Sanlıkol Program Notes

An Elegant Ritual

An Elegant Ritual Album Cover- Mehmet Sanlikol is sitting in shadows that only show his profile. He leans his chin on his hand. "An Elegant Ritual" in Red text is to the right.All music composed by Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol (b. 1974).

The structure of this part of the program is modeled after a Sufi whirling (Mevlevi) dervish ritual (ayin), with influences from John Coltrane’s  A Love Supreme. The  Mevlevi ayin typically features a central composition bracketed by an opening improvisation and a preparatory piece in front and two upbeat pieces at the end. Here, the central composition has four movements (also like  A Love Supreme) with strategically designed appearances of the gongs and the ney (end-blown flute).  

1. Prelude 
2. The 7th Day  
3. Lost Inside  
4. An Elegant Ritual  
5. Hasret: Anadolu Jazz

The Rise Up

All movements/sections composed by Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol 

As a Turkish-American composer I have been saddened and personally affected by the negative attitude toward immigrants, Muslims, and minority communities in the United States lately. As a result, upon Dave Liebman's request, I decided to compose this new piece built on three episodes from Middle Eastern history that chronicle dark and traumatic events followed by human inspiration or transcendental creation.  


The first narrative centers around the great 13th century Sufi poet Rumi, composer of the most beautiful mystical poetry ever written after the murder of Shams (literally "sun" in Arabic), his beloved teacher.  

1. The Sun of Tabriz 

Brown, white, and gold bowl with figures and Arabic writing

“Bowl of Reflections” with Rumi's poetry, early 13th c.  

2. A Vicious Murder  

A painting of a group of men in robes

Meeting of Rumi and Shams, in a folio from Jâmi al-Siyar (1598–1603) by Mohammad Tahir Suhravardî  

3. Rumi's Solitude 

A portrait of a man in a blue robe and pants sitting on the floor. He is bald with medium skin tone and has an earring

Portrait of a Kalenderî dervish  
(Timurid, 15th c.)  

Text: Mesnevi I: 1–3 by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi  
Bişnev ez ney çun hikâyet mîkuned 
Ez cudâyîhâ şikâyet mîkuned 
Kez neyistân tâ merâ bubrîde'end  
Ez nefîrem merd u zen nâlîde'end&nbsp
Sîne hâhem şerha şerha ez firâk 
Tâ begûyem şerh-i derd-i iştiyâk 

Listen to the reed flute, how it is complaining!  
It is speaking of separations:  
"Ever since I was severed from the reed field, 
men and women have lamented at my shrill cries.  
I want a heart torn, torn from separation, 
so that I may express the pain of yearning”   

This translation is based on Ibrahim Gamard’s translation from the original Persian of Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî by Rumi.  


The second story comes from the traditions of Sephardic Jews, expelled from Spain but welcomed by the Ottomans, leading to a cultural flowering treasured to this day.   

4. Spain, 1492  

A man and woman sit in front a dark background. Both have light skin and brown hair. The woman is wearing a red dress, a gold necklace, and a crown. The man is wearing a black, gold, and white shirt and has a beard and long hair.

Wedding portrait of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile (15th c.)  

5. Temmuz (literally "July" in Turkish)  

Men and women sit in stands overlooking men on horseback

Saint Dominic Presides over an Auto da Fe (c. 1495)  

The decree by Isabella and  Ferdinand  ordering the expulsion of Jews gave them until July 31 of 1492.  

Text: Muslim call to prayer (ezan
Allahu ekber Allahu ekber x2  
God is great 
Eşhedu enne ilahe illallah x2  
I bear witness that there is no god but God  
Eşhedu enne Muhammeden Resullullah x2  
I bear witness that Muhammed is the messenger of God  
Hayyalel selah x2  
Come to prayer  
Hayyalel felah x2   
Come to contentment  
Allahu ekber Allahu ekber  
God is great  
La ilahe ilallah  
There is no god but God   

6. A New Land, A New Music 

A black and white illustrated portrait of a man with a beard dressed in robes and a turban and holding cloth

From Nicolas De Nicolay’s The first four books of Oriental navigations and peregrinations made in Turkey (Venice, 1580)  

Text: anonymous  
ay mancebo, mancebo
oh young man, young man  
ay mancebo tan gentil
oh young man, so genteel 
si para Francia vos ibax
if you're to go to France 
al mi amor saludarex
greet my love (while you're there)    


The third narrative tells the story of Mimar Sinan, forcibly taken by the Ottomans as a young Orthodox Christian boy, who came to embrace his new Muslim identity and rose to great heights in mid 16th century as the master architect of some of the greatest mosques in the world.  

7. A Confrontation in Anatolia 

A painting of a man greeting people in front of a building 

Recruitment of Christian boys in a folio from Süleymannâme (1558) by Arif Çelebi  

Kyrie eleison
Lord have mercy  

8. Rise Through the Barracks

A black and white illustration of a soldier with a long mustache in a uniform holding a rifle over his shoulder, standing in front of a field with trees

From Abraham a Sancta Clara’s Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria 

(Nuremberg, 1703)  

9. The Owl Song  

A decorated ceiling 

Süleymaniye mosque mukarnas. Photo by Furkan Al.  

Sinan often placed the figure of an owl looking down at those entering mosques.