Notes from Music Week Istanbul

This week, I am attending the Music Week Istanbul organized by fizy. This is a very special event that just started this year which features people from the music industry in Turkey, such as concert promoters, festival organizers, record labels, journalists, academia and people who are from the world of culture and arts. It is an event that happens throughout the entire week and during the day, they have industry panels which are free to the public. At night, there are concerts by famous Turkish musicians from different genres ranging from Rock to Jazz to Pop in one of the top venues in Istanbul. So today I would like to present some of my notes I’ve taken from the industry panels on the first day.

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So the first panel that I went today was about history of folk music culture in Turkey. Obviously Turkey is a country with a history of thousands of years, which makes it very difficult to talk about the folk culture in a panel that is only an hour long. However the speaker, who is a professor of sociology in one of the top universities in Turkey made an interesting point that the words folk and popular actually used to be in the same meaning. The word folk means ‘people’ in German, and the word popular comes from the Latin word populus which also means ‘people’. However, later in history, folk became the word to define rural people and cultures; whereas populus started meaning ‘the urban population’. From populus came popular, hence pop music. So his point was that the term folk music now meant music from  the rural areas, such as villages of a certain country. And so pop music meant music that is being listened by people in the big cities, who are living more ‘modern’ lives and are more educated. So that was a very interesting distinction that made a lot of sense in the context of history of music.

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The second panel was about the Jazz culture in Turkey. Jazz has a very long history in Turkey as the first jazz bands start appearing in 1920s in large cities of the country. And later as you might know, two Turkish men, Ahmet Ertegün and Arif Mardin went to United States to start Atlantic Records. Atlantic Records ended up signing most of the famous jazz artists and they released a lot of the legendary jazz albums, which contributed significantly to the rise of jazz to a mainstream genre in 20th century.

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Later in the panel, the discussions went about the state of jazz in Turkey. Today in Turkey jazz is very much alive with a solid number of jazz venues that still stand strong to this day. This says a lot about the culture in Istanbul, because it is a city where a lot of venues open and close very rapidly. Somehow, the jazz culture is stable and ever-growing. Moreover, the young populations are very supportive of jazz – for instance at the panel today most of the people were between the ages of 20 and 35 and the huge majority were women, which is a very hopeful thing for the future. Moreover, the panel mentioned there are a lot of jazz bands that are growing in Turkey,  playing in festivals and different parts of the world. For instance, just last week a band from Istanbul won the Montreux Jazz Festival best band contest.

So to sum up, I think it is safe to say that jazz is the lifeblood of the cultural life of the city and this is something that we talked about in the panel. The importance of jazz for Istanbul and for the country was something that that was emphasized over and over again, and it was great to be a part of this conversation. These kind of conversations also open up more space for independent Artists both in Turkey also in other countries who are looking for new spots to play. So this is something to be hopeful of and I hope that this gives you some insight about the world of jazz in Turkey. 

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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new album ‘Aurora will be released on October 19, 2018 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website


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