Marc Sinan, Julia Hülsmann

Fasil, based on an idea by guitarist Marc Sinan and author Marc Schiffer, tells of the life of Aisha, the great love and youngest wife of the prophet Mohammed, in the course of an inspired song cycle. The improvisations take as their inspirational starting point fragments of Koran recitations recorded by Marc Sinan in Turkey. Together with Julia Hülsmann’s songs they form an Ottoman suite, a Fasil. Highlights in this transcultural project include exceptional performances by Sinan himself, and by Yelena Kuljić in the role of Aisha. The singer was recently described by the Frankfurter Rundschau as “the most thrilling new voice in the current jazz scene.”

Featured Artists Recorded

March 2008, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1Peshrev
    (Heinrich Köbberling, Julia Hülsmann, Lena Thies, Marc Muellbauer, Marc Sinan, Yelena Kuljić)
  • 2This Bloody Day
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
  • 3The Necklace
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
  • 4Taking Leave
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
  • 5Sure 6/51
    (Heinrich Köbberling, Marc Muellbauer, Marc Sinan)
  • 6Ilk Taksim
    (Heinrich Köbberling, Marc Muellbauer, Marc Sinan)
  • 7The Last Night
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
  • 8The Dream
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
  • 9Sure 81 Taksimi
    (Heinrich Köbberling, Julia Hülsmann, Lena Thies, Marc Muellbauer, Marc Sinan)
  • 10Üçüncü Taksim
    (Heinrich Köbberling, Marc Muellbauer, Marc Sinan)
  • 11Son Taksim
    (Julia Hülsmann)
  • 12The Struggle Is Over
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
  • 13Sure 6/51, var.
    (Heinrich Köbberling, Marc Muellbauer, Marc Sinan)
  • 14You Open My Eyes
    (Julia Hülsmann, Marc Schiffer)
Stereo, Audiophiles Highlight des Monats
Turkish-German guitarist Sinan turns the idea of a fasil – a traditional Turkish suite dedicated to the Prophet Mohamed’s wife Aisha – into the most fragile, elliptical jazz. Yelena Kuljic’s singing has an odd, stark sensuality, while Julia Hülsmann’s wonderfully fluent piano holds this featherlight confection of Eastern and Western elements together.
Mark Hudson, Daily Telegraph
Das Album nimmt Bezug auf die armenisch-türkisch-deutsche Herkunft Marc Sinans, baut auf Julia Hülsmanns fein fließende Motivik, interpretiert Koransuren und islamische Mystik, christlichen Humanismus und Joseph Roths Künstlerethik, verknüpft die gitarristische Spieltechnik des Eliot-Fisk-Schülers und die improvisierende Erfahrung der Berliner Rhythmusgruppe, vereint den ätherisch schwelgenden und seelenvoll knospenden Gesang von Yelena Kuljic mit einer Prise Viola-Tönung durch Lena Thies, das Ganze vor dem Hintergrund neoromantischer Klangpilgerschaft. … Es ist eine anspruchsvolle Variante intellektueller improvisationsgetönter Migrantenmusik.
Ralph Dombrowski, Jazzthing
Hier versucht die Komponistin gar nicht erst, sich ihrem Gegenstand mit vordergründigen Orientalismen zu nähern, sondern sie kommt mit introvertierter, “westlicher” Musik von großer innerer Ruhe, die viel Raum lässt für Marc Sinans klassische Gitarre, Lena Thies’ Bratsche, die einfühlsame Stimme der musiktheatererfahrenen Yelena Kuljic und, nicht zuletzt, für Hülsmanns eigenes Pianotrio, das sowohl Kern wie Rückgrat des Ensembles darstellt. … Eine bemerkenswerte Ausdeutung orientalischer Strukturprinzipien durch Musiker aus Jazz und Klassik.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum
Fasil ist in vielerlei Hinsicht eine bemerkenswerte Produktion: Klassische Gitarrenschule verschmilzt mit Jazz, Komposition mit Improvisation, muslimische Tradition mit westlichem Denken, Geschichte mit Gegenwart, Lyrik mit Musik. … Sinans Grundidee war es, eine Brücke zu schlagen von einigen Passacaglien von Biber, Couperin und Bach hin zu islamischer Musik. … Zu den Texten, in die Schiffer Zitatfragmente aus dem Koran und dem Hadith sowie alte persische Dichtung einwob, komponierte Julia Hülsmann wunderbare, sehr eindringliche Musik.
Ulf Drechsel, rbb Kulturradio
“Fasıl” is the ECM debut album of guitarist Marc Sinan, imaginatively juxtaposing Western and Oriental musical ideas, “like rosaries and Tesbihs” (the prayer beads of Islam), in a project very much connected to his own biography. Son of a Turkish-Armenian mother and a German father, Sinan has grown up with a strong sense of both cultures. He came to idea of the “Fasıl” project in a period when he had been playing passacaglias by Biber, Couperin, Bach and Silvius Leopold Weiss, and wanted to “create a bridge to Islamic music. The impetus came from musical associations, the feeling that in historical performance practise we basically imitate the approach and expression of improvising musicians beyond cultural borders and time periods.”

Rather than combining or contrasting existing music of East and West, Sinan and his librettist Marc Schiffer chose to create something new, relaying in words and music the story of Aisha bint Abi Bakr (613-678), last wife of the Prophet Mohammed. “Fasıl” is a musical character study of an impressive woman, the story of “a transition from innocent beauty to prophet’s closest confidante, to political leader, military leader, and finally to ‘Mother of Believers’, as she was praised by the Sunnis.”

Marc Schiffer’s texts take as source materials fragments of the Quran and Hadith (Traditions of the life of the Prophet) and “ancient Persian poems which refer to the humanitarian core that connects Islam and Christianity with one another.”

Schiffer’s song lyrics were forwarded to German pianist/composer Julia Hülsmann, without any additional information regarding characters and story line; her brief was to respond emotionally/intuitively to the texts. Then, to broaden the project’s scope still further, Sinan travelled to Turkey. “I met a very open and helpful imam, Kamil Hodja, who agreed to improvise for me in the makam tradition, thus presenting many Quran suras whose texts interested me.” Sinan recorded Hidja’s improvisations, and transcriptions of them became the basis of new music heard here as “Sura 6/51” and “Sura 81 Taksimi”.

The ensemble assembled to play this music has at its core Julia Hülsmann’s widely-experienced trio with bassist Marc Muellbauer and Heinrich Köbberling. Hülsmann and Muellbauer have been working together since 1996, and Köbberling joined Julia’s trio in 2001; their own ECM album “End of a Summer” was highly acclaimed by both and press and public. The frontline of the “Fasıl” project features the strongly contrasting characters of singer Yelena Kuljić, violist Lena Thies and Sinan himself.

Yelena Kuljić delivers a compellingly idiosyncratic performance as Aisha. Character roles are amongst her specialities. Since 2003 the Serbian-born singer has been based in Berlin where she has featured in music-theatre productions at the Maxim Gorki Teater, the Schaubuhne and the Sophiensaele. Currently her co-starring role in David Marton’s new staging of “Lulu” (an adaptation freely based on Alban Berg’s and Frank Wedekind’s vesions) at the Schauspiel Hannover is drawing much attention, with major reviews in the German daily press. In January 2009, The Frankfurter Rundschau called her “the most thrilling jazz voice of the current scene.”

Violist Lena Thies has performed with the Orchester der Komischen Oper Berlin and other ensembles. She belongs – as does Sinan - to the growing number of ‘classical’ players intrigued by improvisation. Marc praises her “exuberant curiosity” in his liner notes.