Two Cultures Three Jazz Artists

In The 17th Century, The Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I Granted Holland The Right To Trade In The Ottoman Empire, Laying The Foundation For A Four-Century-Long Cultural Exchange. Now A New Generation Of Young Artists Is Building A Sound Structure On That Foundation.

The rise of several of the world’s foremost civilizations in and around Anatolia has resulted in the cultural richness of Turkey overflowing its Anatolian boundaries. Like Turkey, Holland, too, is a land of cultural diversity embracing different cultures. Close to twenty percent of the country’s population is of foreign origin, and three percent of that is made up of Turks. The cultural exchange between the two countries for the last 400 years has inevitably prepared the ground for artists of both countries to make a name for themselves in the global arena. One of the areas in which that ground has been laid is music, especially jazz. The Holland-born Turkish singer, composer and pianist Karsu Dönmez cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony of the 400th anniversary celebrations in Amsterdam last March. Karsu is also one of the artists who was invited to a reception given by Holland’s Queen Beatrix and Turkish President Abdullah Gül in Ankara last month. Franz von Chossy meanwhile is a jazz pianist noted for his work with Turkish artists like Esra Dalfidan. And Onur Ataman has played a key role in opening up Turkey-Holland relations to the world through his collaboration with Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and Dutch drummer Ed Warby, who is known worldwide for his band, Planeur. KARSU DÖNMEZ Only 22 years old, Karsu Dönmez’s fame has already spread abroad. She was a mere 17 when she gave her first concert at New York’s famous Carnegie Hall, and her first studio album is due to appear this fall. We talked with Karsu after her concert in Istanbul on June 9. Your album is going to have both Turkish and English pieces, I believe. How many of each will there be? My producers and I are still talking that over. They want there to be more Turkish pieces, I want to have the English pieces I composed myself. Have all the recordings been made? Yes, they’re done. Actually there’s one more piece I’d like to record. It’s sort of rock so I want to use an out-of-tune piano. It would be better to record it in live performance. What’s special about that piece? That piece came about when I was jamming with a friend at a venue in New York. I didn’t like the first recording anyway, because I wanted to recreate that feeling. FRANZ VON CHOSSY In addition to his own projects, the German-born Holland-resident von Chossy also plays with Karsu Dönmez’s singing teacher, Esra Dalfidan. Von Chossy gave a concert at Istanbul’s Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in April. This is not your first time in Istanbul. What do you feel on your visits? I love Istanbul. This is my third visit, and the energy I derive every time leaves me in awe of this city. What do you think of Turkish music? I really like the folk music. The drama in the lyrics and the harmonies in the songs I played with Esra Dalfidan are very moving. Although they are about a dead person, or about missing somebody, in the end they leave a person with a positive feeling. You occasionally use eastern melodies in your own music… My clarinetist Alex is actually the musician closest to the East in my band. Since he is a Romany, he adds some ornaments that are peculiar to the East. But perhaps in the future I will also incorporate some eastern instruments in my music. Who would you like to work with on a project based more on melodies unique to the East? I would definitely like to do something with the clarinetist, Oğuz Büyükberber. ONUR ATAMAN Onur Ataman is the first Turk to have been accepted into the Royal Dutch Conservatory. He played with Franz von Chossy on a project during his student years. In 2006 he also won a Dutch government scholarship for the most talented students. Was it difficult being the first Turk admitted to the Royal Dutch Conservatory? I actually think my being a Turk played a role in my admission to the school, because I started by contributing to their culture in many areas. The Dutch have a saying: “What did you bring us in your suitcase?” In my case it was my culture. So what did you take them? For a long time I played fretless guitar and gave lessons. I worked at several schools there. Despite my training in traditional jazz I never turned my back on my own culture. Did you acceptance pave the way for other students with an eastern cultural background? Holland is a country open to multiculturalism, but the most important thing for getting a musical education there is to master your instrument and be a well-rounded musician. Although an ethnic background is a plus, that comes later. TOWARD THE FUTURE At the point where they are today, Karsu, Onur and Franz von Chossy are like a metaphor for the state of cultural relations between Holland and Turkey. It is clear that cultural exchange is going to produce positive results in the future as well. Karsu Dönmez, T.C. Cumhurbaşkanı Abdullah Gül, Hollanda Kraliçesi Beatrix Karsu Dönmez, Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Beatrix of the Netherlands