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Below The Radar Special Edition: Melting Pot - Free Improvised Music From Istanbul

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Nilüfer Akbayoglu was born in 1979. Her performance interests include free improvisation and free jazz.

Şevket Akinci is a guitarist, composer and improvisor. He has performed all manner of musics, from jazz to avant garde, punk to Turkish classical music. He released his first album in 1996, a collection of folk compositions and a cult classic. He then formed the jazz rock group Lifeline, which went on to release two albums. In 2005 he co-founded the audio-visual project Mugwump with Korhan Erel. The same year he became a member of Islak Köpek. In 2009 he released a free jazz album called Century. He is also a founding member of Mutant, which is made up of seven guitarists. In June this year the Konnex label released his album, Dead Country, which featured guitarist Eugene Chadbourne and leading musicians from the Istanbul free scene. He has played and recorded with Le Quan Ninh, Luc Ex, Mark O’Leary, Richard Nunns, Kirstie Simson, Christian Asplund, Sussan Deyhim, Richard Horowitz and Ilia Belorukov. Since 2006 he has hosted a radio show dedicated to free jazz and free improvisation. He also composes for film, dance and theatre, and is a published poet.

Korhan Argüden is a drummer who has been playing on Istanbul’s free jazz and experimental music undergrounds since the mid–1980s. He is a member of the improvised music group KonstruKt and also takes part in other improvisation projects.

Demirhan Baylan is an Istanbul based musician and sound artist born in 1970. He has been one of the major figures on Turkey‘s alternative music scene for two decades. Heavily influenced by Frank Zappa, his solo music ranges from ‘cheesy’ pop tunes to eclectic sound experiments, and is freighted with a radical political agenda that critiques the existing production and distribution systems of the art and music industries. He has released eight solo albums, worked on more than 40 other albums as a musician, songwriter and sound engineer, published a book outlining his aestheticpolitical philosophy, and appeared at all major music festivals in Turkey.

David Brosset is a poet, author and singer born in 1976 in France. In 2005 he moved to Istanbul where he started to tell stories to children at the French cultural centre and in French speaking schools, write poetry, songs and short stories, jam with local musicians on Istanbul‘s free music scene, eventually joining the free improvisation group Have You Seen My Bird? Earlier this year he relocated to South Africa. He is currently working on a collection of poems written while he was still based in Istanbul.

Oguz Büyükberber is an improvising bass clarinettist whose playing draws on contemporary music, traditional Turkish music and jazz. He has recorded four solo albums, and collaborated with Butch Morris, Craig Harris, Michael Moore and many others.

Umut Çağlar is a guitarist and a member of the groups konstruKt and Dead Country. He has recorded with Peter Brötzmann, Jürg Solothurnmann and Eugene Chadbourne. His music is a hybrid of free jazz and Noise. He founded the re:konstruKt label in 2008 to issue recordings by konstruKt. The label has subsequently released more than 30 albums, many featuring musicians from Istanbul’s improvised music scene, as well as recordings by musicians from the USA, Finland, Ireland, Russia and Italy, including Dom Minasi, Eugene Chadbourne, Selen Gülün, Mike Cooper, Mark O’Leary and Jürg Solothurnmann

Kevin Davis is an improvisor, cellist and composer. Influenced by the entire spectrum of Euro-American concert music, American traditions of improvisation and elements of experimental and commercial music, Kevin’s present work is a synthesis of the compositional/improvisational space, striving to create complexity and richness from simple premises. His current work applies internal logic or structural devices to improvised performances, using indeterminate elements to create generative compositions and employing extended, often timbre-oriented cello techniques.

Burçin Elmas aka JaZzJuLiEt is an alto saxophonist and electronic music composer born in 1981 in Istanbul. Her practice encompasses electroacoustic music, improvised music and video.

Turgut Erçetin is a composer, guitarist and improviser born in 1983. As a composer, Erçetin deals in spectralism as well as computer-aided music.

Korhan Erel is an improvisor, sound designer, instrument builder and composer based in Istanbul. He is a founding member of Islak Köpek, Turkey’s pioneering free improvisation group. He has twice been an artist-in-residence at STEIM, Amsterdam. He has performed solo and in groups in Turkey, Austria, Holland, Germany, Finland, Ireland, the UK, Russia and Israel with musicians such as Karlheinz Essl, Kirstie Simpson, Le Quan Ninh, Mark Alban Lotz, Michael Fischer, Michel Doneda, Oguz Büyükberber, Richard Nunns and many more. He has performed telematic concerts over Skype in Germany, Spain and the US (New Mexico). Korhan has played on five albums, including two with Islak Köpek. He has done sound work for dance, films and theatre.

Giray Gürkal was born in 1988 in Istanbul. He is an improviser and composer who plays electric guitar with an innovative approach using different techniques and effects. He is the founder of the trio Limbo, a ‘spontaneous sound fiction project’ based in three different cities: Istanbul, Turin and Weimar. He is also a member of the ‘seven guitars’ project Mutant. His first solo album Hey People! was released on re:konstruKt in 2009.

Florent Merlet is a French musician who has been living and working in Istanbul for more than seven years. He plays drums as part of the free improvisation groups Have You Seen My Bird? and Karosri Kasap, as well as performing regularly with other artists from the Istanbul free music scene. Recently he participated in the Caravan Project, an international project organised by the Istanbul Transit Festival.

Robert Reigle is an American ethnomusicologist, free improvisor, composer and tenor saxophonist now based in Istanbul. He taught ethnomusicology and saxophone at the University of Papua New Guinea from 1990 to 1993, where he served as Dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts. He is currently teaching ethnomusicology at Istanbul Technical University, and composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram have written several new compositions for him.

Amy Salsgiver is a percussionist and composer born in Cleveland, Ohio. She has played with various orchestras including The Philadelphia Virtuoso Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, The National Orchestra Of Ireland and The National Composers Guild, and has performed at festivals in New York, Dublin, London, Los Angeles, Bogota, Ankara and Istanbul. Up until 2003 she was based in New York City, where she performed in a wide variety of ensembles, including classical, contemporary and experimental music groups, Dixieland bands, Off-Broadway musicals and Afro-Cuban ensembles. In 2003 she moved to Istanbul, where she co-founded the percussion group SA NE NA, which performs the group members‘ own compositions, new works by young Turkish composers, and important repertoire from the 20th and 21st century. She is also a member of the free improvisation trio Cymbal In Ruin and the Istanbul-based experimental alternative groups Ceylan Ertem and Kpar Kpoh Naah. She is currently a member of The Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, and The Hezarfen Ensemble and Diskant Ensemble, which are dedicated to the promotion of new music.

Candas Sisman is a visual artist born in 1985 in Izmir, Turkey. His art has been seen at a variety of festivals, exhibitions and performances in Turkey and abroad.

Volkan Terzioğlu is a saxophonist, broadcaster and music critic who was born in 1967. He began playing tenor saxophone on the recommendation of Anthony Braxton, who performed in Istanbul in 1995. He is a member of Islak Köpek, one of the hosts of a free music radio show on Acik Radyo 94.9FM (acikradyo.com), and a contributor, writing on free jazz and improvisation, to sol.org.tr.

Özün Usta was born in 1977 in İstanbul. He plays various instruments with Korhan Futacı & Kara Orkestra, Dinamik, Konstrukt, Murat Taner, Cem Tan, Bir Gecelik Aşk and Selim Saraçoğlu, as well as on his own.

Yaprak Melike Uyar is a music critic, lecturer, radio programmer and in-the-making musicologist living in Istanbul.