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Pride & prejudice: Promoting behind enemy lines

Palestinian artist Bashar Murad is used to risking his life to perform. As a queer Arab and a resident of East Jerusalem, Murad has learned to live with oppression and the threat of violence, both onstage and on his doorstep. Neither, however, has deterred him from openly addressing loaded issues such as the Israeli occupation and LGBTIQ+ rights in the Middle East. “But the more vocal I become about these issues, the greater the danger is,” he tells IQ.

In 2019, Murad took one of his most daring steps when he performed in a wedding dress at an event in Ramallah, a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank. While the West Bank’s biggest draw for promoters is that it’s the only place where Palestinians from both sides of the barrier can meet, Murad says that the mixed demographic is also where the danger lies.

“Probably the biggest risk is if someone in the audience doesn’t like what I’m doing. Audience members could be from anywhere, from all over the country. There are different kinds of mentalities, people who are extremely open-minded but also people who are uneducated and attached to the traditions and the customs that we are taught in this quite patriarchal society,” he says.

Murad explains that each city in the Palestinian territories has different variations of laws relating to queer people. Jerusalem, where he lives, is under Israeli law but the West Bank is under Israeli military law as well as Palestinian civil law, which presents varying degrees of discrimination and legal challenges for queer people. To make matters more complicated, Murad says, some of the laws aren’t representative of the reality on the ground.

This minefield of laws across the territory means Murad is forced to make a risk assessment before booking a gig. While agents and promoters in liberal nations may book shows based on venue capacities, fees and convenience, Murad has to weigh up how dangerous each city is, the make-up of the audience, and how provocative his show should be. However, Murad has found refuge within the realms of the music industry, “the safe place,” having built relationships and established trust with promoters and record executives.

The international showcase at which Murad performed in the wedding dress, the Palestine Music Expo (PMX), is one such stronghold. Though Murad would not generally view Ramallah as 100% safe for queer artists like himself, PMX is something of a haven “free of oppression, for all human beings.”

PMX co-founder Rami Younis has been something of an outspoken ally for oppressed artists and is eager to give queer artists like Murad “a free and fair platform to do the show they want.” When IQ asks what he thought of Murad’s 2019 performance, Younis says: “I absolutely loved it. In general, we encourage our artists to be as creative and free as they can and to not be afraid to experiment. Murad’s show was a big success and a great example for that.”

Murad says he depends on support from alternative organisations like PMX, as the culture ministries are “too scared” to back queer artists like himself – though his talent has been verified by international press including CBC, The Guardian and the BBC. “They don’t show any support towards me because they’re worried about me being gay,” he says. “They fund music videos and productions for artists who have taken part in competitions like Arab Idol but forget about other artists who are carving their own paths and doing things their own way.”

Not only has PMX provided Murad with a safe space in which to deliver his most thought-provoking show, it has also given him a rare gateway to the international live music business and a world outside of conflict-ridden Palestine.

But establishing a platform like this, which has invited 150+ international music industry professionals each year since 2017, is no mean feat in a state where promoters, agents – and even performance venues are few and far between. “People must understand that we never had a chance to develop a proper industry simply because we never had the proper infrastructure,” says Younis. “Developing art industries organically in war zones is near impossible. So, what we do is push back against that and lay foundations for a proper and healthy infrastructure in the future.”

While agents and promoters in liberal nations may book shows based on venue capacities, fees and convenience, Murad has to weigh up how dangerous each city is

From the ground up
“I can’t believe that any queer person who is living in Poland and looking at the news doesn’t feel personally attacked,” says Kajetan Łukomski, a queer Polish artist, promoter and Keychange ambassador who goes by the name of Avtomat.

Poland is one of just a handful of countries in Europe that is yet to legalise same-sex marriage, and already bans same-sex couples from adopting children. As of June 2020, some 100 municipalities, encompassing around one-third of the majority Catholic country, have adopted resolutions declaring themselves “LGBT ideology-free.”

In a campaign speech when he stood for re-election, President Andrzej Duda called the promotion of LGBT rights an ideology “even more destructive” than communism. Elsewhere, the Archbishop of Kraków recently warned of a neo-Marxist “rainbow plague.”

