Syrian musicians to highlight Istanbul Jazz Festival

This year’s festival to reunite Damascus-based orchestra under project by Blur frontman Damon Albarn

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

This year’s festival to reunite Damascus-based orchestra under a project by Blur frontman Damon Albarn.

More than 200 Turkish and international musicians will turn Istanbul into a jazz stage during this summer, with almost 50 concerts at over 20 venues.

The 23rd Istanbul Jazz Festival, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), will take place between June 27 and July 25.

One of the festival highlights this year is an event presented by Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s project Africa Express.

The project brings together current and former members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, led by conductor Issam Rafea, who is based in the US.

The group, which will reassemble for a number of gigs, will be performing on June 27 at Istanbul’s Cemil Topuzlu Open-air Theatre in Istanbul.

The orchestra first played with Albarn at the Damascus Opera House in 2008.

The team later worked again for Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz’s track White Flag and later toured around Europe and the Middle East.

As most members of the orchestra, including Rafea, had to flee their country after the Syrian civil war started, Albarn’s project aims to reunite group members.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency just before the press launch of the festival on Monday, director Pelin Opcin said that Syrian musicians would have a number of gigs in London, the Netherlands, Glastonbury, Cologne, and Istanbul.

"Choosing Istanbul as a destination is not surprising," Opcin said, referring to the more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees currently hosted by Turkey.

Apart from Albarn, a number of special guests promised to take the stage with the 85-strong orchestra, she added.

Mentioning the recent deadly terror attacks, Opcin said that some musicians did not want to attend the festival.

Almost 90 percent of the program has been generated, she said, "We are trying to convince the artists. We are all in the same boat; Europe is no different from Istanbul."

"Either we will stop this job totally or we will do our part," she said.

This year’s Lifetime Achievements Awards will go to Turkish musicians Ozdemir Erdogan and Erguven Basaran, according to the IKSV.

Other names who will participate in this year’s festival are venerable musician Nile Rodgers with his group Chic; Los Angeles saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who will share the stage with French-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi; and Grammy-winning American jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, who will be performing with jazz vocalist Roberta Gambarini alongside the TRT Popular Music and Jazz Orchestra.

This year the festival will also continue to offer its free "Jazz in the Parks" concert series in Istanbul.

TRTWorld, AA