Always intrigued by scratchy 78s and strange ghostly sounds, Brenna MacCrimmon first heard Turkish and Balkan folk music in the vinyl collection of her local public library in the early 1980’s. As a result she embarked on a slow and inexorable journey into the world of Turkish and Balkan music. In Toronto, she worked with local Turkish and Macedonian ensembles before eventually deciding to “go to the source” and learn more about the music and the cultures that produced it. She spent a year as a guest student in the folk music division of the Turkish State Music Conservatory in 1985-86. Back in Toronto she continued to work with community groups and lead the Altin Yildiz Orkestar – arguably Toronto’s first Balkan-Gypsy Band.
In 1995 she returned to Istanbul with the intent to sojourn for “six months to a year”. That stay lasted 5 years. During her years in Turkey she was most fortunate to work with and learn from many wonderful traditional musicians, clarinetist Selim Sesler and accordionist Muammer Ketencoğlu among them. Not a strict tradtionalist, she has also frequently collaborated with Baba Zula, a Turkish Psychedelic Folk Art Rock band. She has taught Turkish and Balkan songs at workshops across North America, in France, in Turkey and in Japan.
These days she is often found singing and playing songs of the Eastern Mediterranean with Jayne Brown, Sophia Grigoriadis and Maryem Tollar as Turkwaz, or with Zephyr (Demetri Petsalakis and Jaash Singh), learning and singing old blues songs with pianist Bill Westcott, keeping a ukulele session going, thinking about poetry and reading a lot about shadow puppets, The 1001 Nights and snakelore. Other recent projects include a retrospective of influential Turkish song-writer Fikret Kızılok with Toronto musicians Jack McRae and Deb Sinha, an electro-acoustic mélange of Turkish and Greek songs with Berlin trio Alcalica, a high spirited two-person Hootenany with Toronto singer Alan Gasser.