“We just don’t feel safe in our own country anymore,” says Łukomski. “I started carrying tear gas with me on the street, and every time I go out with my boyfriend and we hold hands, we have to keep looking over our shoulder because there have been occurrences of queer people getting knifed in the street. This is why we need to work so hard to change the status quo.”

According to Łukomski, a shift in paradigm is also needed in the mainstream music scene, which has eschewed queer artists like himself. This segregation has forced queer artists to adopt a do-it-yourself mentality and promote their own shows and establish their own performance spaces. Back in 2017, Łukomski co-founded the Warsaw-based Oramics collective, which acts as a promoter, in a bid to “level the playing field for under- represented groups.”

“No one had really thought of that. All of the line-ups were male and there was no real push towards making women and queer people and so on visible in the scene, so it had to happen as a grassroots movement,” he says. “We’ve had to carve out our own space in the music industry.” Developing their own queer underground scene has also been a means of protecting the artists and fans within it because, like Murad in Palestine, Łukomski has to be selective about where he performs.

“It would be easy to go ‘I’m playing in this huge prestigious club’ but then my community may be in greater danger of, say, harassment. I make it a point to play in spaces that I deem safe for my community,” he says. Łukomski says that as Oramics’ reputation has grown, they have had greater bargaining power to talk to clubs about their safe-space policies and line-up balances. The collective has even brought workshops to smaller, less tolerant cities to show queer people how to organise their own spaces – though Łukomski says they had to organise their own security for these visits.

While the queer community in Poland may be safer existing on the fringes, their exclusion from mainstream culture creates a glass ceiling for artists, which prevents them from performing at larger capacity venues, earning bigger fees or securing representation. On a broader scale, if queer people and creatives aren’t able to assimilate with the rest of society, the oppression will likely perpetuate.

Warsaw-based promoter Follow The Step (FTS), however, is sensing some progression in the acceptance of queer people, which is allowing them to expand their portfolio of queer artists. Next year, the company will promote its first-ever show by a queer artist – American drag star Sasha Velour at Warsaw’s Palladium (1,500-cap.) – which FTS’s Tamara Przystasz says has been a long time coming. “We’ve been trying very hard to promote queer artists, but a lot of agents were saying Poland is not ready for it. But finally, people are much more open-minded than they were before,” says Przystasz. “To do something for the first time, after so many hard months, was a huge risk, but we thought let’s just do it, and it’s going well already. We didn’t expect such amazing feedback,” she adds.

Przystasz says FTS are keen to use Warsaw as a litmus test before promoting queer artists in more rural cities. “We are so lucky because we are living in Warsaw and it always works differently with capital cities, but in the smaller cities, it is hard; we have to fight for their rights. Education via music; I think that is the best option for us.”

Kostrzyn-based festival Pol’and’Rock, which has been running for more than 25 years and typically attracts an audience of almost half a million people, has had a little more time to establish a portfolio of queer artists, and hopes to lead by example. Originally inspired by Woodstock, the community- based festival deems itself an outlier in creating a refuge within the country’s conservative society.

Over the past three decades, the festival has played host to performances by queer artists such as Skunk Anansie and Polish children’s artist Majka Je owska, as well as Polish singers Ralph Kaminski and Krzysztof Zalewski – some of which have incorporated demonstrations for queer rights into their shows.

“We want to show Poland as an open place, a place where people can be themselves, which becomes more and more difficult each year,” says Olga Zawada from Pol’and’Rock. Zawada says that the festival has encountered many challenges since the recent government came into power, including reportedly being saddled with “high-risk” status four times since 2016.

The high-risk label, according to Polish law, applies to events where acts of violence or public disorder are expected to take place, though Pol’and’Rock has never encountered anything of the sort. Zawada believes that this is the government’s way of indirectly jeopardising the festival: “I don’t want to speculate on the government’s motivations, but we’re quite unpopular with the very conservative ruling party.”

The high-risk status means that Pol’and’Rock has been required to introduce different safety measures such as a fence around the perimeter, which Zawada says tarnished the festival’s aesthetic as a free and open festival and proved to be a “massive expense.” Does she think that the government was taking aim at the festival’s Achilles heel – its budget? “Yes. The fence was the biggest thing in our budget and from a crowd management point of view it was completely pointless. But the guests respected the fences and even used them creatively, to dry their laundry and things,” she says.

