One year on from throwing our first ever Istanbul party, we felt it was time to pay one of the most unique cities in the world a second visit. It was another sun-soaked session that rolled on deep into the night, with some familiar faces as well as new. During our stay, and with the help of Kaan Düzarat (Analog Kültür) and Jonny Rock (Disco Hamam), we endeavoured to find out more about Turkey’s melting pot – Istanbul.
Playing host to our trip were Kaan Düzarat (owner of Analog Kültür record store and Vesvese party outfit) and Jonny Rock (Disco Hamam label boss), who shed light on the way the Turks now make music. A safe getaway and form of expression that comes at a particularly tense time of political anxiety for the country. From first hand accounts in various record stores around the city – notably Deform Muzik, Vintage Records and Kaan’s own Analog Kültur – resurgence of the old-school is as alive in Istanbul as it is in London, with the younger generation digging through crates for the B-sides and rarities that their parents grew up listening to. As 1970s disco becomes fashionable again in Western dance music, the same is happening in the Orient, with Jonny spinning a track by iconic Persian singer, Googoosh, at our party on the Bosphorus. There are always strong ties to the musical past. Jonny explains that although he is “looking forward to the new,” he is still always “gagging for the old.” And with a culture so ancient and illustrious, it’s difficult not to.
Here, music travels the same path as Istanbul itself, as the meeting point of distinctive Eastern instrumentation and Western music styles. This fusion of sounds has followed in music history’s footsteps, from rock and disco to hip-hop and house. Like many non-English speaking nations, Turkish artists from the 1950s onwards mirrored the same fads found in British and American pop music, with an added Anatolian twist. Take landmark names Barış Manço and Nur Yoldaş as examples. However, in more recent times, there has been a total re-appropriation of sound, with Western music now showing a keener interest in Turkey’s rich melodies and idiosyncratic instrumentation. Thanks to sampling culture, Turkish snippets are spotted everywhere, from a Mos Def track to a PS3 commercial.
In dance music, this West-East blend is embodied in the increasingly popular hybrid sound of ‘hamam house’ – taking the structure of the well versed Western dance format of house music, and filling its skeleton with Ottoman-inspired melodies, harmonies and samples. This cross-pollination redefines the old Eastern material as something new and Western. Ancient oriental melodies and dated Turkish pop tracks now live on through countless reworkings: the esoteric sounds emanating from Berlin’s Disco Halal imprint; Basel-born Mehmet Aslan‘s remix of a Turkish slow jam from 1975; a house/hip-hop fusion inspired by Anatolian rock as the debut release on Mr. Beatnick’s label. Everybody is doing it, and chances are they’re not even Turkish.
Cihangir, which incidentally means ‘conqueror of the world’, is where we spent most of our time thanks to Kaan and Jonny. The neighbourhood’s laid back attitude provides room to breathe, a palpable contrast to the heated-yet-hushed undertones that follow you through the streets of other districts. It explains why Cihangir is the first place young travellers and music heads go to mingle with the new Turkish generation. Conqueror of the world indeed. But, of course, no artistic neighbourhood is without a sprinkling of gentrification nowadays. What Jonny describes as the “hipster part of town” has undoubtedly changed in more recent years: you can now indulge in a traditional hamam followed by a “nice coffee with soya and an expensive haircut” all on the same street. Because, why not? This is Cihangir after all.
The same neighbourhood houses minimüzikhol, a club run by a collaboration of crews and where Kaan hosts many of the Vesvese parties. Having bonded over the years, the friendship group had run several other clubs and nights in Istanbul in the last ten or so years, prior to minimüzikhol’s fruition in 2009. The low maintenance feel of minimüzikhol would be commonplace in the West, with upcoming guests including the likes of Flako and 22a‘s Al Dobson Jr. “We do what we like,” Kaan and Jonny explain. “Instead of waiting for somebody else to sponsor us or run a club for us, we do it ourselves.”
Set in an apartment block with no signposting, their events cater to those who know, yet they are still all encompassing, with their doors open to whoever might share the urge to dance all night long. But it only took a few moments of soaking in the atmosphere to realise what the club actually means for Turkey’s new clubbing generation. minimüzikhol is the only institution that Istanbul has for this kind of knees-up affair – paramount in a time such as now. The frustration that is felt nationwide melts away at minimüzikhol. With a lack of bouncers, queues and other unpleasant club paraphernalia, it feels like a house party, with a mutual, unspoken respect shared amongst strangers on the dancefloor. Jonny and Kaan synchronise thoughts as they explain, “It’s our home, we feel like it’s ours.”
There is comfort to be found in Istanbul’s dichotomy. A city of immense grand beauty and drastic urban decay is what makes it so distinctive. And it’s also reassuring to know that you still need to dig a bit in order to find the good stuff. Suppression of democracy and political corruption may be realities here, but it doesn’t – and won’t – stop the creative arts providing a healthy escape. Not only is Istanbul’s culture alive, but it is thriving. A multi-faceted nation that is bilingual, simultaneously new and old, and of both Western and Eastern heritage. By the law of magnetics and governance of physics, it is in their nature to automatically repel one another; yet in Istanbul, they live side by side, moving in parallel. The tale of two worlds in motion continues.
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Head here to watch our boat party with Jonny Rock, Kaan Düzarat, Mehmet Aslan, Levni & Sloth Pallas on the Bosphorus, Istanbul. Don’t forget to check all of our exclusive video content over on our DailyMotion channel.
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