This Saturday the Central Park main stage will host Istanbulive II, a Celebration of Turkish Music. Starting at 2PM, it will feature five hours of contemporary music, presenting New Yorkers with familiar genres influenced by the Turkish context in which they’ve developed. We had an opportunity to ask event producers Mehmet Dete and Serdar Ilhan a few questions about the show.
THIRTEEN: How did Istanbulive start? How did it go last year?
Serdar Ilhan: Istanbulive is a one-day music festival that aims to introduce to the American audiences the modern sounds of Turkey. I’ve been doing events in New York since the mid-’90s and have had the opportunity to work with many wonderful presenters, venues and other international music promoters. When SummerStage asked me whether I would be interested in doing a concert in the Park as part of their summer season programming, I immediately thought of bringing in the Turkish Tourism Office, whom I have a great rapport with, to do a large scale Turkish music event. They strongly supported the cause and saw it as an outreach event to promote not just the music of Turkey, but the country as a travel destination.
Mehmet Dede: Attendance for last year’s event exceeded our wildest dreams, registering close to 7,000 fans. People took it upon themselves to inform their friends and co-workers about the event and brought with them their families. SummerStage had to close the gates midway through the concert. We were told that several hundred people were left outside. At the end of the season SummerStage confirmed that Istanbulive was one of the top three most attended shows of the 2009 season.
T: Is there anything different this year?
SI: Last year’s event showcased Istanbul’s musical backdrop as a place where multi-ethnic communities lived side by side for centuries – that’s why we called it “the sounds and colors of Istanbul.” It featured among Turkish musicians, Greek, Armenian, Macedonian and American musicians. This year we focused on being accessible and contemporary.
The cultural diversity and unity has made Turkey a bridge from the East to the West. This year’s Istanbulive concert also displays the modern side of Turkey’s vast past cultural history.
T: Turkey has an exceptionally rich musical heritage. What elements of that will we be hearing at Istanbulive II?
MD: As Serdar mentioned, this year’s festival is more accessible by folks that may not be as familiar with Turkish music. It will feature indigenous Turkish folk music, a hot new jazz sound inspired by the vibrant culture of Istanbul, eastern rock music influenced by grunge rock and an urban mix of Turkish R&B, hip-hop, dance and soul. The underlying thread is that all of these sounds are distinctly fresh and contemporary.
T: What ties this lineup together musically? How do you program a lineup of such diverse, different-sounding artists?
SI: It is a challenge because Turkey’s culture is so rich! From Turkish folk music to Balkan Gypsy bands on the streets of Istanbul, from hardrock and underground jazz to pop-dance there is much to take in. All the different genres find their own audience in Istanbul, which also hosts a couple major music festivals throughout the year. We want to bring people form all walks of life to SummerStage.
MD: Kenan is one of Turkey’s top entertainers with a career of almost 20 years on stage, on TV and radio. His father and brother are popular musicians in their own rights and Kenan’s stage presences is as best as it gets. Duman is Turkey’s premier rock band with an almost cult-like following. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that they are the Turkish Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Ilhan Ersahin, Sukriye Tutkun and Ozan Dogulu are all massively talented musicans. It will be an amazing event with different artists showcasing their skills.
T: For those who may have less familiarity with Turkish music, popular, classical, folk, or otherwise, what do you hope they take away from this show?
SI: Turkey is a country with roots in the East and a vision that’s Western-inspired. It is traditional, as well as contemporary. From the Greeks to the Easter Roman Empire to the Ottomans to the nascent Turkish Republic, it is of a historically, geographically, culturally, religiously rich and fertile region. It is only natural that musically it is equally diverse. If there is one thing I’d like them to take away from this concert it is the variety and excellent musicianship Turkish music has to offer today.