This year, we have participated in the 3rd edition of ‘1 Festival İzmir’, held by Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Center, with ‘From Mevlana to Anatolian Poets’, a project by Tuluğ Tirpan. I have already written about Victor Wooten and Electro Deluxe concerts that I had seen while we were there but since I had a chance to experience the background of the organisation due to my managerial duties and witness the sincere effort that we can rarely see these days in such organisations, I wanted to write a supplementary article about the festival and AASAC in general, even though it’s been a while since the festival.
‘From Mevlana to Anatolian Poets’ was the only classical concert at the festival. Actually, narrowing it down to classical is not enough to describe the project. The concert, consisting of two parts, is a fusion ranging from Turkish folk to Sufi music through classical, a world music project from Turkey.
The first part of the concert begins with the interpretations of the songs by Anatolian poets, such as Neşet Ertaş, Aşık Veysel, Pir Sultan Abdal with Tuluğ Tırpan on piano, Zara on vocal and Erdal Erzincan on bağlama (traditional string instrument) and vocal. This part is a new inclusion to the project that develops with every show. Then follows Erdal Erzincan’s beautiful bağlama concerto with him and Tuluğ Tirpan being the soloists. Symphony orchestra was conducted by Naci Özgüç. The first half ends with Tuluğ Tırpan’s arrangement of ‘Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım’ (In A Long and Narrow Road) by Aşık Veysel with the participation of Zara on vocal and Burcu Karadağ on ney (traditional wind instrument).
In the second half, ‘Mevlana-Alchemist Symphonic Poem’, composed by Tuluğ Tırpan for the 2007 Mevlana year, was on. Izmir audience listens to Zara who is mostly known as a folk singer, as a soprano maybe for the first time. Zara performs skillfully in a wide range, from Turkish music to opera, which requires different singing techniques. Actor Okan Yalabık reads passages from Masnavi. Yalabık’s voice and Burcu Karadağ’s breath transport Mevlana’s messages of love to the heart of the audience. The choreography of modern sema show by dancer Su Güneş Mıhladız, was the story of Seyr-ü Sülük, the killing of your own ego. The story of death and rebirth. And of course, bringing together all these pieces is the symphonic poem that Tuluğ Tirpan built on sema (whirling music) form and composed his own inner journey.
In every concert I witness the energy in the hall and how people meet in a common sense. As everyone on stage, from different backgrounds and fields of activity, runs to this project with love, I can see the same out in the hall when the concert ends. Independent of musical tastes and identities, the audience experience love and being one.
In my Electro Deluxe article, I have told another story of ‘being one’ but with a different music and in a very different way. Two different music, two different experiences. But hey, this is the unifying power of music. If you want to read about it, click here. And you can read my Victor Wooten, Bob Franceschini and Dennis Chambers concert review here.
I saw two more concerts in the scope of ‘1 Festival Izmir’ and I would like to say a few words about them also. The opening concert was by Istanbul All Star Big Band conducted by Nail Yavuzoğlu. All musicians were ‘crème de la crème’ names of Turkish jazz scene. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of big band music but it was fun to see all very valuable musicians, which I have worked with in various projects, playing on stage. Selen Beytekin was sparkling as usual. With her voice, stage presence and body language, it wasn’t hard for her to grasp the audience. To me, the weak link of the concert was Soner Arıca. He was very excited, a once pop star who will sing jazz for the first time, this is understandable, but I think it would be a wiser choice for him to sing in Turkish, otherwise he has an appealing voice that suits jazz.
Another concert I saw was by Burhan Öçal Istanbul Oriental Ensemble. Burhan Öçal was one of the first musicians I first wrote about when I started journalism. Then we became friends, I wrote about many of his concerts and albums until I quit writing, after that we hardly saw each other. I visited the musicians at the backstage. His cümbüş (a metal mandolin) player that I hadn’t seen for over 20 years said he recognised me from my voice. Then he told me about the times and projects we had seen each other, well, I think I remember them as well. This must be what they call ‘musician ear’. There was Istanbul Oriental on stage but the Ensemble part was a little troubled. As if they had not played together for a while, the group was a bit out of sync, there were timing issues. Burhan was not reluctant though to talk about those flaws on stage.
‘1 Festival İzmir’ is organised by Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Center. The head of the organisation team is Mustafa Bayık, the director of AASAC. He is personally involved in everything, works hard, he is in a respectful relation with the artist and he even runs the social media accounts of the hall. Plus, he always manages to smile. These are just the tip of the iceberg, directing a municipal institution must have many more bureaucratic jobs behind. I’m not sure how he succeeds to do all in 24 hours but I know how longer the day gets when you do what you love.
He is in a friendly relationship with his team, his love for his job seems to motivate all. Personally, I am not used to encounter managers like Mr. Bayık, so I tell him I am very pleased to know him. Then I understand why and how, as we chat. Behind his sensitivity to art and the artist is him being an artist as well. It turned out that he was a singer and an academician in that field.
When Mustafa Bayık received an invitation to work as a director, he left his job at Çukurova University State Conservatory and got under a job that was not so easy. Making the hall always demandable within a certain budget by also keeping the artistic level that is worthy of the hall’s quality. In this era, it’s a hard work. But either because he does what he does with love or carries the responsibility to the fullest extent -I think both-, he seems to have overcome the difficulty. The occupancy rate was 67% when he started in April 2016, it reached 100% in the first half of this season. The hall’s name is mentioned more in the media and social media, they present a program worthy of one of Turkey’s best concert halls.
They make the seasonal program of the hall with Çağlar Yıldırım, concert program manager, also a musician and academician. I ask Mr. Yıldırım how they designed the festival when they set off. Would it have a theme, what would differentiate it from other concerts in the season? Rather than dedicating the festival to a single genre, they thought of offering a good example of different musical styles. This year, except ’From Mevlana to Anatolian Poets’, all concerts were under the jazz umbrella, but all were in different styles. Big band, ethno jazz, electro jazz. Every year, they make an effort to bring and instrument virtuoso. Richard Bona, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten. All bass virtuosos, but I have no objection to that.
I suggest they add side events such as workshops, chats or conferences to make the festival feel more like a festival. This was already in their agenda.
Good things are happening at AASAC! We have local elections ahead, I hope we can protect this beautiful energy in the hall.