Saturday, July 30, 2011

Istanbul: a new jazz hub?


Istanbul is becoming an international centre of music. [Reuters] 
Istanbul is celebrating its 18th annual jazz festival this month with 300 local and foreign musicians playing over 40 concerts. The 19-day festival, which opened July 1st, is being held in different parts of the city and is sponsored by the Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation (IKSV).



The festival began with a variety of concerts in such hot spots as The Marmara Esma Sultan, The Pera Palace, the historical Galata Tower, Beyoglu and Sishane.

Jehan Barbur, Neil Cowley Trio, Okay Temiz, Souljazz Orchestra, Grooveheadz and Jozi Levi Brazil Project were among the artists who performed during the first three days.

Sanem Kalfa, a Turkish female vocalist, received top billing at Tunel Fest after taking home first prize in the 2010 Montreux Jazz Festival’s Jazz Voice competition.

Other performers who will take the stage at the festival include musical legends Paul Simon, Joss Stone, Natalie Cole and Buika. Talents from Egypt, India, Israel, Brazil, the United States and Canada will also be featured.

The festival's mounting attendance and artistic innovation raise the question: Is Istanbul on its way to becoming the new jazz metropolis?

Famous jazz performer and owner of Istanbul’s Nardis Jazz Club Onder Focan disagrees with such a proclamation, considering that the city does not even have a jazz conservatory.

Even though he believes that calling Istanbul a new jazz center is premature, Focan recognizes the emergence of a jazz culture, especially among the country's youth. He surmises that the genre’s popularity stems from its similarities to traditional Turkish rhythms.

"Bigger and more promising organizations of this sort are becoming more responsive to the needs of audiences," Focan said.

Prestigious jazz composer and pianist Kerem Gorsev disagreed with Focan. He highlighted Istanbul’s street concerts as a unique element of the city’s festival, rivaled only by Italy, France and Canada.

Despite Istanbul’s burgeoning jazz scene, its festival lags behind world standards. In other parts of the world, jazz festivals are free of charge, whereas in Istanbul audiences m

"This [festival] is the result of great efforts,” he said, adding, “Istanbul has a potential to become a new jazz centre in the future."

According to Gorsev, bringing jazz to the streets can help promote the genre's popularity.

"The main aim of the festival should be to acquaint people [in Turkey] with this kind of music. Getting the attention of jazz audiences in the world should come after."


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