Misirli Ahmet was born in 1963 in Ankara, Turkey and is a virtuoso percussionist – darbuka player. The name that his parents gave him is Ahmet Yildirim.
Even to the ear of the Balkan people that is used to the variety of rhythms and syncope, his performances are impressive and unforgettable. The first visual impression is of a sensitive and sculpted hand, of shivering fingers that seemed to paint the music. His rhythmic improvisations carry away the listener in figurativeness with splashing foaming waves, a roar from the darkened sky, the whisper of life in a summer day, interrupted by the syncope of birds. But besides these meanings that listeners feels, they are carried away in a mythical world with fantastic figures like those whirling dervishes, immaterial and exciting visions
Misirli’s music is a special rhythmic polyphony, which includes timbres and influences from Turkish and Arabic, Indian, African, Latin and jazz music. When he makes music on his own, the musician sometimes sets chord progression as background over which he arranges his incredibly inventive improvisations. But this is not what orients the listener genre-wise. The whole rhythmic sequence is subject to the feeling of the structural genre organization that makes a musical work of this bacchanalia.
This is a world where even silence sounds and is rhythmically organized. The performance is a virtuoso one, but is also organic as heartbeat or breathing …
Misirli Ahmet started playing darbuka at 17. As he defines it: “the instrument is a kind of drum in a frame.” He played in the Turkish style ‘darbukain’. There were no musicians in his family, so he practiced alone. For seven years he mastered the capabilities of the instrument, adopting the life typical of musicians in Ankara at that time.
His restless and questing spirit led him to France and Egypt, where learned from the masters of the tabla. He mastered to perfection the Turkish style of playing and went to Egypt for individual lessons as Egypt is famous as the home of the mythical masters of percussion.
In that period he developed a unique technique known as ‘cleft fingers style’. This kind of music making, which is his patent, enables performances in extremely fast tempo.
In Egypt, at the beginning they called him Ahmet el Turki /Ahmet the Turk /, but after the formation of his peculiar style, he became known as Misirli Ahmet / Ahmet from Egypt /. Ahmet said that before Egypt, he was just an ordinary musician. He believes that there “he found the meaning of his existence”, discovered rhythm as life-asserting principle of being. He lived in the surrounded by the desert valley of the Nile, in Cairo and constantly improved. He remained in Egypt for years and worked with famous musicians and singers like Omar Khairat, the idol Mohamed Fuad, Fathi Salamah and other.
In an interview for Today’s Zaman, Misirli said: “I found that technique before I went to Egypt, but I was still working on it. The Egyptians played the darbuka so well that I could only subsist with my own style. The reactions I received in Egypt encouraged me more than ever. The biggest masters of the darbuka were startled by my style, and this was very promising for me. They supported me; they saw me as one of them.”
In 1991 he joined the “Sharinat” ensemble with which he performed in many tours in Europe and the Middle East. In 1992, again in Egypt he recorded his first album Oriental Dance and Percussion.
He returned to Turkey for several years, where he worked with many Turkish musicians in live performances and recordings. In 1997 he participated for the first time in Istanbul’s Jazz Festival.
In 1999 he returned to Egypt and began to work on the ‘deholla’ (the bigger tabla) in the Sinai Desert. He established the Sinai ensemble, with which he toured Israel and Spain. Liking Spain, he decided to live there. He worked on flamenco style and recorded two albums – Mel de Cabra and The Search.
In 2003, within the Medimuses project sponsored by the European Union, he represented Turkey in the “First International Percussion Conference” (Percussion Meeting) in Tunisia, attended by percussionists from the entire Mediterranean Region. Album series was recorded in honour of Mediterranean ‘Great Masters’, and Mısırlı was deemed worthy of recording an honorary album and with this album he was given the “Master” degree.
A period of giving numerous workshops all over the world began, but he also recorded several solo albums. In 2007, he founded the “Galata Rhythm School” in Istanbul where he recruited students of different nationalities. There, in three different groups divided according to their levels, the students studied the rich ethnic rhythms of Turkey and the world, as well as the countless rhythms produced by Mısırlı Ahmet.
Mısırlı Ahmet has appeared in concerts in all countries in Europe. He considers as highlights of his career the album he recorded with Carlos Benevant and his collaboration with Anjelika Akbar in the show “Bach al Oriental”.
Today, the name of Misirli is among the biggest and most talented musicians, who include in their genre palette the whole affluence from ethno to jazz, the personification of the Balkan fusion, which successfully collects all the music in the world.