Istanbul's musical ferry can be a soulful experience - GulfToday

Istanbul's musical ferry can be a soulful experience

Turkey music

Musicians Oguzhan Erdem plays ney, Eren Koc keyboard and Zafer Saka guitar during a ferry trip. Bulent Kilic/AFP

It's already one of the world's most original commutes the ferry trip between Istanbul's European and Asian sides gives a daily quarter of a million passengers’ unforgettable views on their way to work. 

"We travel back and forth between the two continents and we try to express emotions sparked by the two cultures: a kind of fusion, a synthesis," Oguzhan Erdem, one of the ferry musicians, said.

Until recently, ferry musicians played without authorisation, but city authorities realised they were missing an opportunity and launched a project to make them an official part of the experience.

We travel back and forth between the two continents and we try to express emotions sparked by the two cultures: a kind of fusion, a synthesis.

Erdem plays the Turkish ney reed flute, an instrument traditionally used by Sufis, a mystical branch of Islam, while his band mate plays a Western-style keyboard.

"It's merging the East with the West," said Erdem.

Like being in a movie

In total, 82 musicians work on the intra-city line from 9:00 am until the last ferry at 1:00 am. 

Istanbul is full of buskers both Turkish and foreign particularly on its busy shopping hub of Istiklal Avenue.

Turkey music 2
The musicians work hard to ensure their music reflects Istanbul's unique position as a city straddling East and West.

Eren Koc, who plays the keyboard, is a sculptor by profession and found himself playing on the ferries after visiting the city for one of his exhibitions.

"There are interesting moments on the ferries. When applause suddenly breaks out or some people stand up and dance it is like being in a movie," he said. 

"The tunes speak to my soul and rest my mind. It takes me back to the past," said Nimet, with tears in her eyes as she listened to the ney.

"Like the water flowing in the Bosphorus, it is triggering a flow of emotions inside," she said, wistfully.

Erdem is happy to inspire people.

Turkey music 3In total, 82 musicians work on the intra-city line from 9:00 am until the last ferry at 1:00 am.

Recruiting

Tunc Baydar, coordinator of the project for the municipality, said musicians playing in an unauthorised fashion had previously caused problems for the crew and security personnel.

"We kicked off the 'Music on the Ferry' project in 2016 so that we could create an environment for those musicians to play in the ferry with permission, more comfortably," he said.

"We have turned the ferry musicians into part of our brand."

"We watch their videos on social media. We've even begun recruiting conservatoire students." 

"We listen to music in the metros in Europe but it's so beautiful on the sea," said Berker Colak, a tourist from Germany who came to Istanbul with his fiance.

"The seagulls and the music create a really authentic ambiance, a real harmony."

Agence France-Presse