Background Turkish Jazz

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at
Fri Aug 4 22:57:17 MDT 2000

Turkish Jazz

by Xxxx Canpolat

In the mid 1920's, just immediately after the craze for jazz swept through
European capitals, jazz also started to be popular in Istanbul, Turkey. Leon
Avigor was the first leading jazz musician in Istanbul, where he formed the
first jazz quartet in the early 1930's.

In 1941, the brothers Arto and Dikran Haçaduryan, who were both trombone
players, held the first professional jazz concert in Istanbul. During the same
period Ibrahim Özgür and Faz?l Abrak began to broadcast jazz programmes on
Istanbul Radio.

Since then jazz music has become ever more popular in Turkey, and the increasing
number of jazz festivals organized in Turkey is evidence of this growing

The first real jazz festival was held in 1983 with the participation of mostly
foreign musicians. In 1985, the Science, Arts and Culture Institution organized
a yearly BILSAK international jazz festival which continued till 1989.

In 1986, a special section was dedicated to jazz at the International Istanbul
Festival. Since then the festival has hosted top groups and masters of jazz.
Over the last four years, audiences exceeding 100,000 have been attracted,
giving this hugely popular musical event an independent identity entirely its
own. Thus, in 1994 the Board of the Festival Foundation decided to organize the
event as a completely separate festival. This jazz festival takes place during
the first two weeks of July and is included in the Organization of European Jazz

Apart from the Istanbul Jazz Festival, the Akbank Jazz Festival, Efes Pilsen
Jazz Festival and the Parliament Jazz Festival have also won an international
following. The Ankara and Istanbul Jazz Associations also periodically organize
jazz concerts.

Istanbul was brought into the world tour schedule of world famous jazz musicians
in 1988. These tours, under the name of "Parliament Superband Concerts", are now
annually organized in Istanbul, under the patronage of Philip Morris Inc.

This year, the Middle East Technical University (METU), organized the First
National Jazz Days in Ankara.

The most enduring jazz group in Turkey is the TRT Istanbul Popular Music and
Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Suheyl Deniz.

Today, there are not only Turkish jazz musicians who are professional jazz
performers but there are also composers in their own right. Some of these
composers use Turkish folk instruments and themes in their compositions.
Accordingly some leading Turkish jazz artists had this to say about "Turkish

Önder Focan: "Besides playing and composing main-stream jazz, I also use Turkish
folk instruments and themes in my compositions. When a foreigner listens to my
compositions, he or she can feel this identity. Such compositions, what we could
call "ethnic jazz" are the colours of jazz."

Kerem Görsev: "Jazz is universal. It has standard forms which should not be
adulterated with ethnic themes."

Kamil Erdem (from the group Asia Minor): "Turkish jazz can be divided into two
parts: Turkish musicians playing jazz music; and jazz peculiar to Turkey.
However, as jazz music is universal it is better not to limit it to 'national
identity'. On the contrary, the melodic and rhythmic characteristics of nations
can be used in compositions. Just as a composer uses his or her musical
knowledge in his works, so his national characteristics may be reflected in his
works. For example, Asia Minor is a Turkish group and Turkish folk instruments,
identity or musical themes can be found in our compositions."

Bulgarian jazz artist Ybrahimova, living in Turkey since 1993 says "Folkloric
music can be used in order to reach a new synthesis. Art does not have limits or
boundaries. Everybody can use his or her national identity, or use folkloric
themes while performing or composing jazz music. There are very successful
Turkish jazz artists who are using folkloric musical themes in their work."


Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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