Last Thursday night, Royal Albert Hall was home to Turkish diva Sezen Aksu’s mesmerising two and a half hour set. Not only a shaping force in the collective memory of generations in her native country but also an enchanting female voice of prominence in the world music scene, Sezen delivered an emotionally and entertainment-wise rich performance worthy of her 36 years in music, delighting the 3,500 strong crowd with renditions of her greatest hits, including “Geri Dön”, “Sinanay”, and “Hadi Bakalım”, along with songs from her new album Öptum, which was released in the UK in September on award-winning record label World Village – not only Aksu’s first international album, but also the first time any major Turkish artist has had music released in the UK.
Her masterful singing was accompanied among others by Grammy nominated musician Fahir Atakoğlu on the piano, who almost stole the show at times with his thrilling solos. The set-list had only 2 songs from her latest album while the rest was built up from all stages of her career; a testament to the wealth of influences and experiences that constantly feed her music. The classic songs turned the audience of the grand hall into a massive choir; the general atmosphere was nothing less than fantastic.
She opened the set with relatively mellow songs and sang them for peace with her characteristic social sensitivity, reflecting on the events during the previous two days where 40 people had been killed in attacks in Turkey and stating that “For the sake of all our children, our future and before we lose our humanity – peace must prevail immediately! Whatever a person’s cause might be, it will never be holier than an honourable peace.”
The livelier tunes that followed evoked the cathartic nature of music, which she talked of coming back to as a remedy. Her sincere banter and daring relationship with her audience was a perfect accompaniment to her emotionally intense music and kept the laughter in hall going all through the night before the grand finale with the hip-shaking “Rakkas” and encore track “Arkadaş” (Friend),with the singer hugging her band.
There is often that question in the minds of many when audiences flock in to listen to a iconic singer of so many decades: But is she still as good? And yes, anyone unsure in the beginning might have easily concluded, yes she is.