Turkish pianist tells government not to fear artists
Fazıl Say is a controversial figure among religious conservatives in Turkey, and was given a suspended 10-month sentence last year for 'insulting the religious beliefs held by a section of the society.' DHA Photo
Pianist and composer Fazıl Say, who claimed on social media earlier this week that Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Presidential Symphony Orchestra had removed three of his pieces from its annual program, has written an open letter to the government.
Saying he was writing the letter from Beijing where he is currently on tour, Say shared the letter on his Facebook account, addressed to “the prime minister, the president and all officials.”
“Three of my pieces were removed from the program in Ankara, which has received reactions in Turkey and across the world … I hope you read these and try to understand,” the letter read.
“Do you know when you become really strong? It is at the time when you bring both the East and the West, the synthesis of these two, into existence. The piece ‘Istanbul Symphony,’ which has been banned in Ankara, has been played all around the world. The work tells about Istanbul with music.
After its first performance in 2010, more than 50 international orchestras included it in their repertoire. I won the 2013 ECHO Classic Award for it, one of the most important awards in classical music,” it added.
Say referred to himself in the third person and urged officials to be “proud” of the piece and to not be scared.
“Fazıl Say has 56 pieces. Nothing changes for him when three of them are not played in Ankara. But the world condemns your ‘prohibitive state.’ Nobody in Turkey feels better when you apply a boycott on a musician. You don’t feel good either. The loser is the one who makes this decision,” he said in the letter.
“Let Turkey compete in the field of art. Don’t close down operas, theaters, orchestras. Let the public decide what is good. Don’t be afraid of arts and artists; they are not a ‘military power’ but only musicians, theater artists, dancers, humans, ordinary citizens,” he added.
“I have not gotten along with this government for years due to other censorships and concert cancelations ... Fazıl Say gives 100-130 concerts around the world every year. Ask yourselves, ‘who is he?’ He is a Turkish citizen, based in Turkey. When you cancel three or four of my concerts, nothing changes for me or for others. The cancelation is simply condemned. Is this what you want? There are lots of artists in the world: Believers, non-believers, Buddhists, deists, atheists. But nobody question these artists over this. Let’s be open. Turkey has a number of artists that are known across the world. They win contests, awards, they get something after giving hundreds of concerts over decades. Please try to understand, at least for once,” the letter added.
Last year, Say was handed a suspended 10-month prison sentence for retweeting lines attributed to 11th century poet Omar Khayyam, on charges of “insulting the religious beliefs held by a section of the society.”