“We want to show Poland as an open place, a place where people can be themselves, which becomes more and more difficult each year”

Against all odds
“Turkey is a place where two times two doesn’t make four,” says queer senior talent buyer Bura Davaslıgil of Istanbul-based booking agency/promoter Charmenko. “On paper, it hasn’t been illegal to be homosexual since 1858, the Ottoman Empire, but it’s still a taboo.”

Taboo is a light way of putting it. Hate speech, violence, and discrimination have already put Turkey second to last on the advocacy group ILGA-Europe’s ranking of LGBTQ equality – no surprise considering that there is no solid law against discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Gay Pride has been banned in Istanbul for several years, on pretexts of public order. “Even if a municipality is pro-LGBTQ rights and they want to, say, put on a festival, they wouldn’t dare to do it because of the current political climate,” says Davaslıgil.

According to Davaslıgil, the conservative party, which has been in power for the last two decades, tends to “look the other way” about queer culture, as long as it’s kept relatively quiet. “The discrimination against queer people is not systematic. If Morrissey, Pet Shop Boys or Elton John performed, it wouldn’t be a problem; if an artist’s queerness is not too overt then it’s fine.”

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC), however, was one artist the government could not ignore. In 2015, the Chorus found themselves at the centre of a political storm ahead of their concert at Zorlu Performing Arts Center in Istanbul. Conservative Islamist papers described the group as “perverts” and thousands of people signed a Change.org petition calling on Zorlu’s owners to cancel the show because it would take place on the tenth day of Ramadan. The venue, reportedly owned by a close confidant to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, at the time, was running for re-election and campaigning to get the conservative vote, had reportedly asked the chorus to take the “Gay” out of their name but the group refused. “We weren’t going to let prejudice win… visibility saves lives,” says Craig Coogan, executive director of the BGMC, adding that the group has had the same name since 1982.

The government withdrew their previously issued permit allowing BGMC to perform at Zorlu and no other government agency would issue one. In an admirable display of allyship, the LGBTQ student group at Bosphorus University – a privately held institution, which didn’t need a permit for performances – stepped in and offered the Chorus their outdoor space. In order to keep the group safe, the buses were unidentifiable and the routes that each bus took to the same destinations were varied. Members were encouraged to be cautious on social media, not posting location information in real-time. According to Coogan, the group even collaborated with the US secret service on security issues, and a diplomatic note was sent to the government underlining the importance of the group’s safety to US relations. On the day of the concert, sharp-shooters were stationed around the area, drones surveyed the crowd, and audience members had to go through airport-style security to get into the concert.

The media frenzy, the political tension, and the logistical rigmarole would’ve been enough to discourage any artist from going ahead with the concert but the group found allies in the most unexpected of places. According to Coogan, The Nederlander Organization, which manages Zorlu, were “mortified” that political considerations forced them to cancel their contract. “In fact, to prevent an expensive lawsuit, they paid for the production costs at Bosphorus,” says Coogan. It was not difficult to find supportive professionals to work with. The issues we ran into were political, not with the professionals.”

BGMC hasn’t returned to Turkey since 2015 – the group has been busy touring elsewhere, including other anti-gay territories such as Poland, the Middle East and South Africa. But IQ wonders: could an incident like the one with the Chorus happen in 2021? “As long as this government stays in power, yes,” says Davaslıgil. And would Charmenko ever book BGMC, in spite of all the political and logistical issues? “I wouldn’t think twice,” he answers, underscoring the importance of allyship in the industry.

“Everywhere that we perform is an opportunity to dismantle prejudice and preconceptions about LGBTQ people”

Music as an act of resistance
Queer artists like Murad, Łukomski and the BGMC put their safety on the line again and again to perform in anti-gay countries, but what’s the pay-off?

“Everywhere that we perform is an opportunity to dismantle prejudice and preconceptions about LGBTQ people,” says BGMC’s Coogan. “Live music as a social activism tool works. It did in Istanbul, as it did in so many other cities around the world. I saw the joy and transformation on the faces of thousands of locals. “Music builds bridges, enhances communication, breaks down stereotypes and humanises the ‘other’ in powerful ways. It has the power to transcend boundaries and create connections among people from different backgrounds, languages, and beliefs, and has long been a central part of social justice movements.”

