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Jazz and Ramadan in Istanbul

Jazz and Ramadan? Do they blend? One would not think so, but one of the most interesting musical and cultural events in Istanbul will be occurring during the holy time of Ramadan in Istanbul.

In the Sultanahmet neighborhood, in the garden of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, eight jazz concerts are planned to take place during Ramadan. This series of open air concerts is titled Jazz in Ramadan. Much is changing in Istanbul, including the perception of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. From the New York Times, this article is written by Susanne Fowler.

“I wanted to bring in well-known musicians who also happen to be Muslim to play jazz,’’ said the promoter Hakan Erdogan, who organized the series, which runs from Aug. 14 to 31. “Entertainment has always been part of the Ramazan tradition in Istanbul and I’m just adding jazz to this tradition,” he said, using the Turkish word for the month.

Mr. Erdogan is a concert promoter who likes themes: He has arranged jazz programs in places like the ancient Hippodrome, a prison, an art museum and on a boat afloat on the Bosporus.

“All of the artists are Muslim this time, in part to attract attention,’’ he acknowledged, “but also to tell everyone, within the umbrella of the 2010 European Capital of Culture celebrations, that Turkey is a secular Muslim country where there is the freedom to combine jazz and Ramazan.’’

The festival offerings will span musical cultures as well as centuries. Munip Utandi, who is Turkish, will sing the Sufi-inspired music of Dede Efendi, a Turkish composer who was a contemporary of Beethoven. And the contemporary electronic fusion composer Aydin Esen will be playing with a Swedish bassist and an Indian percussionist.


Dhafer Youssel at Jazz in Ramadan

The quartet led by the Tunisian-born singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef will blend near-Eastern themes with strands of more avant-garde world music beats. Kudsi Erguner, a resident of France who plays the ney, a Turkish flute, will lead his ensemble in a work called “Islam Blues.”

Other performers include the Pittsburgh-born pianist Ahmad Jamal, whose work influenced Miles Davis, and the South African keyboardist Abdullah Ibrahim, whose music inspired the people of the Soweto townships.
The shows begin at 9 p.m. and are expected to last about 90 minutes. Because Muslims traditionally break their daylong fast at sundown with a meal known as the iftar, “a creative selection of Ottoman cuisine’’ will be available at each site about an hour before each concert begins, organizers said.

Tickets can be purchased at and at the gates on the evening of each concert. Prices are 60, 40 and, for students, 20 Turkish lira, or about $40, $27 and $13. Seating includes chairs, and large pillows strewn on the lawn.”

August 18, 2010 | 1 Comment | Read More »