I have been involved as of October 2019 in a project titled “Müştemilat Kumpanya”. It translates literally as “The Annex Company”. The projects aims at presenting concerts and educational events based on music in villages and small towns neighbouring the greater Izmir area. Its motto is “Art for You”. Having moved to Urla, a historical small town on the Çeşme peninsula near Izmir in the summer of 2017, I was eager to take part in project in my new surroundings. However, cultural activities are much more scarce in Izmir compared to Istanbul which had been my home for 17 years. So when Veysel Eryürek who is the projects’s creator asked me to be a part of it, I was excited.
Veysel has been a cultural operator of the sort that is still rare in Turkey. He had previously built an audience in the small neighbourhood of Seferihisar, an adjecent town to Urla. It was the annex of the once municipality building of Urkmez, a holiday spot. He was teaching guitar in a room not bigger than a living room and then one day he thought of turning into a performance space. His events there drew hundreds. I performed twice as a volunteer in that space to lovely audiences. Veysel never gave up. Over five years he helped build an audience with almost a gusto to speak of. He showed a lot of perseverance and never gave up. I had admired him from a distance and now find great joy as I am to finish off the first part of this new project where I am scheduled to play six concerts. I am literally going to places no harp has ever been to and in places almost no one had ever been to a concert in their life!
Places we go to are remote but also simply beautiful. Well, Turkey is a stunning country. The diversity is amazing form one village to the next. And the Aegean has such wonderful autumns that it has been a joy. The villages all have something unique. History, ethnicity, customs, food, even the agriculture, which ranges from cotton, to cherries, to chickpeas and what not, you name it. The travel bug in me has been devouring the area around Izmir.
I have now finished 4 concerts and have 2 more to go until the end of the year. On every outing which carefully planned, we spent time with the locals, have a chat with them. I have children line up at the end of concerts to try out the harp. In Yukarı Kızıilca near the town of Kemalpaşa, I also visited an elementary school where I talked about the harp and accompanied the children as my friend Bora taught them a “türkü” (popular song).
Villages lack places for gathering. Only twice there was an auditorium. So we have been setting our stage in places as diverse as the local sports facility and wedding halls. It is not easy to play in such venues…as there is no culture for listening to music in the spirit of the space itself. And the same goes for audiences. But it has been a real success as an organized effort from all parties involved. I see myself as a little bit of a pioneer. I can take it because maybe it adds something to a kids perspective, gives hope to an eldery, soothes another.