Saturday, May 28, 2011

Busking in Istanbul

Recently a band I'm in, Ivır Zıvır has shifted from playing in bars to performing on the street. Playing on İstanbul's famous "İstiklal Caddesi" pedestrian street is exhilarating: we play to an estimated audience of 4 million people who pass through the street daily. Playing there has given me a new sense of the street and especially an appreciation for the community of people whose professional livelihoods depend on it whether they be musicians, fortune tellers, beggars, street-kids, caricature  artists, and so on. One thing that I'm struck  by is the number of self-identified "photographers" who take our photo seemingly thinking they're invisible to us despite their less-than-subtle presence. While so many people photograph us without consent or any monetary donation (which I personally don't particularly mind), Istanbul is a surprisingly good city to busk in and if the weather is right we make more on the streets than we did in bars. Here's are 2 videos. . .

Many thanks to James Burliegh Morton for the videos.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Jeremy and Ciguli, both looking a bit crazy...
I few nights ago I went to a Ciguli concert... Ciguli, who was visiting from Germany, is  a Bulgarian Turkish-speaking Rom accordionist\singer who made it big in Turkey in the 90's with his one-hit wonder "Binnaz." I've translated the lyrics below along with a video I took of him playing the song in the concert (he played it 2 or 3 times much to the delight of the audience). Because of his rather maniacal personality, and the comic content of his songs, a lot of Turkish people don't take him very seriously. This being said, I actually think he is a remarkably talented musician, a versatile accordionist, and actually has an impressive control over his voice. After the jump is a second video from the movie "Nerdesin Firuze" in which Ciguli covers a Turkish pop song in a Roman style... his version is better than the original.

Binnaz, tonight at least,
were you furious, crazy or surprised?
Binnaz, Binnaz...

Binnaz the musicians mate
Binnaz the worker's date
Binnaz the gambler's mate

Binnaz, Binnaz...

Binnaz, they saw you're a brave woman
They saw, they saw
Everyone loved you!

Friday, May 6, 2011


Yesterday was Hıdırellez, a holiday celebrated throughout the Balkans and Turkish speaking places known by several different names according to nationality or religion. You may also know it as Đurđevdan or Ederlezi as the famous song goes. In İstanbul, it is pretty much known a Roma holiday that takes place in their neighborhoods. In recent years it has caught on a little and it was moved into a large park only to be "canceled" this year due to concerns of over-crowding. Luckily this cancelation  brought the festivities back to the streets as they had always been in the past, eliminated the attempt of institutionalizing the holiday as a commercial festival, and led to one hell of a party! The added benefit was that it wasn't overcrowded because there were only locals and people crazy enough to ignore the announcement of its cancelation (like me).

The party started in the back streets of Ahırkapı with a handful of local Zurna, Davul, and Clarinet players competing for the attention of the dancing public, taking tips. Meanwhile other people sold beer, sequined fedoras, and snacks to fuel the party in a very Turkish synthesis between New Years Eve in New York City, Carnivale, and a wedding.

Eventually after some time and without any warning or leadership, the party  transformed into an impromptu parade of sorts... The crowd danced from the streets of Ahırkapı, just a stones throw behind the touristic capital of Istanbul, Sultanahmet, to the shores of the Marmara. On the way we passed several budget hotels with confused tourists peering out their windows hopefully with the impression that every night in Istanbul is like this. Some appeared concerned, while a handful joined the party.

While the festivities resembled a mob of sorts, it was peaceful and celebratory and so when a power-hungry police man tried to silence the musicians everyone began to sing to him until he went away.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Solo Trecking through the Toros Mountains

For my spring break I decided to go on a small solo trek in the Toros mountains by Turkey's 4th largest lake, Eğirdir Gölü. The hike was a small portion of the St. Paul's Trail, Turkey's second long distance trail, set up after the "Lycian Way" by local British expat Kate Clow. The hike was spectacular and a great break from hectic Istanbul city life.
Huseyin the shepherd's house. 
While the spring\summer season hasn't quite started there yet, I still managed to meet quite a few shepherds in the mountains who offered me fresh cheese and bread. Other highlights included seeing wild horses, camping in empty seasonal shepherds encampments, and the spectacular views of the lake below.

Jeremy with Pilgrims
My second day took me through the village of Barla which is a religious destination for pilgrims following Said Nursî, who was exiled by Atatürk to the village. It was quite a shock to go from complete isolation in the wilderness to meeting some enthusiastic pilgrims from Konya eager to feed me full of gözleme and religious rhetoric.

Below are a few pictures that I attempted, with mixed success, to stick together from my crappy cellphone camera.

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