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Istanbul Jazz cancels as Turkish promoters wait for news

Istanbul Jazz Festival, one of the most popular summer events in Turkey, has called off its 27th edition, scheduled for 27 June–14 July 2020, due to the “extraordinary circumstances caused by the global coronavirus outbreak”.

In an announcement postponing the multi-venue event to an unspecified later date, promoter Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) says new dates for the festival, described as “a pivotal event for the city’s prominence in the international concert map”, will be announced in the coming months.

It is the latest setback for Istanbul Jazz, founded in 1994, and one similarly out of promoters’ hands: the 2016 festival was severely affected by a period of political unrest which culminated in a failed coup in Turkey. The 2020 event would have been headlined by Foals, Gregory Porter and jazz supergroup Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade.

Also postponed amid the Covid-19 pandemic is IKSV’s 48th Istanbul Music Festival, a classical music event, which will take place in September instead of 2–25 June.

Su Topçu of Istanbul-based booking agency/promoter Charmenko explains that the Turkish government, like many around the world, not yet given any indication as to when shows might be allowed again. “The curve is far from flattening here,” adds Nick Hobbs, Charmenko’s owner.

“The curve is far from flattening here”

Hobbs says Turkey – along with Russia and much of southern and eastern Europe – is one of a number of countries where there is “minimal government support for the entertainment industry”, and where furloughing schemes, like those in place in much of western Europe and North America, are “either non-existent or completely inadequate”.

“Why the government does nothing for music is partly a political question – to some degree they see music as one of their enemies – and partly one of wider economic policy,” Hobbs explains. “They will prop up the big holding companies while they let the small-business economy to its own devices.”

As for IKSV, which is backed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, its managing director says he expects live music to return to Turkey some time in the autumn, following discussions between local industry professionals and authorities.

“All I know is that it won’t be the same, at least for a while,” Görgün Taner tells Cumhuriyet,

 


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“Business as usual” for Pozitif as founders step down

Despite rumours to the contrary, leading Turkish promoter Pozitif is alive and kicking, undeterred by a major corporate restructure and the loss of its two remaining co-founders, according to the company.

Pozitif, founded in 1989 by Cem Yegül and brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Uluğ, is one of the largest concert promoters in Turkey, with recent shows including Alt-J, Oscar and the Wolf, Editors, Jessie J, OneRepublic, Morrissey and Blondie. It also operates several venues, including Volkswagen Arena (5,800-cap.) and Babylon (450-cap.), both in Istanbul, and festivals Cappadox, Bodrum Music Festival and One Love Festival.

In 2013, it was acquired by the Doğuş Group conglomerate, whose wide-ranging corporate interests also include retail chains, energy companies, hotels and hospitality businesses, radio and TV stations and a string of car dealerships.

Recent speculation suggested Pozitif’s promotions business, hit hard by the recent collapse of the Turkish lira, was to be killed off, leaving just the venues – one insider told IQ earlier this summer he believed the company was “going down” imminently.

“We now have fewer people – however, we’re doing the same amount of work”

Additionally, Ahmet Uluğ announced in May he was leaving Pozitif after 29 years, while IQ learnt Yegül – most recently the company’s CEO and president – is also no longer part of the management structure, although he remains a partner. (Mehmet Uluğ passed away in 2013.)

However, far from “going down”, Doğuş is navigating the turbulent political and economic climate in Turkey better than many, according to Pozitif senior booker Elif Cemal, downsizing its operations while laying a solid foundation for Pozitif’s future.

“A lot of companies of all sizes have already restructured, or are now are restructuring, their organisations, laying off staff or closing some departments,” she tells IQ. “Some of these conglomerates, such as Doğuş, which has a lot of investments here and abroad, had to start this process a little bit earlier than some.

“At Pozitif, it’s true that we now have fewer people – however, we’re doing the same amount of work, in booking and live events team, marketing and media, finance… Currently, we are preparing to celebrate Pozitif’s 30th year, Babylon’s 20th year, Volkswagen Arena’s fifth year and the fifth anniversary of our new international destination festival, Cappadox, in 2019.”

“Fluctuations in Turkey are always expected and part of our lives”

Other than the departure of Uluğ and Yegül’s stepping back, “the operational management team is the same,” Cemal says. “Ayşegül Turfan, who has been with the company for over 20 years, is managing partner, I am here in my usual senior booker capacity, and I am glad to share that Mehmet Ağaoğulları has joined our booking and live entertainment department.”

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, “the political turmoil in Turkey […] hasn’t stopped the overall live entertainment business from growing”, with the local live music ticket market worth €69m and expected to grow 4% annually through 2022.

