Umut Çaglar and the Music in Istanbul

What will Istanbul 2010Culture.com become once the year passes?  Istanbul2010 will become a place to continue to write and discuss the art and cultural scene in Istanbul.  The music scene is alive and well in Istanbul and has been flourishing for years prior to the European nomination as the European Capital of Culture for 2010.  The following is an interview between Umut Çaglar a musician and composer and Dan Godston of the Examiner.

DG: How did you first get interested in making music?

UC: As I remember, it was the time when I was a college kid and I had the chance to meet a family friend who had just came from New York, and he suggested that I learn how to play the guitar. I remember starting to listen some late Coltrane music at that early stage of my youth. After spending some time with him, I discovered he was a close friend of Jaco Pastorius before his tragic death. Ornette Coleman’s influence is priceless to me; in the late 80’s my friend managed to organize the first local free jazz concert in Istanbul when I had the chance to play there as a kid.

DG: Who are some of your musical influences?

UC: Mostly, i listened to the American Jazz avant-garde players as Coltrane, Ornette, Ayler, etc, but lately i discovered the European free jazz movement with Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker, and that opened a new musical perspective in me.

DG: How did you get interested in electronic music?

UC: When I was a university student — I was also deeply interested in electronic music (both intellectual and dance floor oriented), so I started a career as a DJ. That opened up so many sonic possibilities, and as I have been playing guitar over the years, the influence and knowledge of electronics has helped me to shape my guitar sound not only the way I process it, but the way by which I play it as well.

DG: How did you first get interested in composing?
UC: Honestly, I never feel that I am involved in composing process when I was doing electronic live shows as well, I always believed in spontaneity and it seems to me that the recorded sound or music becomes independent from his creative period, which i find similarities about composing and its later impact on his composer and its listener… As Ornette Coleman once said to konstruKt’s drummer Korhan Argüden, “I compose music, and then i just play its impressions.”

DG: Who are some of your influences, in terms of composing?
UC: Well, if I consider composing not as writing score but creating music, there are so many influences, including the ones which I am not fully aware of, and which probably affect me on a subconscious level. Some of those influences include the noise of the streets in Istanbul, which are very colorful from a multicultural standpoint.

DG: How would you describe the musical scene in Istanbul?
UC: Istanbul is a megacity with a population of over 20 million, and the main driving force in music is popular music. However, you can easily trace the paths of so many folkloric sounds and musicians doing their own experiments with other influences. One important aspect of Istanbul is the fact that it is very fast metropolitan city — and many people compare Istanbul to New York City in that respect — and the cultural perspective is open from all geographic poles.

DG: What would you say are some connections in your music between traditional Turkish music and experimental / improvised music?
UC: I never intended to fuse any folkloric elements in my music, but foreign listeners often tell me that the way we sound is not similar to European or American free jazz. People have commented that they can hear slightly Oriental motifs in our music which we are not able to hear. But there are a lot of Turkish musicians such as Erkan Our and Volkan Ergen who deal with processing classical and folkloric Turkish music with a new approach, rather than just through experimentation.

DG: How did you come up with the idea for konstruKt?

UC: The drummer Korhan Argüden and I were rehearsing in my studio for a time, and after a while Özün Usta and Korhan Futaci joined us. We felt that a distinctive voice was emerging from the amalgam of our playing, so we decided to keep it going in a more professional way. The exposure of our music over the internet, as well as some local activities, have led us to some important musical moments — such as recording with Brötzmann and playing at the biggest jazz festival in Istanbul.

DG: How did konstruKt’s collaboration with Peter Brötzmann develop?

UC: He performed a concert in Istanbul for a concert, and afterwards we introduced ourselves to him, and we gave him some of our music. Then we asked to join us for a recording session, and he agreed to do that. Being in the studio with him was a big musical challenge for us.

DG: What are some recent developments with konstruKt?
UC: In November we will perform at the Akbank Jazz Festival again, with a special guest, and we will release our CD which features our collaboration with Brötzmann.

DG: I really enjoyed reading the article in Signal to Noise several months ago, about the music scene in Istanbul. What is a highlight for you of being involved with that article?

UC: It was not a coincidence I guess, because Mike Chamberlain, who wrote the article, was planning a trip to Istanbul and he contacted me via facebook which i am very active with my label and the band and we had the chance to do an interview focusing on improvised music scene in istanbul…. and we had really nice response and reactions which helped a new perception that istanbul becomes one of the geographic point on avant-garde music activities.

DG: What are some other projects you’ve been working on?

UC: Now i work on a project which i collect some sonic material from musicians who live in different countries including me (USA, Italy, Ukraine) and i will make a “collage” style compositions out of them and i will release the album through my label re:konstruKt.

Interview from the Examiner

This entry was posted on Monday, July 5th, 2010 and is filed under Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Umut Çaglar and the Music in Istanbul”

  1. Gerardo Pizzaro

    I like your site.

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