It has been a while but it is impossible to claim that it is too late to write something about the panel series that took place during the 25th anniversary of Istanbul Jazz Festival. Because I believe that “Istanbul Jazz Festival” as an institution has started to look into, understand and question its own history as well as the service it has given to jazz in Istanbul, or even Turkey. I am happy that I played a small role in the ideological formation and I ended up learning a lot from these meetings. The videos of these panels were made permanently accessible on the internet by the festival in addition and thus became a valuable archive for the researchers who will focus on these subjects. I was unable to attend the third panel due to being abroad (moderated by Hülya Tunçağ, with the participation of the musicians and teachers who have put much effort in the subject of jazz for many years), so I will write about the other two panels that I personally moderated. I have already written about “Jazz Life in Istanbul” panel moderated by Zuhal Focan previously. We can say that these panels, which together form a whole, give important clues about jazz life and history in Istanbul in summary. I would like to write about the ones that I moderated in more detail though.
The most interesting panel was “The History of Jazz Festivals in Istanbul” which took place at The Badau on the 19th of May with the participation of many esteemed names involved with Istanbul jazz festivals. I would like to share the information about the video of this panel that the festival has put online as well as two important articles which were published as text. Emin Fındıkoğlu, the first speaker of the panel, sweetly said that he has already written about what he was about to say and kept his speech short. When the article he has written for T24 titled “The Beginning of Jazz Festivals” http://t24.com.tr/yazarlar/jazz-ve-dahasi/jazz-festivallerinin-baslangici,19557 is viewed, we see that Emin Fındıkoğlu has diligently explained Bilsak Jazz Festival as its general director in his well-known attention to detail without losing focus even though he does mention a lot of other topics. Fındıkoğlu’s article is obviously an extremely important source as far as festival history is concerned. In addition to this article, I suggest you look into the article called “Two Generations Grew Up with This Festival” written by one of the previous directors of Istanbul Jazz Festival Görgün Taner, who systematically summarized the things he mentioned during the panel in this article http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kitap-sanat/iki-kusak-bu-festivalle-buyudu-40873772 . Ahmet Uluğ was another important participant of the panel. He shared some very important information about Akbank Jazz Festival, whose history actually outdates Istanbul Jazz Festival’s by a few years, and about its evolution into a prestigious festival through the years. Our last participant was Harun İzer, who took over the position of the director of Istanbul Jazz Festival after Pelin Opçin started to work for London Jazz Festival. He shared important clues about the future of the festival during his speech.
When all the speeches made during the panel are viewed as a whole, I understood that two important subjects need to be emphasized among those discussed (especially the “jazz” content of the festivals, and as I don’t think it will ever end as I gathered from what was said during the panel). I am writing without forgetting about the importance of Ankara and Izmir, keeping in mind without any dismay the support they provide to jazz as musicians and venues; it became evident how important Istanbul is as a city that has started and sustained many musical movements in Turkey, including jazz, as a “leader”. “Jazz Festival” is born from the “Music Festival” (which still continues and has become a Western Classical music Festival) by IKSV, a foundation which contains Istanbul as a word in its title. It isn’t surprising to witness a global and “mixed-race” music as jazz by the definition of its structure emerging in a cosmopolitan metropolis, but jazz has solid “institutional” roots, areas in which it is sustained, a history that will never perish despite the pauses it had to take and an indisputable contribution to Istanbul’s music culture. Moreover, it is impossible to overlook the fact that the people who shoulder this responsibility belong to the same cultural circles, in a sociological aspect. For example, Ahmet Uluğ pointed out that they all belong to the same circles of friends as he told about how Istanbul Jazz, meaning Görgün Taner, has always been a source of support instead of being a competitor. We need to mention something when we compare “classical” music and “jazz” in the framework of IKSV. Görgün Taner was the one to move on from being the director of Istanbul Jazz Festival to the position of the director of IKSV in general. I am mentioning this because it is evident that “jazz” is the most important branch within IKSV.
Jazz in Turkey belongs to a group which is not elite but has a vast intellectual accumulation (I am using this word as in “important” and not “elite”) no matter what some people might say. For those who listen to Turkish or international popular music, “jazz” ends up being the next step. The same no longer applies to Classical Western Music. I am simply noting this down with no intention to focus on this claim in this article by explaining my arguments. It was very important to hear Emin Fındıkoğlu mentioning Mustafa Kemal Ağaoğlu with praise and emphasis while talking about Bilsak Jazz Festival in this sense. Because Ağaoğlu was a leading name in the leftist-intellectual activity which could be summarized as a literary movement instead of jazz. Both Yazko (‘Yazarlar Kooperatifi’—Writers’ Guild—an important gathering of writers that belong to an era before the 1980 coup, which did not only publish literature and translated magazines but also a philosophy magazine) and Bilsak (‘Bilim Sanat Vakfı’—Science and Arts Foundation—which played an important role in organizing conferences, meetings and cultural events such as the jazz festival after involvement in politics had been severely limited following the 12th of September events) are formations that point to an important transformation in their research into history of culture alone. I will summarize while underlining its importance, because our topic is jazz after all, Mustafa Kemal Ağaoğlu, who unfortunately passed away at an early age, was the one who introduced leftist intellectuals of Turkey with jazz. Bilsak Jazz Festival points to an important era and transformation in our intellectual history for this reason alone. “Jazz” became a popular but “high-quality” music, no longer regarded solely as a popular genre of American music, and became “gentrified” for the Turkish left. Take a look at books about jazz published one after the other in the 1980s, the way jazz is explained as a music of the oppressed, the slaves and the exploited, borrow the leftist perspective. I believe that it is not possible to exclude the jazz festivals which were on the rise in the 1980s from this transformation.
