Jodhpur: He can speak Hindi, and feels every visit to India is like a homecoming. Turkish percussionist Gurkan Ozkan, who is here for the Jodhpur Flamenco and Gypsy Festival, says he almost had tears in his eyes upon landing in Rajasthan, where the globally popular gypsy culture has its roots.
"This is the first time I am coming to this land of Rajasthan, and when I came, I felt like crying," Ozkan told IANS on the sidelines of the ongoing second edition of the gala, which is taking place at the centuries-old Mehrangarh Fort.
"We feel like we have come again to where we were born. Around 400 years back, our grand forefathers, maybe kakaji or pitaji... they came from here. We feel like we are in our family place. We are not feeling that we are in another country. Yeh desh hamara desh hai (This nation is ours)," he added.
Surprised by his hold on Hindi, one asked where he picked it from?
"Aati hai Hindi thodi thodi (I know a bit of Hindi). My guruji is a tabla payer in the Akashvani. He played the tabla last year at this festival and I am lucky that after him, I am playing in this festival. I have been coming to India since 2006 and every year, I visit guruji for just practicing together," said Ozkan.
His guruji is India's government broadcaster All India Radio's tabla artist pandit Sandesh Popatkar.
Ozkan, following his musical training with Okay Temiz, has performed at various national and international festivals with diverse percussion instruments such as bendir, darbuka, daf, conga, pandeiro, djembe and tabla.
He had performed during the 11th Istanbul International Jazz Festival in 2004 and in 2005 as part of Askin Arsunan's "Down to Earth" project.
Ozkan even performed Indian classical music at the 2006 International Caucasian Cultures Festival by request of the Indian consulate general. In 2007, he participated in a South Indian Percussions Workshop, organised by percussionist Subash Chandran and Ganesh Kumar.
In 2011, he gave a presentation on the subject of 'Tabla and Rhythmic systems (tala) of the music of North India' to the members of the faculty at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Ethnomusicology Department.
Asked if he has gypsy blood, he said "yes".
"I come from Central Anatolia region (a region of Turkey). My grandparents were musicians and I have little bit gypsy blood," he added.
So how does he relate with Indian instruments?
"Here it is Shehnai and in our country, we have Zurna. It has very similar sound. Besides, the beats come from the heart," he said.