Göksel Yilmaz Ensemble

Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish songs from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Kurdistan.

With an acoustic repertoire of Turkish, Arabic, and Kurdish music, influenced by western styles, such as jazz, blues, and classical music, the Göksel Yılmaz Ensemble provides an innovative rendition of the multi-ethnic texture of the Anatolian musical landscape. This diversity is strengthened by the international backgrounds of the ensemble’s five talented musicians: Anne Bakker on violin (The Netherlands), Peter Rikkers on double bass (The Netherlands), Jacobus Thiele (Germany) on percussion, Göksel Yılmaz, on oud, saz, guitar and vocals (The Netherlands/Turkey), and his sister Funda Yılmaz on vocals (The Netherlands/ Turkey). In addition, they sometimes perform with guest musicians from Hungary, Morocco, Syria and Zambia.

The ensemble is known for their honest and accessible approach to traditional music full of rhythmic expression and delicate sensitivity. With their performances, they invite the listener to a musical journey through life; from yearning to uprising, from deep sorrow and melancholy to intense love and joy. Songs from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon lead the audience on this journey. Their repertoire also includes compositions by Göksel Yılmaz, who is the ensembles’ founder and lead artist. Göksel was born in the Netherlands, where he studied classical guitar at the conservatory of Enschede. He spent part of his youth in Antakya, where his parents are from. This ancient city, formerly known as Antioch, is situated in an Arab area in South Turkey. Göksel thus grew up in close connection with Dutch, Turkish, and Arab language, culture, and music.

Since its founding in 2006, the ensemble has released two albums and performed at many festivals, dance shows, music theatres, and TV- and Radio programs in The Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, Indonesia, Switzerland, Germany and Cyprus. They played at major festivals for world music, such as the annual Music Meeting in Nijmegen and Dunya Festival in Rotterdam, as well as in internationally recognized concert halls, such as RASA in Utrecht and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Their debut album “Gezgin” (The traveler), which is mainly in Turkish, was released in the Netherlands in 2011. The second album, “Kan Zaman” (There was a time, 2016), is entirely in Arabic. This compilation is based on old cassette letters from his relatives singing traditional Arabic songs. With elegant arrangements by Yilmaz, the album pays tribute to the language and musical culture of the Arab minority in Turkey. As Charlie Crooijmans, music reviewer for the Dutch TV-show Vrije Geluiden puts it: “The ensemble takes the Arabic songs from the cassette and gives its own contemporary, yet nostalgic twist. It is a wonderful plea to sing more together.”

Photo by Schaapjesfabriek

Göksel Yılmaz Ensemble:
Göksel Yılmaz: vocals, guitar, saz and oud (NL, TR)
Anne Bakker: violin (NL)
Jacobus Thiele: percussion (D)
Peter Rikkers: double bass (NL)
Funda Yılmaz: vocals (NL, TR)

Göksel Yılmaz also works with:
Udo Demandt: percussion (D)
Sándor Kém: double bass (HU)
Ferdinand Delcker: piano en accordion (D)

Running projects

2022- Preparations for a Turkey Support Tour for the victims of the earthquake
Preparations for a tribute show about the great Arabic singer Fairuz
Composing music for a new album


2018 “Kan Zaman” (There was a time), re-edition with Kalan Music, 9 March, Turkey.
2016 “Kan Zaman” (There was a time), release album, 6 March, The Netherlands.
2011 “Gezgin” (The Traveller), debut album, release, December, The Netherlands.

Highlights concerts and tours

2023 Benefietconcert for the victims earthquake, Matrix Rotterdam

2022 GYE & Matangi Quartet, Schouwburg Hengelo
Amersfoort World Jazz festival, Observant Amersfoort
GYE meets Matangi Quartet, Beauforthuis Austerlit

2021 Heerenhuyskamerconcerten, Rotterdam
Twents Gitaarfestival, Enschede

2020 Kom Erbij, Balkonscenes concerts, Enschede and Deventer
Göksel Yilmaz Ensemble & Anass Habib, Wereldlokaal Zutphen

2019 Concord Resort, Cyprus.
Showcase concert InJazz Festival, Rotterdam.
Embassy Festival, The Hague.
TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht.
Vondelpark Open Air Theater, Amsterdam
Spring Tour Turkey: Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Antakya.