In all three stories, the live music industry has proved itself to be the antithesis of the political wars waging outside of it, thanks to real allyship from promoters and festivals like PMX, Follow the Step, Pol’and’Rock and Charmenko. But what they want, quite simply, is for their respective countries to be recognised for the budding talent, not the conflict. “I want people to know that Palestine isn’t just war, apartheid, and occupation; it’s also music, cinema, art; it’s life,” says PMX co-founder Younis. “There are actual people living here with hopes, dreams, and culture. There’s talent in Palestine and it is just waiting to be discovered. We don’t want to be seen as victims but as equal people who deserve to have their culture and music represented everywhere.”

Pol’and’Rock’s Zawada has a similar message for the international live music industry: “Poland is more than politics and oppression.

It’s important for us to say: ‘You know what? There is this community of people that has a different opinion. There are people who are tolerant and welcoming and accepting, and they would have your back, and everyone else’s.”

 


Read this article in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 101:

 


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Bodrum Arena to transform ‘Turkish Riviera’

Work will begin later this year on a new entertainment and sports arena in Turkish tourist hotspot Bodrum.

The Bodrum Arena project will begin in around five months with more than €70 million public-private investment, Akhmet Palankoev, head of the Russian-Turkish Business Council, tells Anadolu Agency, adding that the arena will feature “Russian technology”.

Work is expected to take around 15 months. When open, the arena, located the heart of the ‘Turkish Riviera’ on the Aegean Sea, will host concerts by “world stars”, as well as ice-hockey and skating events, and employ 300 people.

Tourist hot spot Bodrum on the “Turkish Riviera” is set to become home to a massive complex that will be built with the help of Russian technology, the head of the Russian-Turkish Business Council said Sunday.

It is hoped the arena will be used year-round and reduce Bodrum’s reliance on seasonal tourism

The arena is expected to have a capacity of 20,000, according to SportInvest Bodrum, which is leading the project, and will be built on a 30,000m² site that also includes shops, a restaurant, a hotel, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a mosque. “We also want to open a school where young people interested in ice hockey, ice skating and other ice sports can receive education,” says Palankoev.

It is hoped the arena will be used year-round and reduce Bodrum’s reliance on seasonal tourism.

If the capacity ends up being 20,000, it will be the one of the largest indoor arenas in Turkey, exceeded only by the 16,000-seat Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, which has a capacity of up to 22,500 for concerts.

 


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Sports pave the way for large-scale events

Sport is leading the way for large-scale events, drawing visitors by the tens of thousands whilst complying with coronavirus restrictions.

Last Sunday (20 September), one of Poland’s premier football clubs, Lech Poznan, set a new record for the biggest crowd to attend a sporting event in Europe since March – selling 17,000 tickets.

Poznań Stadium operated at just under 50% of its usual capacity of 42,837 for the match in order to comply with Polish regulation, which currently states that every second seat in the audience can be made available to the public, alternately in rows, but not exceeding 50% of the total number of seats.

In Australia, the New South Wales (NSW) government recently announced that major sporting events at selected Sydney stadiums can increase crowds from 25% to 50% capacity, up to a maximum of 40,000 spectators, from 1 October.

Selected stadiums include Stadium Australia (cap. 83,500), Bankwest Stadium (30,000) and Sydney Cricket Ground (48,000), which will be permitted to host ticketed and seated-only events under Coronavirus protocol.

Each stadium will also be required to employ a unique chequerboard seating arrangement – which will be divided into different zones to avoid mixing – and a ticket allocation process that will ensure the social distancing of participants when seated.

“Our number one priority is the health and safety, however it is no secret we’re also focused on firing up the economy”

“Our number one priority is the health and safety of the people of NSW, however it is no secret we’re also focused on firing up the economy,” said NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.

“Safely allowing more fans at in-demand major sporting events will bring enjoyment, employment and help stimulate the NSW economy.”

This decision will benefit the National Rugby League for games in its Premiership finals and State of Origin.

