Blog

“A collective ascent”:
An interview with Okay Temiz

Blog
“A collective ascent”: An interview with Okay Temiz

17.11.2020

One of Turkey’s leading musicians, percussionist, drummer, and composer Okay Temiz is among the names that have shaped the trajectory of jazz, continually introducing different musical traditions and styles to the genre throughout a career spanning over 65 years. From his band Oriental Wind, ongoing since the 1970’s, to his many collaborations with international artists, Temiz also continues to discover new sounds through the instruments he creates. We asked the master musician our questions about his new track on the album celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Akbank Jazz Festival, his now annual “Day of Rhythm” concerts, as well as his ongoing rhythm workshop.

Interview: Leyla Aksu
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

In a career spanning over 65 years, you’ve worked with masterful musicians, travelled the world, created new instruments, and brought different cultures together in jazz. Going back to the early stages of your life in music, however, interestingly, you did not get to pick your own instrument. When you look back at your year at the conservatory, your introduction to your instrument, what does that bring to mind?

If we go back to my conservatory years, I woke up to certain things there, learned and heard things. There are also things of value; there are memories. In any case, most of what I learned benefitted me later, after the classical conservatory. However, I can say that the nineteen years I spent in Turkey were wasted. 

The Akbank Jazz Festival is celebrating its 30th year. As a musician who has dedicated himself to learning and rhythm, how do you feel jazz and the jazz listener have changed in Turkey during this time? You previously mentioned a lack of educational programming at Turkish jazz festivals. Do you think that has changed?

Well, there was conservatories here at Bilgi University and at Ankara’s Bilkent I think. They had brought few jazz teachers from abroad. Some of them were friends of mine. For example, there was “Butch Morris” the trumpet player. Some kids made use of this back then, saxophone players, drummers, pianists, trumpet players—well, there actually aren’t many in Turkey, not that many came up. However, then these [schools] closed. I mean, opportunities like these came and went in Turkey. But right now, there’s nothing about jazz, no work being done. Everyone will learn off the Internet now. There are no teachers around, and the venues where one could play are now all closed and dangerous anyway. And jazz needs to be played to together. You have to play jazz live so that together with your friends, you will pass into a collective ascent with your audience. The energy you get from them and your creativity are all connected to one another. Things like this aren’t there now, so there’s no point in talking about jazz in Turkey. There’s still something happening, ongoing from older projects, knowledge, and energies. But there aren’t young musicians saying, “There’s a pandemic, let me learn as much jazz as possible from the Internet.” There’s no such thing in Turkey. No one’s saying, “Let me hunker down, devote myself to my instrument, work eight hours a day.” Well, during my childhood, my youth, I’d play ten hours a day; my son, Tomi, would work eight hours a day here up until yesterday. There aren’t that many youngsters like this right now; it’s very rare. During our childhood, we always did these things. But since it’s the age of technology and a fast paced life, you can’t really attract people to this.

You’re also featured on the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow album that was specially prepared for the thirtieth year of the Akbank Jazz Festival, bringing many different artists together. Can you tell us a bit about participating in this project and the recording process? What was it like to be a part of something like this?

This was a fantastic event. Since they could not hold a festival during the pandemic, Akbank Jazz organized this in a wonderful way. This is a really, really great project. I mean it’s a project that other countries, other festivals would be jealous of. In that regard, I appreciated it, it really appealed to me, and I congratulate them.

Besides that, we recorded the track at my own studio, Okay Temiz Studios. Then we went to another studio in Moda with friends for the final arrangements. We don’t have the means to go to big studios and pay big sums of money anyway. So we did it all in a modest way and with our own efforts. I composed the piece, that’s how they wanted it anyway, and then we recorded it at my studio. That’s it. 

This last February, you held your annual “Day of Rhythm” concert with your band Oriental Wind and your workshop students, this time under the theme of “climate.” Nature has always held a special place for you and your music. Can you tell us a bit about this event, how all the guest musicians came together, and the importance of this theme for you?

Well, guest musicians aren’t invited by just by saying, “Hey, come over!” It depends on which project I’m working on, what type of music, and the message of this music. I invite musicians based on this. There were different musicians for the “Violence Against Women” concert and different arrangements, different musicians for “Violence Against Children”, the same went for “Respecting Nature”, “Respecting Water”, and the one about climate change, which was the last one, I believe. I ask the musicians who knows nature, shamans that can make the sounds of nature, musicians which, when they enter a forest, can hear the sounds there and include them in their music. I have many friends like this everywhere. In India, in Brazil, in South Africa, in Africa... I do what I do with them. I can only explain it them, these musicians, and they get the message, and then when we play together, it gains value. Like you said, all of my concerts have a message, and so, I pick my musician friends accordingly, and they come over rather easily. That’s how it happens.

Is there anything you’re currently working on that you could maybe share with us? New instruments you’ve made, sounds you’ve found, or new projects at your workshop?

I conceive every project myself, unfortunately, and I am obligated to create them myself in venues where we can play. No one makes me offers like, “Come, let’s do this, do it this way.” I’m always making the suggestions. Whether it’s to my other friends, musicians or whether it’s to the municipality, the government, or cultural offices. Unfortunately, this was the same in Sweden as well. In other words, you always have to be the one to design everything in your head, present it, and then they—well, you also have to fight to get them to agree to it, that’s another thing, another difficult aspect of the job. Because not everyone else thinks like you do. Some think of the economy, some think of cheaper music, some think classical, and so on. There are many problems like this. And so that’s why I try to do this by myself… [As for] current projects, we’re sitting and thinking about how to make them happen. Coming up, for example, February 11th is my birthday. We applied to the municipality, to Cemal Reşit Rey for our Plastic Ocean concert, and we’re on the list, on the concert list. If we’re accepted again, we will dive into another theme this year, take up a different cause.

Are your workshops still taking place? And do you need to be at a certain level for this, or can anyone come?

They’re always going on, on Wednesdays. It used to be everyday, we used to have 400 students here. But now there are fifteen of us… We take everyone, so anyone can come, as long as they aren’t sick. We play with masks, everyone who comes wears a mask, I wear a mask. I mean, there is still interest, just not as much as there used to be. I want children to come, because children are so important, but that creates an issue, as you know, with the kids leaving the house, coming with their parents… But the workshop is still going.

You may also like

Follow Us
TR EN
Filter events by label
13 SEP MON
-
14 SEP TUE
-
15 SEP WED
-
16 SEP THU
-
17 SEP FRI
-
18 SEP SAT
-
19 SEP SUN
-
20 SEP MON
-
21 SEP TUE
-
22 SEP WED
-
23 SEP THU
-
24 SEP FRI
-
25 SEP SAT
-
26 SEP SUN
-
27 SEP MON
-
28 SEP TUE
-
29 SEP WED
-
30 SEP THU
-
01 OCT FRI
1

20:30

Concert Elif Çağlar Quartet feat. Defjen Daf Ensemble

GALATAPORT İSTANBUL PAKET POSTANESİ

02 OCT SAT
2

20:30

Concert Oğuz Büyükberber Trio feat. Derya Türkan & Apostolos Sideris

Babylon

20:30

Concert Kamufle & Lara Di Lara

Müze Gazhane

03 OCT SUN
2

11:00

Concert Cazlı Brunch: Flapper Swing

Bizim Tepe, Tepe Majeur

17:00

Concert Ediz Hafızoğlu “Nazdrave” feat. Ceylan Ertem

Müze Gazhane

Add event to your calendar

Subscribe to Newsletter