduction
of the western musical instruments into Turkish music started with
Kanto. Back then, it was forbidden for Muslim women to take to the
stage and sing, therefore most of the kanto singers were non-Muslim
women, particularly Armenians.

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