Bay Area Beats: Isik Berfin on keeping Alevi traditions alive through music | KALW

Bay Area Beats: Isik Berfin on keeping Alevi traditions alive through music

Apr 26, 2018

 

21-year-old San Francisco student Isik Berfin has a special bond with her mom. Both are musicians in the Turkish Alevi tradition, which has been passed down in their Kurdish family through generations. Alevism is nominally a branch of Islam, but also has influences from Sufism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and shamanism. 

Many people know about the Armenian genocide in Turkey, which was commemorated earlier this week — but fewer are aware that the Alevis have also faced persecution, both historically and in recent years.

 This is why Berfin’s family ended up here in the Bay Area, and it’s also part of why she’s so passionate about keeping her music and culture alive. 

In this edition of Bay Area Beats, Berfin talks about the importance of lineage. She and her mother, Özden Öztoprak, will also perform a few songs with baglama, a kind of lute, and daf, a type of drum. 

Berfin and Özden will be performing at Sounds of California, a concert at San Francisco’s Bayview Opera House that will also feature music from the Bay Area’s African American, Vietnamese, and Chicano communities.

"My mom taught me that it doesn't take a person to become a musician when they just play music, looking at the notes. It takes a person to become a musician when they play it with emotion and feeling."