Jazz comes to the city of Ankara and stays
Emine Kart - ANKARAAnkara’s jazz lovers honored prominent figures who have “kept jazz alive,” including İlham Gencer, a monument to jazz, and Tuna Ötenel, a legendary maestro, at an award evening on May 24.
Upon a call by the Ankara Jazz Society (ACD) which has been proudly conducting the 20th edition of the International Ankara Jazz Festival (AJF), jazz lovers gathered on the evening of May 24 at the Güven Çayyolu Health Campus, a facility of the private Ankara Güven (“Trust” in Turkish) Hospital.
Ötenel, 69, was presented with the award for “Those Who Keep Jazz Alive-Composer” field, while Gencer, 90, was granted the award in the “Those Who Keep Jazz Alive-Performer” field.
Having had serious health problems for the past eight years, Ötenel was accompanied by his spouse, veteran theater actress Berin Ötenel, when he took to the podium to receive his award, as he stood tall before a sentimental audience.
Receiving his award, an energetic Gencer quoted Duke Ellington as saying, “Jazz is a good barometer of freedom.”
The rest of the original quote is as follows: “In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”
While calling on Deniz Zeyrek, the Ankara bureau chief of daily Hürriyet, in order to present him the “Jazz and Civil Society” award on behalf of the daily’s editor-in-chief, Sedat Ergin, the curator of the festival, Özlem Oktar Varoğlu, said, “This association, the ACD, could not have been founded, if not for [Ergin].”
In a bid to emphasis the importance Ergin attached to the festival and to the award, Zeyrek explained how he told him “You definitely have to go and receive it.”
“It’s not my problem. You will go there,” Ergin told Zeyrek when the latter asked how he could go amid all the last-minute developments on Turkey’s political scene that required attention for the following day’s paper.
“I left aside the front page and I’m here, not only to receive the award, but also to enjoy the music,” Zeyrek said.
Jazz, discipline and white lilies
While receiving her award in the field of “Jazz Sprout,” 22-year-old Su İdil thanked her mother and prominent jazz singer Sibel Köse, who performed with her quintet following the ceremony.
When his name was announced, the former commander of the Turkish Air Force, retired Gen. Ergin Celasin, ran to the podium with the dynamic steps of a young man in order to receive his award in the “Jazz Lover” field.
Celasin said he was receiving the award on behalf of “all jazz lovers without whom the festival wouldn’t have been able to mark two decades.”
“Jazz is the discipline within freedom and freedom within discipline,” Celasin said, paying homage to Dave Brubeck, a legend who helped define jazz.
“Jazz is about freedom within discipline,” Brubeck said in a 2005 interview with The Associated Press. “Usually a dictatorship like in Russia and Germany will prevent jazz from being played because it just seemed to represent freedom, democracy and the United States. Many people don’t understand how disciplined you have to be to play jazz. ... And that is really the idea of democracy – freedom within the constitution or discipline. You don’t just get out there and do anything you want,” Brubeck said at the time.
Later, the Sibel Köse Quintet took to the stage. When she was singing and reciting some lines about “white lilies,” some of the audience recalled a famous book, Gregory Petrov’s “The Land of White Lilies.” The book, describing the rise of Finnish national consciousness and significance of education and civic society through the national philosopher, J.V. Snellman, was at the time made by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, essential reading in Turkish educational institutions.
Having already mesmerized the audience, Köse later invited İdil to the stage and they together sang “Jardin d’Hiver” (Winter Garden) to the audience, who stole a few hours of respite from the heavy mood of Ankara.
Other awards at the Ankara Jazz Festival
Jazz Writer: Cüneyt Sermet
Jazz Festival: Istanbul Jazz Festival - Görgün Taner
Supporters of Jazz: Ali Kemaloğlu – Turmaks
Jazz Publication: ‘Jazz’ magazine – Zuhal Focan
Jazz Club: Nardis Jazz Club’s founders – Zuhal and Önder Focan
Social Media: Cazkolik – Feridun Ertaşkan