The street musicians of Istanbul, who have gained place in the iconic İstiklal, Bahariye and Bağdat avenues for a long time, have been participating in tight competitions to take stage in the intercity ferries traversing the waters of the Bosphorus.
Ferry musicians play on four lines connecting the European and Anatolian sides of the metropolis. They are not paid by the municipality; they only earn the money busked by admiring passengers.
“Every musician or band plays for three hours. They switch to another line in every three months. The lines they will play are determined by lot. A musician takes stage at the ferries starting from 9 a.m. until the ferry rides finish,” said jury member Tunç Baydar, the coordinator of the ferry musicians, ahead of auditioning 31 musicians and bands in a hall at the Kadıköy ferry port on Feb. 18.
“The music market has become poorer since the 1990’s and the beginning of the 2000’s. Some of the street musicians are much better than those in the music market,” said Nazım Çınar, jury member and an ethnomusicologist at Üsküdar University.
“These friends reflect the finest tunes of Anatolia in their music. They share musical pieces from different regions of our country with the audience. It is very valuable. I believe that we will select the best playing and singing musicians,” he said.
When the musicians aged between 17 and 80 filled in the hall and the jury members took their seats in the next room, the scene resembled a small-scaled version of the famous television show The Voice.
“We have been working as street musicians for about 18 months. We are fed up with quarrels with the municipal police officers. We were fined for 153 liras [about $25] for violating the law of misdemeanor. When we heard about the audition, we decided to attend in order to play music with permission,” said high school student Arda Yazıcı.
Another participant, Ferit Yavuz has been playing the Turkish ney, an end-blown reed flute, for 45 years.
“I play music at least five hours at home every day. ‘Enough, my ears are off,’ says my wife. So, I decided to share my music with the people in the ferries,” he said, adding that it will be his first public music experience.
Ersun Özcan and Orçun Yılmaz are semi-professional musicians playing at several venues.
“I’m a drummer, Orçun is a guitarist and a vocalist. We have been involved in music for 20 years. We want to feel the excitement of amateurship. We want to earn money over our own profession instead of being occupied in another field,” said Özcan.
After the second audition on Feb. 24, the Bosphorus will be resounding with the melodies of the new generation of Istanbul ferry musicians.
Hurriyet Daily News