Recognized worldwide as a virtuosic percussionist, Burhan Ocal has made the bridging of musical cultures his central mission. A native of Kirklareli in the Thrace region, he grew up in a musical family. From his father, he learned a variety of percussion instruments, while his mother introduced him to religious vocal music. After his first contact with Western music, he became interested in combining a multitude of genres and cultural traditions, such as jazz and Western classical music, with his own.
Burhan Ocal's instruments are as diverse as his music. In addition to a wide variety of percussion, such as the Darbuka (a vase-shaped drum played with the fingers), Koes (kettle drum), Kuduem and Bendir, he is a highly skilled player on a number of stringed instruments, including the Divan-Saz, Tanbur and Ud. His expressive voice adds to the spectrum of musical elements at his command.
Oecal has become widely known for touring and recording with his Oriental Ensemble, performers of traditional gypsy and Turkish folk music. As a much sought after musician, he has also performed with Maria, Joao Pires, Paco de Lucia, Sting, Kronos Quartet, Natacha Atlas, Seamus Blake Quartet, Joe Zawinul and Eliot Fisk.
Burhan Ocal made his US debut in February 1998 joining Eliot Fisk for performances in Los Angeles. Shortly after, he toured with George Gruntz Band, performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival, in Vancouver, at the Ravinia Festival, and at the Knitting Factory (NYC). A true showman, Burhan Ocal is an alumni of dozens of the world's most prestigious international festivals such as Montreal Jazz Festival where he played before an audience of 150.000 together with label-mate Mercan Dede, the Ravinia Festival, WOMAD Festival (U.K), and EXPO' 98 in Lisbon.
In 2006 Burhan Ocal played at the Onde Mediterranee 06, Berlin Symphony Orchestra (Berlin), Stimmen Vocal Festival(Switzerland), Piazza Signoria (Florence), Monfalcone (GO) Area Verde (Udine), Sconfinando 2006 (XV Festival Internazionale di Musica & Suoni dal Mondo)(Sarzana, Torino World Music Meeting (Torino), Roma Jazz Festival (Rome), Yehudi Menuhin Festival (Gstaad), Festival d'ile de France (Paris), Festival d'Ambronnay (Ambronnay), Festival Patrimonie en Musique (St.Raphael, and the Istanbul Jazz Festival.
Ocal's 2000 season was highlighted by a series of major concerts: In March 2000, he released in Europe and in Turkey a tour with George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band special guest with Burhan Oecal. Then he appeared at the St. Irene Museum withnin the Istanbul Music Festival and in San Fransisco with Kronos Quartet. At the Istanbul Jazz Festival, in July, he was one of the guest stars along with Djivan Gasparian playing with Andreas Vollenweinder. His second project in this festival was "Meditroni" featuring Massilia Sound System. In October 2000, he performed at Womex, in Berlin, accompanied by his group Istanbul Oriental Ensemble.
His album, "Groove Alla Turca" (1999-Doublemoon), in which he collaborated with the American bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma featuring Natacha Atlas, was first released in France by Birds and Blues (2001) and then in North America by Night and Day. Burhan Ocal in 2001 did two big tour in Europe with "Groove Alla Turca". He appeared on the General Motors Big Event, at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, together with Istanbul Oriental Ensemble and the special guest participation of Mercan Dede, in a concert of exceptional acclaim called "East Meets West" watched by 150.000. Again in July 2001, at the Istanbul Jazz Festival, Burhan Ocal shared the stage with Sting. In April 2002, Burhan Oecal with &304;stanbul Oriental Ensemble toured the USA with ICM.
Burhan Ocal won several awards including German Record Critic's Award with Oriental Ensemble (1995), another one with Sultan's Secret Door and Prix Choc for his solo album "Ottoman Garden," (1996).
A second collaboration with Pete Namlook, a prolific composer in contemporary electronica and the founder of Fax label of "ambient/chill out" was released in November 2004 as a tribute to Sultan Orhan. His 2005 release "New Dream" brings Turkish Classical Music down from its ivory tower and transforms it to be more modern and accessible. The rich textures and sumptuous string arrangements become the height of luxury as a result of his collaborations with Turkish Classical Diva, Emel Sayin, and the production by French-Tunisian musician and DJ Smadj.
The percussionist returned to his birthplace to rediscover his musical heritage and the outcome was an album called "Trakya All Stars". That album plucked virtually unknown master musicians from the Thrace region and shed light on a musically-rich, Roman-Balkan influenced region of Turkey. The group's sophomore album, "Trakya Dance Party" is filled with infectious vocals guaranteed to make the listener want to break out in song and sing along. Carrying deep tradition to a contemporary level is an area tailor-made for the Tunisian born French musician, sound engineer and producer Smadj, who uses his knowledge of oriental music and digital innovations to create entertaining, timeless classics.
== Discography ==
* Burhan Ocal Trakya Dance Party (Doublemoon 2007)
* Burhan Ocal - New Dream (Doublemoon 2005)
* Burhan Ocal - Sultan Orhan (Doublemoon 2004)
* Burhan Ocal & The Trakya All Stars featuring Smadj - Kirklareli Il Siniri (Doublemoon 2003)
* Burhan Ocal & Jamaladeen Tacuma - Groove Alla Turca (Doublemoon 1999)