We have recently heard about the news of the opening of “Adana Jazz Club Foundation”. We reached out to one of its founders, Şemi Kurdak, and asked him some questions.
How did you found “Jazz Club Foundation” as its founding president and what is your mission?
I am Şemi Kurdak, I was born in Adana in 1959. I started playing the mandolin in 1967. I started taking guitar lessons the following year when I was a third grade student.
I entered Tarsus American College (TAC) in 1970. The musical environment at TAC was great and in addition to the classes the Music Club was really active in extracurricular activities. Our American teachers would make us listen to many records from rock to jazz. The Music Club was managed by the members of the school orchestra. Back then Milliyet Highschool Music competitions were being organized. A lot of Turkish musicians emerged through those competitions. TAC ECHOes received many awards. Semih Fırıncıoğlu was our great conductor. Ayhan Sicimoğlu played the drums in their year. Semih Fırıncıoğlu founded Boğaziçi Jazz Choir in 1973 while he was a student at Boğaziçi University and he has been working at Broadway in New York for many years.
I was the member of an orchestra between twelfth grade and my senior year. I was a solo and bass guitarist as well as a vocalist. We used to play pieces from Jethro Tull and Exception during our high school years. So, my music background lies in my years at TAC. I graduated from Hacettepe School of Dentistry in 1983. Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to find a music club at Hacettepe. One of my teachers at the university was Ahmet Kurtaran from Modern Folk Üçlüsü. Ankara’s jazz scene was really behind compared to Istanbul’s back then. Musicians from Ankara had moved to Istanbul. Only a few people were involved with jazz. Tuna Ötenel was in Ankara back then because his wife worked at AST. Kamil Erdem gave concerts at TAD. Therefore, jazz has been an unfulfilled dream of mine. I was the second tenor in Ankara Youth Choir for three years during my university years. I constantly listened to jazz in the meanwhile. I conversed frequently with Erol Pekcan (who played in the Galata Tower), Özdemir Erdoğan, Stan Kenton Atilla (who founded Moda Jazz Club) and Sühel Denizci every time I was in Istanbul. They were jazz legends with roots in Ankara. I had the opportunity to see the performances of Neşet Ruacan and Emin Fındıklıoğlu. Önder Focan also is my brother’s classmate from METU.
What lead to the need of such a foundation in Adana?
Adana made great leaps concerning music in the recent years. Adana actually has a very solid foundation. Many people who studied abroad live here. Çukurova Symphony Orchestra was founded many years ago and then the conservatory opened. It has many graduates. Its teaching staff are either graduates of Hacettepe Conservatory or from abroad. There also is the American Military Station in Incirlik. Many American jazz bands would come over and give concerts in Adana. Many Americans lived here. So there was a lot of interaction between our cultures. There currently are five jazz bands in Adana, they play in bars. Many are conservatory graduates and members of Çukurova Symphony.
Since the environment was like this, we thought why not form a foundation ourselves. Along with seven other jazz loving founding members, we founded “Adana Jazz Club Foundation” in two months and took our place among other Adana Foundations in 13 July 2017.
Who are the members of your board of directors and how do they relate to music?
Şemi Kurdak (founding president) is a guitarist and dentist. İbrahim Südaş is a guitarist and mechanical engineer. Fırat Karalı also is a guitarist and mechanical engineer, Fikret Aldanmaz is a drummer and psychiatrist, Kemal Erdoğan is a percussionist and a social media organizer. Caner Narin is a guitarist, İsmail Timuçin is a theater actor and festival organizer, Can Akşit is a hotel manager.
You are already in operation and have done some meetings already I believe? What are some of the decisions you have reached?
Our first meeting took place on the 14th of September at Seyhan Otel.
– Acceptance of members and forming a general assembly as soon as possible to form the permanent board of directors,
– Popularize jazz in Adana,
– Provide the youth with educational opportunities (instrumental and vocal jazz) in Adana and at TAC,
– Organize a concert event for the launch cocktail of Adana Jazz Club Foundation,
– Organize festivals,
– Coordinate with active jazz venues and foundations in Turkey,
– Open an operational office for Adana Jazz Club Foundation after gathering adequate donations,
– Create a website through social media accounts.