Bahri started performing in the second grade as a folk dancer in annual school performances during his years in his hometown Erzurum, Turkey. These annual shows, which featured the talents of his elementary school, became Bahri’s main extracurricular activity for the following four years. As the shows neared performance dates, most of his time was consumed by practices, even at the expense of class work. This was important work since he was the leader of the five dance teams.Some of his most memorable scenes were Bahri’s dances on the drum where he would greet the audience with a Flag of his native country Turkey which he kept under his vest until the “Dance on the Drum.”
When he was twelve, he wanted to try other performing arts in addition to dancing. Theatre was not “his cup of tea” which he tried for a few weeks and then gave up. He then auditioned for the school’s choir.He practiced several days to learn a particular folk song, for best singer was to perform a solo at the choir’s annual event. He was crushed when the choir teacher said that he had no business in music. He later learned that he was caught in political crossfire, and the decision was unrelated to his ability, but he did not give up on his love for music.A year later, when he was in the sixth grade, he joined Turkey’s first children’s folk music choir and just after six months, he was performing solo in a sold-out concert organized for the independence day of his hometown. Music and folk dancing remained his main activity, filling his weekends at the Erzurum Folk Dance and Folk Music Foundation throughout the years until his sophomore year in college. During these years, he performed solo in numerous concerts and appeared on local and national TV many times. He was only fourteen when he was hired by government owned radio station TRT to become part of the TRT’s Folk Music choir which made regular radio broadcasts. During this time he has received recording offers, but had to turn them down due to his father’s insistence of obtaining a college degree.
Bahri took a long break from performing in public due to his undergraduate and graduate studies in Turkey, Germany, and the United States. While in graduate school, his love for dancing surfaced again. His talent was recognized at a social dance class which led him to become part of the Ballroom dance team of the Ohio State University. Despite the “ribbons” he got from competitions, dancing for joy and not for competition was his choice after a year on the team. He auditioned for Vaud Villities due to his curiosity towards western music and his desire to learn more about it. He joined the men’s glee club of the Columbus’ Vaud Villities in the fall of 1994. “It was a lot of fun” said Bahri, “but I ended up in the dance team again because there was a shortage in male dancers of the production,” he added.
He formed a band called TURKANA in 1997 after he got his Ph.D. from the Ohio State University.He also composed his first song that year, which became the cover song of TURKANA’s first CD “Keyfim Yerinde”. TURKANA gave concerts in many cities of the United States as well as in Canada and TURKANA’s songs were played on NPR stations.
Bahri moved to Children’s Hospital at the University of Iowa in Iowa City during the fall of 1999.Although it seemed to be an untimely move, his musical life became more active after moving to Iowa City. His meeting with Iowa’s native blues artist Patrick Hazell was a milestone in Bahri’s musical career. Turkish music and American Blues came together in Patrick’s harmonica and piano along with Bahri’s saz and vocals. They have performed together in different colleges in Iowa, and currently recording their first album together.Bahri also was recruited to another local band “Lazyboy & the Recliners, in 2001. With Lazyboy & the Recliners, Bahri brought Turkish folk songs to Iowa City Audience.
Music is a spiritual activity that stimulates deep emotions. When Bahri sits down to play with his saz, members of the audience who are perceptive to the power of music played with feeling can see a man who has a deep connection with his songs. Some musicians perform for money, some for notoriety, but Bahri plays only for the sheer joy his music brings him.