Tuesday, January 24, 2012


First week Back in Istanbul, 2012!

Beautiful reunion after not seeing each other for 9 months!

I'm back in Istanbul, my favorite place on earth! This is my fourth year in a row spending the winter here and I find myself falling in love with this city more and more each time. I keep extending my trip each time. The first year I stayed one month, the second, two months, the third three months and this year, I'll be here for four whole months!
Since it is 2012 and may be the last year of the world as we know it I decided to go all out this time and spare no expense to make it the most magical experience ever.

My Bohemian Flat with Murals

My kemenche is right at home in my new place!

This is the first year that I'm living in my own place without my students. I must say I LOVE having my own place. I found it on airbnb which is an incredible site for finding places to stay in foreign countries. The flat is on my favorite street, a 5 minute walk from Emin Percussion and the music street and a 15 minute stroll down the beautiful pedestrian walkway, Istiklal, to get to Bunyamin's practice studio. Basically I never see a car.
It's an adorable one bedroom apartment that is in a gorgeous old building but has been lovingly renovated to be sooo comfortable without losing the exotic charm. The heat works great, there is an awesome shower with hot water, the kitchen is small but totally workable and there are beautiful kilims and pillows with seating on the floor just how I like it. And the walls in the living room have beautiful murals! I felt at home as soon as I stepped into this place! It's totally inspiring!

Bunyamin's Slick Antraman Studio

He's so happy in his new studio!

When I first met my teacher Bunyamin four years ago he had an "office" which he used for practicing. He was like the King there - it was the place for all of the best drummers to get together and jam. Then he lost the place and for the last couple years he didn't have his own space.
This year I decided to splurge and help him get a new office. He took it a couple months before I arrived and spent some time painting it blue and preparing everything so by the time I arrived it was all ready.
He is so happy there! He is there every day from 4pm till the early morning. He installed a heater so its super cozy. He put candles all over the place and burns incense. When I first arrived it was so cute - he couldn't stop putzing around - making tea, adjusting the heat, adjusting the lighting cleaning, ect. I've never met anyone so neat and clean. He fanatically cleans and mops the place every day!
It's the perfect place to practice- there's a big rug and pillows for those like me who like to sit on the floor (and it's awesome for practicing yoga as well!) All of the great drummers have been coming by every day to practice. And here's the best thing about it - NO SMOKING!!!!!! I think it's the first time in history that a Turkish drummer has a no smoking policy in his practice studio! Whoever wants to smoke is kindly asked to do so on the balcony! What a pleasure to practice and breathe clean air! Plus he has a no shoes policy! It's sooo awesome!!!

Bunyamin is Flying
Ever since he got the studio Bunyamin has been practicing more than ever. His level now is completely off the charts - nobody can believe it, including the other amazing Turkish drummers. His hand have just become one big blur. We are slowly putting together a new composition based on the stuff he's coming up with - mostly in 9, but some cool stuff in 7 as well.

The other day Suat Borozan came over to practice and after complaining that he never has time to practice anymore proceeded to completely kick my butt playing this stuff in unison about three times as fast as I could. I love it - there's nothing like a good challenge! But even though I'm still not as fast as these guys, everyone here noticed that my level is much better than last year - I guess all of those drill series and office hours are paying off!

Bunyamin and Suat Jamming

Today Mehmet Akatay is coming! This other guy Ibrahim comes almost every day as well as this guy Tarik who plays tabla.

A couple people have already come with me this year. Yufi and Sam who were with me last year came back again! They've both been taking lessons from Bunyamin. Also Osama Farouk, perhaps the best Arabic style drummer living in America came just for a few days,but he took a lesson from Bunyamin as well! It was beautiful to see them jamming together, masters of two very different styles!

Osama having his lesson

My Routine
I still haven't really adjusted from New York time, so I have to drag myself out of bed at 1pm. After meditation I take a walk around the neighborhood. First I stop at Emin Percssion to have a tea and see who's jamming. Then I got to my juice guy and get a pomegranate juice and say hi to the Galata Tower. There are so many cute little cafe's all around my house - my mission is to try them all. I sit at one of the cafes and study Turkish. Then I go back home and practice kemenche and throat singing for a few hours. Then I walk down Istiklal, the beautiful pedestrian walkway to go to Bunyamin's studio. I try to take different little side streets each time - there are so many quaint little ally ways to explore!
From 6ish till late late night, it's basically practicing with Bunyamin and friends with a short break for dinner. After a few years of being here, I now know where to get amazing food. The salads here are absolutely stunning and ridiculously cheap. When I'm here I live on raw veggis, beans and dried fruit and nuts.

One of my favorite places to eat

At around 2 am Bunyamin and I go back to my place and "fig out" - we make a pot of hibiscus tea and snack on dried figs and nuts. After he falls asleep, since I'm still jet lagged, I do my yoga practice and go to sleep at around 5. I hope I'll adjust and get on a slightly more normal schedule, but there is something I'm enjoying about this vampire - like existence!

New Project!

Since I plan to spend more and more time in Istanbul I want to start a musical project here. I've been dreaming for years of finding a saz player to learn my compositions. It just so happens that the studio next door to Bunyamin's is owned by a saz player! It turns out he studied with Erdal Erzincan, the saz player who plays with Kayhan Kalhoor! I gave him a cd of my music and tomorrow we will have our first session playing together.

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