The political situation in Turkey is taking its toll on the music scene

When we heard that our beloved Turkish cultural magazine Bant Mag. was starting a series of mixtapes in response to the turbulent times the country is going through, we were curious to know the feelings of its co-founders. Unsurprisingly, we learned that terror attacks and the recent coup attempt have also had a major impact on the country’s music scene…

James Hakan Dedeoglu and Aylin Gungor started Bant Mag. in 2004. As well as being a music, art and movie magazine focusing on international and local culture, Bant Mag. also organizes concerts, exhibitions, festivals, panels and screenings. With a strong belief in “the uniting and healing power of music and arts”, they asked musicians, bands and DJs from all around the world to make mixtapes in response to the recent coup attempt.

Will Oldham, Beirut, Julia Holter, Julianna Barwick, Moon Duo, Jerusalem in My Heart, Goat, Suuns, Caribou, Efterklang – the list goes on. To this day, more than twenty artists have sent messages and mixtapes to the magazine. Explaining the initiative, the magazine’s co-founders wrote on their website: “Longing for the democratic life, free of oppression and any sort of coup d’état, we believe this is a good time to find shelter in the bonds we created with people from all over the world, by using music as a bridge.”

We asked James Hakan Dedeoglu to give us an idea of the impact that the recent attacks and attempted coup d’état are having on cultural life in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.

You asked musicians and DJs to make mixtapes foR Bant Mag. in response to the current situation in Turkey. Why?

For years we have organized many gigs here in Istanbul. We have organized over a hundred club shows working with many European and American bands. Most of them became our friends, so we have close ties with the live music scene. This year has been very dramatic for Istanbul and Turkey. Many terror attacks, the last coup attempt and political turmoil are really affecting the mood of the people. A lot of people are feeling depressed and are afraid of the future. Due to all of these events, many bands have either canceled their shows or aren’t accepting gig offers from Istanbul. But as we are friends with many foreign musicians that have been to Istanbul, we know that their thoughts are with us – we received so many messages during the attacks and the coup attempt. So we thought, “Why don’t we ask them to make a mixtape for their followers in Turkey?” We thought this would cheer people up!

The artists have all reacted very positively and from the heart. We thank them all for sparing their time and sharing their thoughts and music.

How would you describe the situation in Turkey right now?

Trying to describe the current situation would require a very, very long text, as all the events of today are connected with so many other events in the past and there are so many layers to the situation. But to cut it short: We did go through a very, very crazy night on the date of the coup attempt and we are very lucky that it failed. But Turkey today still faces so many problems and so many dangers that it is still hard to feel safe and have hope for the future. Terrorist threats, an immediate need for a proper and solid democracy and better relations with the world – the list goes on and on. So people are still curious to see what direction these events will take. We wait and see and hope for better days – not only for our country but for the whole world, which seems to be out of tune nowadays.

What impact is the situation having on culture in Turkey?

Well, if there is a terrorist attack and if there are martyrs, the first thing they do is cancel concerts, openings, parties, etc. And this happens a lot! Also, like we mentioned before, many foreign bands, artists, and cultural tourists have stopped coming to Turkey this summer. And of course the economy is struggling. So cultural life is heavily affected by all of these things. But, of course, cultural life goes on and people don’t stop creating and sharing.

Do you feel it has had an impact on the support given to the cultural sector and the music scene from the authorities?

Not really to be honest, because the music scene didn’t have support from the authorities in the first place. The government really doesn’t support the music scene here. If it’s a festival or a big event, the sponsors are usually big brands. These kind of sponsors have, of course, been affected.

In an article that comes with the mixtapes, you write that “cultural life in Turkey came to some sort of a halt”…

Since the failed coup attempt, four major festivals with big international acts have been canceled: One Love Festival, Masstival, RockOff Festival, and some of the Istanbul Jazz Festival shows. Names like Muse, Skunk Anansie and Joan Baez have all canceled their shows. The indoor venues start their season in late September… We’ll see how this season goes. But we expect the scene will turn to local artists for a while and hopefully local acts will benefit from this with more exposure and experience. That’s looking at things from a positive side. But don’t think that no bands are coming; there are still plenty of foreign bands being announced for club shows this autumn.

Read Bant Mag.
Listen to the mixtapes.

Photo: courtesy of Bant Mag.

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