The title of this blog is a direct translation of the Turkish idiom “Çingene çalar, Kürt oynar“, taken to mean bedlam, pandemonium, out-and-out chaos. It doesn’t require a perceptive reading to realise that the expression doesn’t rate highly on the scale of political correctness. I don’t like the prejudicial aspect of it, but for all of its pejorative tone the expression has a poetic ring. When I first read the expression in a Turkish-English dictionary on a wintery İzmir afternoon it was immediately evocative.
I pictured a Gypsy firing off lightning fast riffs on a fiddle, while a Kurd stamped and whirled in abandon and raucous onlookers cheered and clapped. My vision was of unbridled rhythm and melody, of different peoples coming together to produce something distinctive, of traditions and ideas and cultures blending. Over time I have come to imagine this scene not just in Turkey, but also elsewhere in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, places where Eurasian peoples have commingled for a millennium and more, and no one can definitively say where Europe ends and Asia begins.
For the purposes of this blog, my gaze will be primarily trained on modern Turkey and its various peoples, but also those Eurasian realms mentioned above. My purview will be politics and society, but also literature, arts, events and cultural curios: I reserve the right to include basically any “stuff” that interests me. In doing so I hope to investigate both the proverbial “bedlam” of the Gypsy fiddlers and the carousing Kurds but also their collective creative output: the “mayhem” of domestic politics in Turkey and parts thereabouts, but also the rich cultures and artistic traditions of that broad dusty expanse from Sarajevo to Kashgar.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, I’m a writer and editor with a particular interest the culture, history and modern day of the Turkic and Persian worlds (so aside from Turkey and Iran that includes the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and even the Crimea). Since 1996 I’ve written for a range of newspapers, magazines and websites, and since 2001 I’ve worked for Lonely Planet as a commissioning editor in Melbourne and London and occasional contributing author. I have a BA (University of Melbourne, 1990), an MA (Islamic Studies, Monash University, 2011) and in 2012 I started doctoral research at Monash University investigating Alevi and Kurdish minority identity in modern Turkey.
I like Aussie Rules football, roast lamb, dogs, gardening, reading, guitars and travel; I’m allergic to cats and I hate getting stuck in traffic.