It’s raining in Istanbul. To be exact: it’s pouring. While Belgium, once the promised land and now our goal, is having a wonderful Indian Summer.
At 10:30 a.m. breakfast is rapidly cleared as if it were a fire drill.
The artists do not rehearse today, and before the four of us go out, haggling and swindling stories of the East, Russia and Africa are exchanged over coffee. Afterwards we shoot some pictures in the old town which Jonatan can use for the documentary. We stroll along some –for me- familiar places: Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, the Grand bazar, Galata Bridge and the Galata Tower. Istanbul bathes in dripping grey, gulls hover ominously in the air. In contrast with this kitschy multicolour fish stall that is violently bobbing on the water.
Our inner man is strengthened in the simplest kebab place: soup, chicken or lamb sandwich and nar suyu or pomegranate juice. If you need to go to the toilet, you have to go in the office nextdoor. The bazar is dry and Jonathan can film: coloured fabrics, a weaver, different people. “Do they have something for a boy of 3.5 here?” Tomash asks. I carry the umbrellas of the other men as samurai swords between my back and backpack.
At night some pictures are taken as well, this time for the newspapers. The Belgian artists strike jolly poses in the lobby. The raki bar where we dine, appears to be run by Kurds. The building has a checkered history: the Armenian owners once fled for the Turkish repression. You do not only emigrate for economic reasons… The Kurds now refuse to serve the Turkish beer, Efes (they do have the glasses and the trays though).
Over the fish, calamares and lamb but especially over wine and raki the musicians reflect about the different ways in which they and their team mates approach Turkish music. The Eastern way builds more on tradition. The importance lies in the melody and the accompanying rhythmic patterns, often linked to the prosody of poetry. Us, Westerners attach more importance to originality and innovation; we jam and experiment in order to find something new, something different. Moreover, our music is rooted in a harmonic base of full chords, whereas the East muses in modal spheres.
“It’s nice here,” Wouter says, “if we were here every night, we could have a meal for nothing today.” Galip says, “That is true … but yeah, you always wanted to go to the Turks!”
Text written by Steven Van Renterghem, occasional production assistant and tour guide