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From Byzantion to Istanbul takes the audience along on a musical journey traversing the rich history of this magical city on the banks of the Bosporus. For more than 2500 years Istanbul has been, under various different names, a crossroads for art, commerce, religions and many different peoples and cultures. Narrator Marcel Faber teams up with musicians and singers, including Dilek Türkan and Vassiliki Papageorgiou, to serve up a multidisciplinary concert devised by composer Selim Doğru, who has linked up new work with the music of classical composers and a mix of Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Jewish and Roma folk music originating in this city. The concert will also feature poetry, readings from texts by Orhan Pamuk and Geert Mak, photographs by the world famous Istanbul photographer Ara Güler and the 18th century drawings by Antoine Melling.
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The city of Istanbul has a history that is over 2500 years old. Throughout those millennia, the city has been known by many names – from Byzantium to Augusta, Antonia, Nova Roma, Constantinople, Konstantiniyye and present-day Istanbul. The Dutch Turkish composer Selim Doğru (b. Istanbul, 1971) conceived a project about this magical city on the Bosporus that for centuries has served as a crossroads for commerce and art, for cultures, religions and nationalities. From Byzantion to Istanbul is a multidisciplinary concert with music, poetry, stories and photos, in which Selim Doğru seeks out the musical DNA of his native city.
Doğru combines his own contemporary compositions with the music of classical composers, improvisations and music from the city’s ancient Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Jewish and Roma populations. Providing a setting for the concert are poems by Nâzım Hikmet, Orhan Veli and Yahya Kemal Beyatlı, photographs by the world-famous Istanbul photographer Ara Güler and 18th century pen-and-ink drawings by Antoine Melling. Excerpts from Istanbul (2003) by Orhan Pamuk and De brug by Geert Mak (the book week gift for 2007) are also used. The stories and poems are recited by the Dutch actor Marcel Faber. The rest of cast is comprised of famous singers and musicians from Istanbul, including Dilek Türkan (vocals), Vassiliki Papageoriou (vocals), Derya Türkan (kemençe, the Turkish viol) and Serkan Halili (kanun, the Turkish dulcimer). The music is performed by the reArt Ensemble & Wereldmuziekkoor.
Istanbul was the bustling epicentre of two empires: the Roman-Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, this city where Europe and Asia meet each other forms the cultural heart of modern Turkey. Selim Doğru grew up in Istanbul in a Turkish family, with Turkish, Greek, Armenian and Jewish neighbours and friends, in an old Greek house wedged between a Greek Orthodox church and a mosque in the historic quarter of Emirgân – a district chock-full of fascinating stories. There are more such districts in Istanbul: Tarabya, for instance, where the parents of the poet Kavafis came from, and from whence another poet, the communist Nâzım Hikmet, had to flee to Moscow by boat. The historic quarter of Histar is the burial place of the poet Orhan Veli, who wrote many splendid poems about Istanbul. Further along on the Bosporus is Ortaköy, where the great Ottoman-Armenian composer Tatyos Efendi grew up.
Each of these famous artists has their roots in one of Istanbul’s rich and ancient cultures. This connection between contemporary artists and age-old history inspired Doğru to dig deeper into his city’s cultural history. How did these different cultures manifest themselves and develop throughout the centuries? How did they come to terms with and influence each other – despite their many conflicts? How is this reflected in writings, painting, music and folklore? What was life like before the Ottoman Empire? And how did culture and music continue to develop during and after the Ottoman Empire? From Byzantion to Istanbul shows how all of these cultures together have influenced artists, and how artists in turn have contributed to a collective culture that for centuries has distinguished Istanbul from its neighbouring cultures on both continents.
Doğru’s production is based on extensive research done in Istanbul and Greece. It concentrates not only on the music that has been passed down from previous centuries, but also on how that music is interpreted nowadays, as well as what is being composed right now. In this way, Doğru has dug up numerous previously unknown stories and pieces of music. At the same time, he shows how the city has developed a specific idiom of its own with its many cultures, not only in music but also in literature and art. In this production, the spotlights are on that idiom, the colourful language of Istanbul.