2018 Autumn Turkey Tour: Adana, Mersin, Antakya.
De X, multicultural stage for world music, Leiden.

2017 Summer Turkey Tour: Izmir, Didim, Mersin, Adana, Anatkya, Samandag.
Folk Herbst Festival, Plauen, Germany.
Club Biberr, Stadschouwburg (City Theater), Utrecht.

2016 Indonesia Tour: Jakarta, Surakarta, Yogyakarta.
Showcase concert, Dutch Delta Sounds, Paradiso Noord, Amsterdam.

2015 Buskers Bern Street Music Festival, Switzerland.
Grachtenfestival, Amsterdam

2013/15 Dance project SILK
Composition and arrangements for the dance show SILK, about the silk road, by the International Dance Theatre.
Preparation and rehearsals with 11 dancers and choreographer Jan Linkens.
40 performances in the Netherlands between November 2013 -April 2014.
A 10-day tour in Indonesia
Continued collaboration with IDT with a youth-version of SILK, called “Si-Lin” in various Dutch theaters.

2013 Café Istanbul, Stadsschouwburg Utrecht.

2012 Tour in Istanbul, Turkey.
TV-Performance, “Vrije geluiden”, National Dutch Television, Nederland 1
Art Base-Bruxelles, Brussels.
Concert with master trumpet player Eric Vloeimans, Beauforthuis, Austerlitz
Europa Festival, RASA, Utrecht.
Antakya Kültür Merkezi, Antakya, Turkey.

2011 Showcaseconcert, Dag van de Wereldmuziek, Grounds, Rotterdam.
Nelson Mandela Festival, Rotterdam.
Theater De Regentes, The Hague.

2010 Concert with master guitarist Jan Akkerman, Beauforthuis, Austerlitz

2009 International Music Meeting Festival, Nijmegen.
Festival Dunya, Rotterdam.
Showcase concert, Day of World Music, RASA, Utrecht.

2008 New year’s concert with the Valerius Ensemble, Enschede, The Netherlands. (For this occasion, Göksel arranged two of his own pieces for string quartet and clarinet).
Houtfestival, Haarlem, The Netherlands.
Theater De Spiegel, Zwolle.

2007 International Music Meeting Festival, Nijmegen.
Sterrenfestival, Dwingeloo, The Netherlands.
Concert, Grote Kerk, Enschede.

Selection of reviews

About the album “Kan Zaman”

“The performance on this album – both instrumentally and vocally – is of a very
high level. Highly recommended!” Mixed World Music Magazine, April 2016, by Ton Maas

“The music on ‘Kan Zaman’ comes from the heart, from countries where music
is close to the people. Where people sing songs to each other; on the street or
at the café. This natural and organic way of making music is well understood
by Göksel Yilmaz as we can hear on ‘Kan Zaman’!” Musicframes.com, April 2016, by Mattie Poels

The ensemble takes the Arabic songs from the cassette and gives its own contemporary, yet nostalgic twist. It is a wonderful plea to sing more together.”Vrije Geluiden, April 2016, by Charlie Crooijmans.

“Sublime music that gets even more beautiful and more beautiful. Melancholic, lyrical, beautiful, beautiful.” Moors Magazine, by Holly Moors.

“And again, he has with his ensemble managed to deliver a charming,
approachable and honest album.” New Folk Sounds, May 2016, by Marius Roeting.

About the album “Gezgin”

“Beautiful, serene music” Radio 6-Mattie Poels, 2 February 2012.

“Yilmaz’ dreamy sounds carry you to the Middle East” Fret Magazine-Rosanne de Boer, March/April 2012.

“It’s a fine piece of chamber music with a strong Arabo-Turkish component” Mixed World Music Magazine, March 2012.

“A more impressive debut album is unthinkable” Jazzenzo Jazz Magazine, 31 July 2012.

About the dance show SILK

“The uplifting music of the Göksel Yilmaz Ensemble turns this dance show to
something magical.” Theaterkrant, 4 stars, 12 January 2014.

“Despite their literal place in the background they lift the piece to a higher level.”
Cultuurbewust, 4 stars, 30 January 2014.

“Singer Yilmaz excites his musicians into unmatched expression of percussion, guitar, double bass and violin” Theaterkrant, 4 stars-K. Freriks, 21 December 2013.

“The music, written by Yilmaz, inspires extremely and sometimes reminiscentof the music of the French double bass player and composer Renaud Garcia Fons.” Het Noord Hollands Dagblad-Nanska van de Laar, 21 november 2013.

“The singing of Göksel Yilmaz is pleasing to the ear” Trouw-Sander Hiskemuller, November 2013.

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