Istanbul's living rooms rocking to live music

Istanbul's living rooms rocking to live music

ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
Istanbuls living rooms rocking to live music

Sofar Sounds is in more than 50 cities worldwide. The next secret Sofar gig in Istanbul is set for next month.

Plagued by overpriced merchandise, soaring ticket prices and hordes of fans brandishing glowing smartphones and tablets, modern concert-going has now produced a backlash where people are gathering to watch live performances in private homes.

A group of Istanbul music lovers recently came together in an apartment living room in the heart of the city to experience three different unknown bands and focus on the performances. Sofar (songs from a room) is a new concert experience created by Chicago-born, London-based co-founder of Sofar Sounds, Rafe Offer. He explained how he came up with the idea for Sofar while in a London bar, trying to listen to Friendly Fires, a popular English indie band.

,“Everyone there was talking or texting or drinking,” he said. “People paid to see this band, yet they couldn’t even hear them. So I said to my friend who is a musician, ‘We got to do something nuts.’”
Offer and his friend together decided to go their house, invited friends and asked them to be quiet during the performances. “That was how it was started, and its first night was totally magic because nobody spoke,” he added. Offer never expected that this little idea would end up in Istanbul.

Anlam Aslanoğlu, a 29-year-old project manager for the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, offered her apartment near Galata Tower in Beyoğlu for the gig. Although there have been some difficulties with her neighbors, as her apartment is in a historic building, everyone has shown flexibility, she said.

“There has been a feverish activity since the morning; they have been sound checking and setting up,” she said.

When 28-year-old Turkish journalist and music fan Eda Demir wrote about Sofar’s London activities, she did not know that she would be the one to start Sofar Istanbul. With the help of an old friend living in London, she met Offer, and Demir organized her first Sofar Istanbul six month ago.

Most bands that have played at Sofar applied to be part of the gig, while the rest were sought out by Sofar Istanbul. “There is an elimination process,” said Demir. All concerts are organized on voluntary basis.

Prohibitions during the concert

Sofar Istanbul concerts start with a warning: “Walking, eating or using mobile phones is prohibited during the concert,” said Demir.

Offer said he always wanted to come to Sofar Istanbul because it is quickly turning into one of the best Sofars in the world.

“I have always thought about Istanbul as one of the few places in the world where everyone can come and live and be together because there have been Christians, Muslims and Jews, people from every country, welcomed here for thousands of years.”

A fellow organizer, 27-year-old Gözde Tekay, said Sofar Istanbul receives around 500 requests for each gig. “We are full after the first five minutes,” Tekay said, complaining about the difficulty of finding large houses with enough space for shows.

One member of the audience, fashion designer Gülcin Çengel, heard about Sofar when one of her friends hosted a gig a couple of months ago. Not knowing the bands or location until the last day makes it a sensation, she said. Interior architect, Kerem Özerler has attended four Sofar gigs.

Being part of an event

Aslanoğlu described the difference between an ordinary concert and Sofar gigs: “When you go to a concert, you know the band already. Yet at Sofar you are here to be part of an event and to explore.”
One of the performers, 23-year-old Berlin-based Turkish musician Kaan Bulak, was invited to play at Sofar after his song “News Today” became a hit on social media. “People come here to listen to music; they are not here to dance or talk,” he said. Another performer, Cihan Murtazaoğlu, confessed that he did not know they would be playing such a small venue when he was invited. “People listening to music; the silence is not something we are used to. That’s why it was beautiful,” he added.

Sofar Sounds is in more than 50 cities worldwide including London, New York and Dubai. Next month, a Sofar performance will be held in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

In the meantime, another Istanbul host is getting ready to turn over his or her home to the city’s music lovers; the next secret Sofar gig in the city is set for next month.