For Pozitif, “we will go on with Babylon club as usual, as well as the Cappadox, One Love, Babylon Soundgarden and Akbank Jazz Festivals in 2019 and Volkswagen Arena concerts,” concludes Cemal. “Maybe with not-too-ambitious line-ups, but smarter programmes…”

“As we all know, fluctuations in Turkey are always expected and part of our lives,” she adds, “so [the political situation] has not had a bigger effect on the live entertainment business than usual”. For Pozitif, then, she says – and the live industry in general – it’s “business as usual”.

 


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52,000 people attend 25th Istanbul Jazz Festival

Celebrating their 25th year with 52,000 jazz fans, the events of 2016’s failed coup d’état are a distant memory for the Istanbul Jazz Festival. Two years ago, organisers were grateful for just avoiding cancellation amid the political unrest; in 2018, organisers are celebrating the festival’s most successful series in years.

Over the course of the 22-day festival, 450 artists performed in venues around the Turkish capital. Local artists and jazz heavyweights shared the 27 stages of the festival, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV). Among the most high-profile of performers, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played to a crowd of 9,000 fans, whilst Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters welcomed nearly 200 refugees to their performance, in connection with the UNCHR.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters welcomed nearly 200 refugees to their performance, in connection with the UNCHR.

Among the more traditional jazz offerings, this year also welcomed back networking and showcase event, Vitrin, for the second time. Turning a spotlight on musicians and artists from Turkey, the showcase offered a mix of jazz-crossover performances alongside indie, electronic and rock groups.

Since the events of 2016, jazz fans from across the world have rallied around the festival. In 2017, organisers were given a confidence boost as 25,000 people returned to the Istanbul concert series, just one year after the failed coup. At the time, festival director Pelin Opcin said: “The audience reaction was amazing. We were delighted – the eagerness and enthusiasm I saw among attendees this year is really promising.”

Opcin went on to say last year that she was confident future editions of the Istanbul Jazz Festival would see the event bounce back to its former glory, once again attracting the 40,000 to 45,000 festivalgoers that previous years had enjoyed. The scale and success of this year prove her thoughts were well-founded.

 


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Confidence boost for Istanbul Jazz Festival

Last year the Istanbul Jazz Festival was disrupted by a period of political unrest which culminated in a failed coup. So organisers understandably had a little trepidation about how audiences would respond this year.

They needn’t have worried.

“The audience reaction was amazing,” reports festival director Pelin Opcin. “We reached our target of 98% attendance, with 25,000 people attending.

“But it’s not just about the numbers, what was also important for us was seeing how long people stayed at the festival outside of the concert times, and what the general vibe was like. We were delighted – the eagerness and enthusiasm I saw among attendees this year is really promising.

“Artists also told us they had a great time.”

“Based on this year’s experience I feel confident we will be able to return to 45,000 capacity next year”

In the past the event reached a capacity of 40,000-45,000. Organisers wanted to be confident venues would be full, so reduced capacity by hosting free events in smaller venues.

Opcin hopes the success of the event will prove to artists that Istanbul can be a major place for touring once again.

“Based on this year’s experience I feel confident we will be able to return to 45,000 capacity next year,” she adds.

The 4-20 July event promoted by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) featured artists such as Joshua Redman, Donny McCaslin and Christian McBride, and a special tribute to renowned flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia.

The programme is made up of a mixture of free and ticketed concerts. The festival is renowned for using architecturally- and historically-interesting venues and locations, such as an abandoned shoe factory, courtyards and terraces.

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Erdogan in crackdown on ‘un-Turkish’ arenas

Türk Telekom Arena – the home ground of football team Galatasaray SK and an occasional 70,000-cap. concert venue – has become the first Turkish stadium to change its name following criticism of the word ‘arena’ by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan, an Islamist autocrat who earlier this year won a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, is a vocal supporter of removing ‘foreign’ loanwords from the Turkish language. He announced last week he had instructed sports minister Akif Cagatay Kilic to order Turkey’s open-air stadia, many of which are called arenas, to change their names.

“I am against arenas,” he said on Friday. “You know what they do in arenas, don’t you? People were dismembered [in Roman arenas]. I have given the instruction to the minister and we will remove the name arena from stadia. There is no such thing in our language.”

Both ‘arena’ and ‘stadium’ have classical origins: the former from Latin arēna and the latter from Ancient Greek στάδιον (stádion).

“We will remove the name arena from stadia. There is no such thing in our language”

Other Turkish stadia with the word ‘arena’ in their names include Vodafone Arena (41,903-cap.) in Istanbul, Timsah Arena (43,331-cap.) in Bursa and Gaziantep Arena (33,502-cap.) in Gaziantep, while indoor arenas include Ülker Sports Arena (15,000-cap.) and Volkswagen Arena (5,800-cap.), both in Istanbul, and Hayri Gür Arena (7,500-cap.) in Pelitli.

