Cüneyt Sepetçi and Orchestra Dolapdere merged from a district in Istanbul not often visited by tourists, called Dolapdere. Populated majorly by the Romans of the city, many of who are originally from Thrace. They supply the music for the city’s weddings, circumcision ceremonies, parades, and parties. They specialize in a modern take on classic Turkish Roman (gypsy) music, as well as folk songs from Albania, Macedonia, Spain, and elsewhere, that they have adapted to their own inimitable style.
On days when Cüneyt is not working, you can find him in the cafe, drinking chai, and waiting for the highest bidder to hire him for the night’s concert. In the summer of 2012, he met American musicians A Hawk and A Hacksaw, who agreed to get the under-recorded master into a studio and release his first album. Cuneyt has chosen all the tracks, many are hits from the Turkish Roma repertoire, but many have not been heard much in the West. Cüneyt has chosen all the tracks, many are hits from the Turkish Roma repertoire, but most have not been heard much in the West. Cüneyt Sepetçi comes from a family where music has been a traditional career for generations; he lives his life as a clarinet maestro, just like his grandfathers and uncles.
Grandpa Asım, my father’s grandfather, used to play the clarinet. They came from Thessaloniki to Istanbul during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey and settled in the Mimar Sinan neighborhood of Büyükçekmece. They lived there for quite a while. Then my grandfather escaped from a Vallahade bully’s tyranny and moved to Gazi Osman Paşa.
Back then it was all green pastures. That’s why it’s still called Taşlıtarla (Rocky Field) to this day. When Cüneyt lost his father eleven years ago, he moved to Dolapdere. This story encapsulates the long-term geographical changes that many Roman musicians experience, and at the same time, it helps us understand the accumulation of Cüneyt’s musical experience and the components of this album’s repertoire.
“Sepetçi playfully swoops around and bends the notes in music that has a foot-tapping drive and breathtaking virtuosity. A musician that I am longing to see play live.” Simon Broughton, Evening Standard 8/10 Uncut Magazine
“When rock music finally dies, I really hope the Orchestra Dolpadere play at the wake” Bruce Russell, The Wire
“It’s good to hear this kind of music rescued from the smoothness of the belly-dance circuit and plunged deep into the fire of Dionysiac revelry.”
The Arts Desk
“Supported by brittle oud, sorrowful violin, sprightly kanun, and buoyant polyrhythms on darbouka and tef, Sepetçi blows astringent, rapid-fire lines on his Turkish clarinet, ripping through a venerable repertoire of regional folk songs with clarity and bite. The performances are as raw as they are virtuosic.”