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Arkın Ilıcalı (born 1966 in Bursamarker, Turkeymarker), better known as Mercan Dede, also known as DJ Arkın Allen, is a Turkish composer, ney and bendir player, DJ and producer. He divides his time between Turkeymarker, Europe and North America. He is a world music artist, playing a fusion of (traditionally acoustic) Turkish and other oriental musics with electronic sounds.

His best known albums include Seyahatname, Su, and Nar. He has worked in collaboration with Turkish and international musicians such as Susheela Raman, Dhafer Youssef, Sheema Mukherjee (Transglobal Underground) and Hugh Marsh.

His music

His sound incorporates traditional instruments and ney from Turkey and other parts of the world, with horns, drum'n'bass dance beats, ambient electronic music and a Sufi spirituality. (The name Mercan Dede itself evokes sufism as "Dede" is the word for 'elder' in the Sufi traditions, although the name Mercan Dede in fact was taken from a character in a modern Turkish novel). Dede composes his own music, some of which is rhythmic, some of it new-age-ish.

He plays with groups of various sizes and fluctuating membership; the Mercan Dede Trio, the Mercan Dede Ensemble, the Secret Tribe etc. The instrumentation includes electronics and the elements of classical Turkish music such as the ney (which he plays himself), percussion, violin, and zither. The groups often include Montreal-based percussionist Scott Russell and Canadian violinist Hugh Marsh and Turkish clarinetist Hüsnü Şenlendirici. The shows often include men and women in Sufi costume doing the Sufi whirling.

Dede also works as a DJ under the name Arkın Allen, specialising in music related to that of his live groups, in this case dance music with an oriental flavour.

Mercan Dede has been criticised by Turkish music purists for not being steeped in the Sufi traditions and for not properly representing sufism in his music and writings (such as the liner notes to Seyahatname quoted below). Another criticisn is that the whirling dancers he uses to accompany his shows do not accurately display the correct dervish routines. He is more than a ney player, working just as often as a DJ as performing live in concert, and his audience consists of clubbers not Islamic scholars, and he aims for a music which synthesises several different traditions, not a historically pure music.


Born Arkin Ilicali in Bursamarker-Turkeymarker, 1966, graduated in media studies from Istanbul Universitymarker, moved to Canadamarker as an art teacher, specialising in ebru (a traditional Turkish marbled printing), still resident in Canadamarker.

The Mercan Dede ensemble was founded in 1997, by which time Arkın had been working as a musician for some years. Their first album was Sufi Dreams, released in 1998. This album got a boost when the music was used in a German television documentary on Sufi music.

In 2001 he released his 3rd album Seyahatname, which means "Travelogue" in antique Turkish and evokes the era of the great caravanserai crossing Anatolia on the silk road. The sound of the ney goes back to this period, and the music aspires to the spirit of the mystic Sufi poets of that time, such as Mevlana. The liner notes are very much in the Sufi vein: Mercan Dede claims that the sound of the ney is "a pure, universal spiritual sound" superior to 'the imitative observations, dry beliefs and loveless ideologies' (that so many of us live by). He goes on to say that the ney evokes deeper feelings than these, deeper than we can comprehend in just our short time on earth. The ney "speaks the language of love, instantly comprehensible in the heart, compared to which all the mosques, churches, temples built to decorate (our spirituality) drift away". The album is Mercan Dede's flawed, personal effort to reflect his own spiritual journey.

His 2002 album Nar (which means 'fire' in Turkish) continued in the same vein. And in 2004 he released Su (which means 'water' in Turkish) stayed at no#1 on European World Music Charts for two months. The album was recorded with an international line-up of musicians and has more vocals on it than the previous works. One track featuring folk singer Sabahat Akkiraz was particularly popular in Turkey. Mercan Dede made his U.S. debut at the 1st Globalfest that year, followed by a North American tour and the release of the album Fusion Monster under the name 'Arkin Allen', a slightly different twist on his familiar sound. He was then commissioned by the Turkish Ministry of Culture as the music director of the Guldestan project to represent Turkish culture and arts all around the globe, working alongside choreographer Beyhan Murphy.

Mercan Dede and his Secret Tribe have given powerful live performances at prestigious festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival, WOMEX, the Festival de Trans Musicales and Banlieus Bleus, Arezzo, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the World Roots Festival and the Rhythm Sticks Festival and at more than 100 shows in Viennamarker, Genevamarker, Brusselsmarker, Cologne, Parismarker, Amsterdammarker and Istanbulmarker.

The February 2007 album Nefes (which means 'breath' in Turkish) included Transglobal Underground sitar player Sheema Mukherjee in the line-up. 'Nefes' means 'breath' in Turkish and the liner notes were in the same vein as previous albums (breath gives life, our first greeting to the spirit world is the cry we give out when we are born, etc. etc.)Organisation is Candan Erçetin's French spoken songs: "Parole parole," "Milord," and Turkish spoken song: "Şehir" (is 34 minute)and(Arabic spoked is Allahuekber and İllallah is Şehir song)Ceza's Şeytan and Âb - ı Nafi.Voiced is Parole parole,her voiced Candan Erçetinhis voiced Levent Ünsal and Mercan Dede Candan Erçetin's French album prepared is at 7 January 2003 in Tonwelt Studios in Berlin. (Her album is 17 January 2003 is coming). Dede speaks Turkish, Arabic, French and Persian, with English.


  • Sufi Dreams (Golden Horn 1998)
  • Journeys of a Dervish (Golden Horn 1999)
  • Seyahatname (Doublemoon 2001)
  • Nar (Doublemoon 2002)
  • Fusion Monster (Numoon 2004) (as DJ Arkin Allen)
  • Su (Doublemoon 2003) (23 July 2003)
  • Sufi Traveler (High Times 2004)
  • Nefes (Doublemoon 2007) (22 June 2007)
  • 800 (Doublemoon 2007) (5 November 2007)


  • His last album 800 has been selected as the World's Best World Music Album of 2008 by WOMEX!
  • Album sales in the hundreds of thousands. Appearances at many major festivals. Works with an international group of musicians.
  • Mercan Dede has been nominated by BBC 3 Awards for World Music in the Middle East & North Africa category twice and 3 times – most recently in 2005 – in the Club Global category.
  • Su stayed at #1 spot for two months on the European World Music Charts
  • Featured in Fatih Akin's documentary Crossing the Bridge
  • Composer of some music for the recent work Istanbul by Pina Bausch, the world famous German choreographer


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