Painted on Water blends Turkish folk with modern rock influences
By Mary Houlihan For Sun-Times Media March 12, 2014 11:58AM
Painted on Water features Demir Demirkan (left) and Sertab Erener. | HANDOUT PHOTO
Demir Demirkan and Sertab Erener
♦ 7 and 10 p.m. March 15
♦ Old Town School of Folk, 4544 N. Lincoln
♦ Tickets, $35-$55
♦ (773) 728-6000; oldtownschoo.org
Updated: March 12, 2014 1:06PM
It might seem crazy for two Turkish performers, well known and successful in their home country, to pack up their songbook and move to Chicago. But Demir Demirkan and Sertab Erener have a plan to bring their brand of pop/rock to a new audience.
“We are trying to do what we did in Turkey but on a different level,” Demirkan says. The couple moved here last July to be near Northwestern University’s American Music Theatre Project where they are workshoping a new musical with artistic director David H. Bell.
Demirkan wasn’t ready to talk about the musical but there’s also an interesting new album in the works. The duo are the performers behind Painted on Water, a band project that blends their Turkish roots with modern genres. An earlier album, fused elements of rock, jazz, electronica with Turkish folk music, but for the new disc they are employing their strong vocal harmonies, enhanced guitars and electronic flourishes on original rock songs.
“We wanted to pick up the Painted on Water project but with new material that we had written ourselves,” Demirkan says. “The previous album was a different experience for us. But you have to be true to yourself and write and perform what comes spontaneously. So that’s the road we are taking with the new album.”
The duo are among Turkey’s most celebrated musicians. The classically trained Erener’s has sold millions of albums; Demirkan, a guitarist, songwriter and producer, is a former member of the Turkish heavy metal band Pentagram. In 2003, they co-wrote and performed “Every Way That I Can,” Turkey’s sole winning entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.
The couple met 16 years ago in Istanbul through a mutual friend. They started working together and “all of a sudden love happened,” Demirkan said with a laugh. “And we’ve been together ever since.”
Growing up, Demirkan says he was heavily influenced by Western musicians such as Eric Clapton, JJ Cale, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple: “If they played guitar and sang, I was a fan.” The classically trained Erener moved toward pop music inspired by performers such as Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston. “Sertab has a big voice,” Demirkan says. “So basically when we get together, it’s big vocals with lots of loud guitars.”
Last fall, they released an EP, “Chicago Issue,” and the full album is nearly complete.Erener’s Turkish-influenced cover of Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee,” was used in Dylan’s movie “Masked and Anonymous,” and they are hoping to get permission to record it again for the new disc.
Demirkan studied English literature in college and quotes from Shakespeare pop up in the song “Why Do You Love Me.” “We were writing this love song and what place better to look for lyrics than Shakespeare,” Demirkan says.
Above all, the new music is a means of freeing the duo from any past expectations, says Demirkan. The new songs rock with his muscular guitar work, and Erener’s rich and resonant vocals give them an added allure.
“I want to change the way we collaborate, change how we compose and create new production techniques,” he says. “The whole process has been really liberating.”