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Istanbul Jazz Festival appoints new director

Istanbul Jazz Festival has named Harun İzer as its new festival director.

İzer, who had served as assistant director since 2011, replaces Pelin Opcin, who moved to Serious, the producer of London Jazz Festival, in February.

İzer, who joined Istanbul Jazz Festival as an assistant in 2003, curates its European Jazz Club, Encounters with Masters, Tünel Feast and Night Out programmes. He also manages the festival’s newest project, Vitrin: Showcase for Contemporary Music in Turkey, which has taken place annually since 2017.

Additionally, İzer is on the nomination committee for the Paul Acket Award, presented by North Sea Jazz Festival, and the Aga Khan Music Awards, to be awarded by the Aga Khan Music Initiative as of 2019.

More than 50,000 people attended the latest Istanbul Jazz Festival, which hosted more than 450 artists, including Nick Cave and Robert Plant, across 27 venues over 22 days in June and July.

 


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Istanbul Jazz director takes over London Jazz Festival

Pelin Opcin, festival director of Istanbul Jazz Festival, is to join London Jazz Festival producer Serious as director of programming.

Opcin (pictured) has overseen Istanbul Jazz Festival – organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) – since 2005, and been with IKSV since 1999, and her departure means the leading jazz event enters its 25th anniversary year “with a major change”, says the promoter.

She joins London Jazz Festival on 1 February 2018, but will remain with IKSV until the conclusion of the 25th Istanbul Jazz Festival on 21 July.

The 25th Istanbul Jazz Festival programme, prepared under the direction of Opcin and assistant director Harun Izer, will be announced in the next few days.

Some 25,000 people attended the 2017 Istanbul Jazz Festival, in a successful return following the disruption of the 2016 event by an attempted coup d’état.

 


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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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Istanbul Fest offers “heartfelt thanks” to acts

Pelin Opcin, festival director of the Istanbul Jazz Festival, has paid tribute to festival organisers, audiences and performers following the conclusion of its 23rd edition, which wrapped up last Monday.

The festival, promoted by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), ran from 27 June to 25 July and coincided with a period of political unrest that culminated with an attempted coup d’état on 15 July. Although it lost a number of acts, including Laura Mvula and Vintage Trouble, the festival escaped the fate of Pozitif’s One Love, which was called off altogether.

“We realised the festival under unusual conditions this year,” says Opcin. “Every note that could be played, every footprint that remained from the listeners who filled in our concerts, were our main sources of motivation and courage.”

He adds, in an apparent reference to the acts who did pull out: “Our heartfelt thanks goes to our distinguished audiences and the contributing artists who prioritised meeting with their listeners in Istanbul over anything else.”

“Our heartfelt thanks goes to the artists who prioritised meeting with their listeners in Istanbul over anything else”

Joss Stone, the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Nile Rodgers/Chic and Damon Albarn and the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music were among those who made the trek to Istanbul for the four-week event.

Festivals like Istanbul Jazz Fest are vital for the future of democracy in Turkey, says Opcin, who confirms it will return for a 24th year next summer. “We are currently living through a time when we need to feel the unifying, healing power of culture and arts the most,” he comments. “As a cultural institution that has continuously worked for the advancement of culture and arts in Turkey since 1973, we have always taken side with democracy and against military coups. We believe, as one of the most powerful tools in fostering a culture of peace and dialogue, music should never be silenced; on the contrary, it should now be louder than ever.”

IQ spoke to a cross-section of Turkish promoters following the events of 15 July and found that, despite a spate of temporary cancellations, the live industry remains largely optimistic for the future.

Cem Yegül, Pozitif’s CEO and president, echoed Opcin’s sentiments on the importance of live music, calling it “an important element of resistance against instability in troubled times. People do not want the music and the art and, most importantly, the sense of community they provide to come to a stop.”

 


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