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Worries away for a moment: Baki Duyarlar and “JazzArk”

Blog
Worries away for a moment: Baki Duyarlar and “JazzArk”

07.09.2021

Interview: İlayda Güler

Illustration: Saydan Akşit

Jazz pianist and composer Baki Duyarlar has been creating highly exploratory and original music that melodiously combines the Turkish music knowledge he inherited from his family with his education on Western classical music and jazz. With his latest project JazzArk, Baki Duyarlar is playing Zorlu PSM Drama Stage on October 9, as part of Akbank Jazz Festival. We spoke to him about his transforming musical identities and his thoughts on jazz in Turkey.

JazzArk combines Turkish usul and makam with jazz. What was the main motivation to start such a project? As its creator, how would you define the music you heard in your mind at the beginning, before everything?

The main motivation of the JazzArk project is the music I heard when I was a child. The creator usually experiences a feeling of worry while writing or improvising music. On the contrary, I believe the music of JazzArk has a laid back feel to it. It drifts away from the worries for a moment, because in this project it doesn’t matter if you make jazz or it doesn’t matter if you are from Turkey.

The name JazzArk refers to Noah’s Ark. What would you like to tell us about this connection?

Another descriptive word for Noah’s Ark is the “chest”. The mood of the project and the musical material used in compositions and improvisations is so old-fashioned that it sounds very new today. Since the music I heard in my childhood is taken out from the old family chest, the name of the project makes a reference to Noah’s Ark.

Acoustic piano, Turkish percussion instruments and 5 string contrabass is not a very common trio format. Can you tell us about how you got together with your accompanists Mehmet Akatay and Kristian Lind, and what your creation process is like? In one of your interviews, you mention the lack of rehearsal culture in Turkey. How has the practice of rehearsing reflected your recordings?

I had been working with Kristian (Lind) and Mehmet (Akatay) in separate projects. I thought their sense of rhythm and tempo would complement each other. I heard it in my head. So before writing this project, I talked to them. Shortly after I saw that we would all be pleased to create music together, I prepared the songs because I then knew who I’d be playing with. I am someone who values and believes in rehearsals but discovering Mehmet and Kristian to be even more into rehearsals gave me high hopes. There’s a lack of rehearsal culture in Turkey because many musicians only play or want to play the music they know. But it’s only possible to try out new things when you work on them. Before recording, we rehearsed intensely and played a series of shows. Therefore we were prepared when we went into the studio for recording. We knew what to do. This had a positive influence on the recordings in terms of comfort and ease. Of course we cannot forget the joy of being together with Antonio Serrano. I believe his mastery and creativity contributed a lot to the JazzArk project.

Global pandemic has been very challenging for musicians both mentally and economically. Some people were drawn into major crisis and became inactive, and some found peace in creating even more. Where are you in this picture? As someone who has been active in many different musical fields such as composing, performing, teaching; what kind of transformational phases have you been into during the past one and a half years? In light of these, what are some of your near future plans?

As the pandemic itself, the problems it has been creating are also global. Since I worried for my loved ones and experienced losses around me, I wasn’t that successful in being creative as well I guess. A person does get scared! But I concentrated on teaching more and how best to teach “online”, and ended up teaching intensely. Apart from this, we even played some online shows. My near future plans include recording a new album with JazzArk, before the previous one gets old. Also, I want to play as many live shows as possible.

JazzArk first played live in April 2019 in Nardis. Your album, released during the pandemic, is now going to meet the audience again on October 9. You have mentioned before that performing is the most special element to your musical identity. Therefore the experience of returning to the stage must be very exciting for you. Can you elaborate on your current mood?

Lately I have been playing 3-4 shows weekly. It feels like returning home after a long break, because I feel very much home when I’m on stage. I have 88 keys on my piano and I am free to do whatever and however I want with them. Unless I leave the sounds, they don’t leave me.

You were one of the guests of Akbank Jazz Festival’s 30th anniversary celebration album Dün, Bugün, Yarın. You contributed to the album with an original composition. Can we hear the story of “Every Sunday” from you? What does it mean to you to be a part of this project that brings together different generations and styles, and takes a retrospective look back at jazz in Turkey?

“Every Sunday” is a song I wrote while longing for the Sundays I spent with two of my friends, whom I really love. When Akbank Jazz Festival made such a proposal, I thought it would be the best idea to interpret this song, becase these two friends I mentioned are closely linked to Akbank Jazz Festival. I had written the song a short while ago, so it was a very nice coincidence. I value that project as a very important archival work. I believe we are leaving a mark for the generations to come. I wish the generations before us had been this lucky. I think such recording projects should be implemented every 10 years. It is very important in terms of cultural heritage.

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