According to the pro-government Daily Sabah, the Turkish Language Institute (TDK) approves of Erdogan’s anti-arena intervention. Describing words such as “arena, tower and mall” as the height of linguistic corruption, TDK head Mustafa Kacalin calls the campaign for language purity a “life and death struggle. Just the way our parliament was bombed on 15 July, our language faces bombing each and every day,” he says.

According to Freemuse, Erodgan’s Turkey was the second biggest violator of artistic freedom in 2016.

 


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DJ Shadow, Dave Clarke, Kode9 for first Sónar HK

Sónar, the globe-trotting Barcelona-based electronic music and tech event, will this spring return to Asia for the first time since 2013 with two new festivals.

Sónar Istanbul will run from 24 to 25 March at the Zorlu Performing Arts Centre, while single-day event Sónar Hong Kong is scheduled for 1 April at the Hong Kong Science Park. (No joke.)

The line-up for the Hong Kong event, announced today, includes DJs Kode9, DJ Shadow, Dave Clark, Gilles Peterson and Evian Christ, rapper Lady Leshurr and production duo Gorgon City, plus several Hongkongese acts, including Ocean Lam and Ouissam/Fragrant Harbour Soundsystem.

Since 2002 Sónar has hosted 23 festivals Barcelona and a further 55 in 27 cities worldwide

Kode9 will also appear in Istanbul, along with artists including Róisín Murphy, Nina Kraviz and Floating Points.

The Hong Kong programme additionally includes Sónar+D, the ‘International Congress for Digital Culture and Creative Technologies’, with workshops and panels “showcasing the latest trends in VR [virtual reality] and digital art”.

Since 2002 the festival promoted by Barcelona-based Advanced Music, has hosted 23 events in its hometown and a further 55 in 27 cities worldwide, including Reykjavik (2013–2017), Stockholm (2014–2016), Sao Paulo (2004, 2012–13, 2015), Tokyo (2002, 2004, 2006, 2011–13), Bogota (2015–2016), London (2002–05, 2009–11) and Cape Town (2012 and 2014).

 


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Attack in Istanbul nightclub kills 39 people

An attack in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day has resulted in the death of 39 people and recorded 70 injuries.

The incident took place at the Reina nightclub, owned by the SU Entertainment Group, in Ortaköy, Istanbul, at around 1.15am in the early hours of 1 January.

After opening fire inside the venue, the attacker fled and has yet to be found.

This is the man police are searching for, although police are still working to identify him. However, reports from ITV say that his wife has been detained in central Turkey as authorities continue to search for the gunman.

A message on Reina’s website from SU Entertainment Group Chairman Mehmet Koçarslan said “extraordinary safety precautions” have been taken in the Ortaköy neighbourhood and other areas of Istanbul for the last two weeks.

“Tents have been set up and teams have been stationed for 24 hours. Necessary precautions have been taken by coast guard and sea side,” reads the message, loosely translated.

“Despite precautions taken by our security forces, unfortunately this elimination occurred. We do not know what to say.”

“Despite all these precautions taken by our security forces, unfortunately this elimination occurred. We do not know what to say.

“We believe that this terrorist attack on humanity, nationality and my country will not destroy our unity, we will not destroy our brotherhood, our state will destroy hand terror with our nationality.

“This terrible event we are living in is a travesty and treacherous attack on humanity, nationality, peacefulness, unity, brotherhood, economy, tourism, that is to our whole country.”
 


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Life goes on as Salon Istanbul reveals 2016 bill

Salon İKSV, one of Istanbul’s leading music venues, has unveiled the line-up for its new concert season as it seeks to move on from the city’s recent political turmoil with “another vibrant year” of shows.

Experimental New York three-piece Battles are first up, playing the 400-capacity concert hall on 24 and 25 September, followed by Turkish jazz vocalist Jehan Barbur on 29 September and Lebanese alt-rock group Mashrou’ Leila on 30 September.

Also performing throughout the winter are Californian indie band Local Natives, London-based The Veils, Danish electro-pop artist Oh Land, British space-funk group The Comet is Coming and Canada’s The Dears, who will draw the curtain down on the 2016–17 season with a show on 11 February.

A Spotify playlist highlighting featured Salon İKSV artists can be listened to below:

İKSV’s Zeynep Seyhun tells IQ Turkey is “now undergoing a period of restructuring to ensure that the events of 15 July [the attempted military coup] are never repeated” and that “daily life has returned to its normal pace in Istanbul”.

“We feel that it’s important to underline that cultural, commercial and social life and all public entertainment are continuing as normal,” he comments. “All the international acts that have been confirmed to take the stage at the Salon will visit Istanbul as planned. The Salon İKSV team is monitoring the situation in Istanbul closely to ensure the security of visiting artists and audiences.”

On 20 July IQ revealed that a number of high-profile international acts had cancelled shows in the aftermath of an attempted coup d’état by a group of army officers, with İKSV’s Istanbul Jazz Festival among the events affected.

 


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