Arts + Culture

Sultans Of Sound Selection: African Vinyl Treasures In Istanbul

We explore the African influence on Turkish music and go record digging in Istanbul.


*Photo by Tasha Goldberg

Istanbul is a city that has been primed over hundreds of years to be a global selector of sound. The city once called ‘alem penah,’ or refuge of the universe, has been the host to world travelers arriving ready to hustle in the marketplace of civilization. Along with silks and spices, these nomads were ambassadors of their culture, carrying their precious gems of sound. From the private drawing rooms of the Ottoman Empire to blue smoked filled jazz clubs of the 70’s, the Turkish ear has been trained to be the Sultan of sound selection.

The refined Turkish ear has had a hand in mainstreaming soul and R&B into pop music in the west. Artists in the 50s era had incredible talent and perseverance; however, the riddle in the music industry is that it's not based only on talent. It's the scout, the scoop, and the serve that can make backyard bebop “successful.” The ears of one of the most influential labels in American history, Atlantic Records, belonged to brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, sons to the first Turkish ambassador to the US. The Ertegün brothers’ love of music literally opened doors for jazz, soul and R&B musicians, turning the Turkish Embassy into a weekly jam session station.

*Photo by Tasha Goldberg

Although these brothers were raised abroad, they were born from the lineage of sound aficionados in Turkish bloodlines. The Turkish preference for the voice of the Spanish and Arabic clarinet along with the love of ‘taksims,’ or instrumental improvisations, paved the way, among other things, for a genuine and seasoned appreciation of jazz music. Although not many people suspect a direct line to Africa on the map of evolution of jazz in Turkey, one of the top jazz clubs in 1970s Istanbul, located in the Galata Kulesi, was run by the legendary South African Johnny Dyani and Turkish Okay Temiz, a percussionist specializing in African instruments.

Okayafrica caught up with Okay Temiz to talk about the African influence on jazz and his incredible music career, which includes playing with the top cats of jazz and carving and engineering his own instruments. Among his many accomplishments, he composed the music for Turkish National Television in the late 70s, the only legal public channel at the time. Okay Temiz is a visionary, a man who has mastered the language of jazz, and translated the power of music for those in need. Thanks to support from the Swedish government, he developed workshops to share his knowledge with youth, promote corporate teamwork through rhythm and used sound to help heal children with special needs and victims of earthquakes. Temiz has created an atelier of sound for Istanbul, hosting legendary musicians to keep jazz alive and well fed by hosting workshops and concerts with visiting artists such as Mamady Keita, master drummer from Guinea, Adama Dramé, Djembé player from Burkina-Faso, Yamar Thiam, Senegalese drummer, and the legend N’Diaye Rose, Senegalese master of sabar drum, in his late eighties who has played with Josephine Baker and Miles Davis.

*Postcard of Okay Temiz

“Africa is a big part of my life,” considered Okay as he reflected on the most significant and influential times in his career: his days in Stockholm. Although he may have been living in a northern European city, through sound, Okay was in Africa. His days were filled with meeting, jamming and living with the top African and African American musicians of the time including South African pianist Chris McGregor and American born trumpeter Don Cherry. Temiz became known in the jazz circuits for his ability to play music in time signatures that most people could not even count in and ended up on tour with the Don Cherry Trio where he met Johnny Dyani.

Temiz and Dyani played together in their jazz club in Istanbul and produced an epic album in 1976, Witchdoctor’s Son featuring Saffet Gundeger on clarinet. The album reflects the funk and psychedelic tones of the times as well as the prominent African and eastern influences. Temiz and Dyani later recorded Music for Xaba with Mongezi Feza on trumpet, the first record in the Keith Knox Universal Folk Series based on the philosophy that “there is fundamentally but one music.” Dyani and Mongezi Feza were both from the Xhosa tribe along with fellow musician Miriam Makeba, and had been band mates in The Blue Notes, credited for transforming the early British jazz scene and breaking down race barriers. The trio also produced an album by Cadillac records called Rejoice. Sonic delicacies, prepared by these jazz legends and others, are still available in the streets of Istanbul. Between calls to prayer, hustlers chants, and jazz clouds that billow underground, world music is being expertly curated by top-shelf record shops.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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