Blog

Akbank Jazz Festival,
Japan and More: Selen Gülün

Blog
Akbank Jazz Festival, Japan and More: Selen Gülün

29.09.2020

Selen Gülün, a musician based in Tokyo for some time now, has been a participant of Akbank Jazz Festival and a follower for even a longer time. Gülün has been active in various layers of music with her solo productions, collaborations, academic work and record label which was founded last year. We sat down with her to talk about Akbank Jazz Festival’s place in urban culture as well as her musical work.

Interview: Cem Kayıran
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

When and where was your first concert on Akbank Jazz Festival stage? What do you feel when you recall that day?

My first Akbank Jazz Festival performance was on September 10, 2004. We played as Selen Gülün Trio on Babylon stage together with Patrick Zambonin (electric bass) and Jörg Mikula (drums). It was a very exciting concert. I still feel excited when I think about it. This was the concert where first steps towards my debut trio album, Answers, which was released from Pozitif label in 2010, were taken. And since Answers made into Tokyo charts, it also marked the process of me moving to Japan. After the Babylon concert, we came together with the same team for another Akbank Sanat event and we started the recordings for Answers after that event.

Who are some of the musicians you listened at Akbank Jazz stage that left a mark on you? 

As far as I remember it was the second Akbank Jazz Festival and I listened Cecil Taylor live for the first time, it was magical. It was an experience that made me think about what it is to play music by letting yourself go; as well as understanding that it is not only about playing the right notes but also focusing on the tones. Other names that comes to mind are John Zorn "Masada" and Henry Threadgill "Very Very Circus Plus".

Festival’s 30-year album is going to shine a light on Turkey’s jazz music history. What do you think the most important message that this album will give to the coming generations?

For me, Akbank Jazz stands in a different place from other festivals; due to its 30 years-old tradition and its own cultural language, its brave programs, its innovative perspective and its ability to bring jazz musicians from different generations together for various projects. We usually see these kind of festivals, which have a close relationship with art, as urban life events. It takes time for festivals such as Akbank Jazz to become a culture event and have permanent effects. What I am trying to highlight is the necessity to create a language within the daily flow of life to be able to have permanency as a festival.

I see this album as an important initiative, because it is an interactive project that will be able to archive and convey music during the critical pandemic period. I am happy to be a part of it. Music is an art form through which we can trace and understand urban culture. The exchange of ideas become a fusion and finally a common language. There are 30 different artists and 30 original music in this album. I perceived mine as a commissioned work and created it with inspiration of our current situation, yet based on my past knowledge. Time will show what the message is and who it reaches to.

Can you tell us a bit about the commonalities and differences between Istanbul and Tokyo, where you have been living for some time now?

In Tokyo, being in touch with every art form is a tradition, but music has a very different place for Japanese people. Especially jazz. Whenever you introduce yourself as a jazz musician, even in small talk, you receive extra attention and love. More so if you say you are a composer! My first visit to Tokyo was in 2015, for a show promoting the Answers album and a signing session. People came with their CDs and brought gifts. It was a wonderful feeling. In Japan, discovering a new name is very important for the audiences. Even if it looks like the second biggest music sector of the world, it is actually ahead of USA in album sales. It is a real sector with all of its actors: artists, composers, producers and distributors. You cannot just come to Japan and play music on stage. You are not allowed to perform in clubs illegally without a working permit. To perform in clubs like Blue Note, Cottonclub and Alfie, you need to have a manager. Before you perform in licensed clubs, you share your setlist so they can pay the royalties. Just in Tokyo, there are about 150 jazz clubs.

This year, on January 26, I had a birthday concert. I checked Google to see how many jazz concerts were being held in Tokyo on that day, and there were over 200. Small or big, all of these were jazz concerts! Even if you compare the two cities on this remark, you can see the difference clearly. Also, the audiences are collectors. They buy CDs and records in concerts. They listen and sell these in second hand stores. There is a large second hand market. They support their local jazz clubs, visit them regularly, drink a couple of drinks and listen to the performances. By this they support and protect the local venues and musicians. I am very impressed by this attitude. The audiences see this as a responsibility and care about it, which makes city life worth living. In Istanbul, we see how much the audiences care about clubs trying to keep their doors open or close down, especially during the pandemic.

Also, in Istanbul -I don’t know why- most of the venues plays pop and they play it loudly. In Tokyo, there is jazz playing in the background on a decent volume, 24/7! In Istanbul, as jazz musicians we are trying to share the stage in 6-7 clubs, waiting in line for the opportunity to play on two city jazz festivals. We also don’t see the private sector trying to support the scene much. In clubs, the audience who confuse the listening to music with alcohol and entertainment ignore what the musicians are creating. In short words, the difference between two cities is obvious and visible in numbers.

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