The fourth and last panel which worried and excited me at the same as its moderator time took place at Kaset Mitanni on the 8th of June. The topic was jazz and “more”, “further” and “ahead”. I think this was a eye opening meeting in a sense that it made us think on these topics even though none of the questions were directly answered. Batu Akyol, the producer of the documentary called Jazz in Turkey, and two other young participants who are directly involved with the “more” aspect of jazz and the “neighbouring” musics that surround it (young musician Bidar and Onur Çelikkol from Kabak&Lin recording and organization company) and Okay Temiz, who is more than enough equipped to teach other participants a thing or two about “young and further thinking”. Young and bright musician Bidar (vocalist, pianist, compose and a promoter in my opinion) on one side, and Okay Temiz, who is one of the most important musicians who recorded with the band “Sevda” in an 8 CD anthology of Swedish Jazz released by Caprice Records last year, on the other side. Sevda, founded by Maffy Falay (see the interview conducted by Serhan Yediğ, 1 September 2012, Hürriyet– http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/abba-kadar-unlu-olmustuk-21354913), was a band many Swedish musicians played in as well as Okay Temiz, who had recently arrived in Sweden. The recording label (https://musikverket.se/capricerecords/artikel/sevda-exclusive-collectors-edition) describes the band as the most important ethnic jazz band founded in Switzerland to date (1972). Even though it was founded by Maffy, it was Okay Temiz who has ultimately identified with the essence of its mission and kept this “ethnic sound” alive with Oriental Wind later on.
Okay Temiz actually always stayed away from the mainstream understanding of jazz; on the contrary, he aimed to bring together “neighbouring” musics and shaped his entire musical career with this mission, ultimately becoming the leading name in ethnic jazz in Turkish jazz history. İsmet Sıral should also be remembered as a leading name who has founded the path Okay Temiz also followed, especially when Sıral’s final years are concerned. Sıral was after a more avant-garde sound whereas Temiz worked to create a more popular ethnic jazz sound and he achieved this. Of course, Temiz’s speech (about how he utilizes “neighbouring” genres, and how he has always been criticized by jazz circles due to this) was a high point during the panel. At least for me. Because we have to understand that in order for the personal adventures Bidar and Onur Çelikkol humbly explained to be possible (I believe that such discussions are only adapted by a rather small group of people in our times), a leader like Okay Temiz should have started on this path (the interaction between the neighbouring genres including ethnic music) way before them and “cleaned” the road for them. This path was not easily built after all. Let’s remember Jazz in Turkey documentary once again; many older musicians who were featured there (yes, there were some younger ones as well) did not view such efforts positively, at least back in those days. In all honesty, avent-garde jazz was nothing more than a betrayal to jazz to many of these musicians, they did not like the idea of ethnojazz at all. Batu Akyol shed light onto this topic as a documentary-maker, giving examples from his own works and explaining the reasons why.
I have to emphasize once more how important it is to work with local musicians who aren’t jazz musicians. This would only further enrich jazz. For example, we had the opportunity to remember, commemorate and show our respect to Salih Baysal, a violinist from Yalıkavak, Bodrum, who created wonders in Scandinavia while playing with Sevda even though we were not aware of this. Temiz could not dwell long on this during his speech but in order to understand how effective this “village violinist” (I am not looking down on the idea of being from a village, but instead am summarizing the facts) was, we only need to look at the sources in English (see https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2012/10/12/jazz-turkish-pioneers-sevda) and Swedish, as well as the LP titled “The Myth” released under his own name. I repeat, this isn’t about liking or disliking Okay Temiz’s music at all; what matters is what a leading musician he is when the ethnic musical touches that have only been accepted in Turkey for the last ten years concerned and to an understanding of jazz that embraces the sounds of the local musicians on the contrary. We can say that at least this approach is accepted in Scandinavia. For example, Don Cherry was more “open” compared to our own musicians in this aspect and has always shown interest in Turkish music genres. Analyzing this and its similar situations will fall under the responsibility of those who oppose these ideas.
Finally, I would like to say that I am very happy if I succeeded in how beneficial this panel series has been in facilitating an understanding of Turkish jazz history. Assuming that the promise of continuing on with these panels will be kept, I am already feeling excited for the next year’s panels. I have some crazy things planned if they consult me again.