Singer and actress Meral Polat was born in the Netherlands, where her parents immigrated from Turkey to work. Her father was formally a gastarbaiter, but a poet at heart. The lyrics Meral found after his death are set to music on her very special debut album. Her ancestors come from the Kurdish Alevi community, which, unlike the Islamic mainstream, allows for critical thinking and relies on individuality and education. Meral Polat draws not only on Kurdish melodies, but also on Greek, Turkish and Persian ones, with accompaniment by equally unique players. Chris Doyle, a Berklee graduate and member of the Grammy-nominated Afrobeat band Antibalas, plays keyboards. Drummer Frank Rosaly, originally from Puerto Rico, draws from Caribbean rhythms, classical music and jazz. In 2018, he performed at Prague's Punctum with the improvisational trio Rempis / Stadhouders / Rosaly. While the accompaniment creates a sharply rhythmic but instrumentally minimal groove, the vocals are packed with dramatic twists, microtonal shifts and melodic embellishments typical of Middle Eastern music.
The birth of modern Turkey a century ago was accompanied by a series of massacres and ethnic cleansings: the Armenian genocide in 1915, the expulsion of the Greek population from Asia Minor in 1922 and the bloody suppression of the Kurdish Alevi uprising in 1938. It took place in the Dersim region of eastern Turkey, and it is from there that the singer’s ancestors originated. Thousands of Kurds were slaughtered or forced to flee. In this historical context, Meral Polat asks and answers questions in her songs: “What does it do to you as a human being if you are forbidden to speak your language and profess your faith? Our fate is similar to that of the Jews, we have had to come to terms with having the ground stolen from under our feet.” Thanks to history, the Kurdish Alevis are today an exceptional group of people. They keep their distance from religious dogma, they are left-wing and rebellious. In no population group in Turkey are women as emancipated as among the Kurdish Alevis. Alevis, like Jews throughout history, can only achieve a career through their own efforts, so they are strongly focused on learning and study. Today, the Dersim region of Turkey is one of the best performing regions in education. In exile, Alevis may find themselves marginalized, but because they are secular and receptive, they integrate quickly. A strikingly large number of successful Turkish immigrants are originally from the Alevi region of Dersim, known as Tunceli in Turkish. Most of them are women, such as Minister of Justice Dilan Yesilgöz-Segerius, members of parliament Nilüfer Gündogan, Songül Mutluer, trade unionist Sadet Karabulut and an official Eylem Köseoglu.