When you hear that a woman from the Toronto suburbs with an Anglo name is an internationally acclaimed Turkish folk singer, an obvious question springs up. "I've been asked how this happened a million times," says Brenna MacCrimmon (BA 2003 Innis). The short answer is happenstance, stemming from a trip to a library in Burlington, Ont., during her late teens. "I came across these Turkish albums, and I was really intrigued," she says. She'd dabbled in piano and violin, but her only knowledge of global music came from her mother, a ballet teacher with a taste for Russian choruses. Yet the unfamiliar rhythms and intonations on the albums immediately resonated with Brenna MacCrimmon. "There was just an emotional communication."
While taking an ethnomusicology class at U of T in the early 1980s, Brenna MacCrimmon sought out local Turkish musicians and was inspired to learn a folk instrument called the baglama. She then began playing and singing in a Turkish community band. "I went from being a passive listener to an active performer," she says. During a five-year stint in Istanbul, she immersed herself in the Turkish culture, and sang regional folk music at festivals and special events. Since then she has performed internationally and produced two CDs, including Karsilama, which was nominated for a Juno Award in 1998... By Megan Easton
Brenna MacCrimon has been learning and performing Balkan and Turkish music for over 15 years. She spent five and a half years in Istanbul where she studied Rumeli folk songs and performed Karsilama with Thracian Roman ensemble, Psyche-belly Dance Music and Double Oryantal (Double Oriental) with BaBaZula. She recently formed Orkestra Keyif with Beth Cohen, Paul Brown and other Turkish music lovers and is considered a "Friend of Ed". In addition to singing and teaching, she knits and gets around town on a bike.