Blog

Between two different worlds: Okay Temiz

Blog
Between two different worlds: Okay Temiz

03.09.2021

Text: İlayda Güler

Illustration: Saydan Akşit

For more than half a century, percussionist, drummer and composer Okay Temiz has been a very precious musical figure that has been acting as a cultural ambassador, carrying our traditional sounds to global jazz scene. Before his performance on October 8 at Zorlu PSM Turkcell Platinum Stage with one of his most important projects, Oriental Wind, as part of Akbank Jazz Festival, we glimpse at the highlights from the musician’s career weaving between two different worlds, and trace how the locations he’s been affected the musical phases he’s been through.

Introduction: Mother’s womb - Menekşe Farm – Ankara

Okay Temiz’s introduction to music was through the vibrations of the oud and cümbüş his mother was playing when he was still in her womb. His childhood days were full of fasil, and his first rhythmic explorations came during that time, when he accompanied his mother playing the plywood lateral surface of their sofa.

After his father left his duties as an army officer, Okay Temiz moved to a farm in Çatalca with his family. The musician explains that he learnt to listen to the nature here and he started collecting sounds that will have a huge influence on his music in the coming years. He describes this experience with the following words: “During the summers I spent as a sheepman, I went to the mountains at nights. Dad would hand me 25 sheeps. I lived through the nights in these mountains, in the middle of nature, listening to the sounds of those bells, sheeps, and the wind. Where do you think the sound of those bells and the wind come from in my music? They come from my childhood. They come from my own experience.” Apart from these, Okay Temiz also took note of the music he heard from the Pomaks and the Romans of the region.

After spending years in the fields on top of a tractor, Temiz under his mother’s guidance, started his music education at Ankara State Conservatory. Here’s a quote on how he was introduced to his instrument: “When I was admitted to the conservatory, I wanted to play the trumpet. They told me my teeth were not right, which was really not the case. The trumpet class was full, so there was no room. Then they looked at my hands, and they told me I was going to play the drums. I realized this was only the case because there was plenty of room in the drumming class.” Although his conservatory experience was discouraging as such since day one, he worked very hard. As he started playing outside the school in his first year, he was not fit for the the strict norms of the school and Temiz’s adventure in the conservatory did not last very long.

Mastery: Sweden - Finland

For many years, Okay Temiz played dance music in various orchestras. Yet his actual dream was to become a big band drummer and to play jazz. In 1967, while he was traveling to Italy to buy a drumset, he met a band in Germany. For a month he played in Denmark with them, after which he would move to Sweden where he would experience a very productive era. Those were the days when Stockholm was one of the three central locations in Europe for jazz, along with Paris and Copenhagen. In Stockholm, he met trumpet player Muvaffak “Maffy” Falay and together they formed the band Sevda where they incorportated the musical elements from their roots into jazz. The fusion they created attracted attention and their fame got around Scandinavia. This is how Okay Temiz’s longterm collaboration with the Nordic culture fund began.

Okay Temiz met American trumpet master Don Cherry through Maffy Falay. Cherry was very influential to him in terms of his curiousity towards ethnic music, and he started delving deep into his own musical roots, as well as African and Indian traditions. When he played the recordings he brought from Turkey, Cherry thought they were fantastic and they were like bebop. He wanted to incorporate them into his own music. After the duo played shows and made recordings together, they were joined by African bass player Johnny Dyani.

Another collaboration between Temiz and Dyani was the band Xaba, where they were joined by South African trumpet player Mongezi Feza. Okay Temiz mentions that this avangard project, based on African folk tradition and improvisation is one of his favourites.

It is safe to say that Oriental Wind, who will be playing Akbank Jazz Festival very soon, is the one project that put the musical motifs from Turkey on global jazz stage. They released a legendary self-titled album in 1977. Different Swedish and Turkish bandmembers played over the years. By combining Western instruments like violin, saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass and piano with local instruments like zurna, ney, kaval, oud, saz, bagpipe and sipsi, they continue creating innovating music. While playing live, Oriental Wind resembles a gigantic organism with many limbs and since day one it has always been a special experience to see them live. Some of the musicians from Turkey that played with Oriental Wind has been Aka Gündüz Kutbay, Hacı Tekbilek, Önder Focan and Ozan Musluoğlu, as well Okay Temiz’s son Tomi Temiz. Tomi Temiz has recently been accompanying the band on piano.

For 25 long years, Okay Temiz went back and forth between Turkey and Sweden. He never stopped creating albums that mobilized musicians in both countries and expressed a cultural unity. He enriched jazz stage with his cult albums Zikir, Dervish, Drummer Of Two Worlds. One of Okay Temiz’s latest projects before coming back to Turkey was Magnetic Band. He introduced Thracian music–that he was familiar with from his days at the farm–to jazz, with the help of extremely talented musicians from the region. The band recorded an album in Finland in 1995.

Back Home: İstanbul

Okay Temiz came back to İstanbul at the end of ‘90’s, with support from Ministry of Culture. Besides dozens of project he created in the last 20 years, he put together an invaluable instrument collection at his studio in Galata. The collection includes instruments he created himself, by hand, making use of technical skills he inherited from his father and things he learned in the fitting and turning courses at art school. Some of them were improved versions of the instruments he saw elsewhere, such as the water phone, which imitates the frequencies that whales use. The others were Temiz’s own inventions. Electronic pyramid inspired by a travel to Egypt, creative examples from everyday materials such as metal spirals that weld into glasses or lengthened trowel are some of these inventions. Okay Temiz intends to turn his studio, where he still teaches percussion, into a museum, so these hundreds of instruments will not be abandoned when he abandons this life.

On his birthday February 11 each year, Okay Temiz organizes a concept day called “Day of Rhythm” under a different social theme. He brings together musicians from all around the world–although because of the pandemic he couldn’t this year–with his students. He played a total of 17 shows for Day of Rhythm, and the latest one was “climate” themed.

Inspired by his intergenerational collaboration with Belgian producer soFa and German musician Houschyar, Okay Temiz released his album Şelale last month. He was also a guest on Akbank Jazz Festival’s 30th anniversary celebration album Dün, Bugün, Yarın with his original composition “Atlama”.

Follow Us
TR EN
Filter events by label
22 NOV MON
-
23 NOV TUE
-
24 NOV WED
-
25 NOV THU
2

18:30

Seminar Ömer Aygün - “The Calculating Mind and the Questioning Mind in Plato”.

Akbank Sanat Youtube

20:30

Concert Cenk Erdoğan “OttoJazz” Ensemble

Zorlu PSM, Turkcell Platinum Sahnesi

26 NOV FRI
-
27 NOV SAT
-
28 NOV SUN
-
29 NOV MON
-
30 NOV TUE
-
01 DEC WED
-
02 DEC THU
-
03 DEC FRI
-
04 DEC SAT
-
05 DEC SUN
-
06 DEC MON
-
07 DEC TUE
-
08 DEC WED
-
09 DEC THU
-
10 DEC FRI
-
11 DEC SAT
-
12 DEC SUN
-

Add event to your calendar

Subscribe to Newsletter