Elsewhere, the Turkish Formula 1 grand prix sold more than 40,000 tickets in six hours last Wednesday – an astounding number for Covid times and yet a fraction of the 100,000 tickets organisers hope to sell for the race at Istanbul Park circuit.

According to Intercity chairman Vural Ak, a socially distanced six-figure crowd can easily be accommodated with the track at less than half its capacity. “We know the capacity of this track,” he told reporters at a press conference earlier this month. “Around 220,000 spectators can watch the race in the grandstands and in the open areas.

“At the moment, for safety reasons, if we close some sections, about 100,000 spectators will be able to watch the race by following social distancing rules.”

 


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Turkish GP shifts 40,000 tickets in six hours

In news likely to make many a concert promoter weep, the Turkish Formula 1 grand prix sold more than 40,000 tickets within six hours of Wednesday morning’s onsale, promoter Intercity has announced.

The first tickets for the race, priced at ₺30 (€3.50) per day or ₺90 (€10) for a three-day pass, were released on 16 September. Organisers are targeting an audience of 100,000 for the grand prix, which will take place on 15 November at the 220,000-capacity Istanbul Park circuit.

According to Intercity chairman Vural Ak, a socially distanced six-figure crowd can easily be accommodated with the track at less than half its capacity. “We know the capacity of this track,” he told reporters at a press conference earlier this month. “Around 220,000 spectators can watch the race in the grandstands and in the open areas.

“At the moment, for safety reasons, if we close some sections, about 100,000 spectators will be able to watch the race by following social distancing rules.”

“About 100,000 spectators will be able to watch the race by following social distancing rules”

Formula 1 is returning to Turkey for the first time since 2011 this year, with Istanbul added to the revised 2020 F1 calendar late last month.

According to PlanetF1.com, Intercity is not expecting to turn a profit for the event.

“Formula 1 normally has certain standards, and ticket prices are at a certain level,” says Ak. “However, we do not seek to gain financial advantage from this, and the government has encouraged us [to go ahead with a low ticket price].”

The first eight races of the F1 season were held without fans, with the ninth, 13 September’s Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello, Italy, the first to have an audience, selling 2,880 tickets per day.

 


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Bringing the gig back

I’ve watched a bunch of livestreamed concerts over the last three months and, generally, I’ve found them to be painful.

You can compare the experience to watching most otherwise-amusing comedians – take away the audience and the humour falls flat. In the case of artists, the thrill falls flat; even if the performance itself is live, it’s mediated by cameras and screens. A live Twitter feed doesn’t change that.

For this reason, I do not believe in the paid livestream as a serious medium, unless artists can turn it into a form in its own right – not as a pathetic version of a regular gig, but as something substantially different.

How this is done falls more on the artist than on the technology. You can use whatever technology you want, but fleeing our screens (would we could smash them!) remains one of the reasons we go to gigs. We don’t want screens or virtual reality or augmented reality, we have all of that in our workplaces and pockets. What we want is the real, unmediated, social, half-crazy thing.

I can imagine that an artistically cool livestream could act as an adjunct to gigs, by simply not pretending to be a gig; and I can say something similar about an exciting (although most are tedious clichés) music video on Youtube.

 I do not believe in the paid livestream as a serious medium, unless artists can turn it into a form in its own right

There’s another side to this I think.

The gig that we all so fulsomely laud has, over many years, become more akin to a video – strike me down for using the word – ‘experience’. I see many a gig – mostly with younger artists who have hardly set foot in a club, let alone worked their way up through any kind of circuit – where there are mannequin-like bodies in front of an immense video screen with a load of flashing lights and what-nots.

To my possibly addled and old-skool mind, that’s an expensive cover for a lack of performing craft.

So, if I were to ask one good thing to come out of this epidemic for those in the world of concerts, it would be to scale back productions, encourage young artists to learn how to perform without the crutches, and relish being different, rather than falling into a host of unimaginative variations on the same hi-tech theme.

By doing this, we could restrain ticket prices and entice our audiences back in droves at the same time. And we could futureproof a form where the more we blur ‘live’ with ’screened’, the more we risk our audiences realising that there are better thrills to be had.

 


Nick Hobbs is a promoter, talent buyer and artist agent spcialising in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He is the owner of Charmenko, Charmworks and Charm Music Czechia, Poland, Serbia and Turkey.

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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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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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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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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