Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Istanbul Adventures - February 2012

Istanbul Blog Feb 8th 2012-02-08

It’s amazing to me that I’ve been here almost a whole month. I feel like this is the happiest time of my life. I wake up every day full of joy, excitement and gratitude for this incredible opportunity life is offering me. I savour every day here in Istanbul as a precious gift.

The Best Antraman Ever!!!!!
The antraman this year has been intense! Now that we have a beautiful, comfortable , smoke free place to practice, Bunyamin and I are practicing like crazy.

I’ve had a few hard days with practicing, when I feel like I’m swimming upstream – that everything is a struggle, that nothing is sounding quite right, that my body and mind aren’t relaxed. When I see the speed and dexterity of the other guys I feel discouraged and hopeless of ever getting to that level. I witness such beauty effortlessly streaming out of Bunyamin – such mastery, perfection and pure expression and I feel frustrated and impatient that I’m not there.
Sometimes when I’m playing with Bunyamin I have a mental image of a mother giraffe (Bunyamin) walking so beautifully and gracefully with no effort, and the baby giraffe (me) stumbling along trying to imitate its mother. I get insulted when he tells me the things that I always tell my students – that I need to be more relaxed, slow things down and articulate more. I’m like “That’s what I say to MY students! You shouldn’t have to tell me that!”
On such days the best thing is to leave the studio early have a shot of Raki and chill- maybe go hear some live music and dance a little or go home and read my awesome murder mystery book that takes place in Istanbul.

However, most of the days at the studio I’m absolutely soaring. I realized the importance of arriving at the studio a couple hours before Bunyamin so that I have some time to go over stuff by myself. Then by the time he arrives I’m all warmed up!
I’ve had several realizations about the hand position that has taken my playing to a whole different level. My rolls are getting so flowing and smooth and my ability to come up with cool solo phrases is improving daily. The drummers who come to the studio regularly can’t believe my progress. Ibrahim yesterday was saying that he can’t imagine how I’ll be playing after 4 months of this! My biggest compliment is that everyone’s been saying that I’m sounding more and more like Bunyamin.

When other drummers are there we spend a good amount of time “jamming” where everyone is holding a rhythm and everybody gets a turn to do four measures of solo. It used to be that as soon as my turn was over I’d spend the whole cycle planning what I was going to do on my next turn.
Now I have a different approach which is so much better! I don’t plan AT ALL. Whatever I do is a direct response to the person who goes right before me. Either I imitate him or contrast him or do a variation on his thing, but whatever it is, it must have something to do with what he did. It makes the drum circle so much more enjoyable! I can actually listen to everybody else because I’m not so busy planning. I also am more connected to what’s happening around me since I’m responding to a spontaneous phrase as opposed to planning my own thing. I end up doing phrases that are new and refreshing when I get out of my own head! I’m so happy about this new approach! I encourage everyone to try it next time you are jamming with people.

Because our studio is so nice and comfortable, many of the Turkish drummers have made it their daily hang out – yesterday there were ten drummers who just happened to stop by and spent all evening there! Everybody brings snacks so we are bombarded with nuts and dried fruit and chocolate and cookies and stuffed grape leaves and of course Turkish Delight. It’s nice, but it’s been getting a little too much, so some days when they call Bunyamin tells them”Sorry, today Raquy and are working on our composition – come tomorrow”, because when everyone is there we don’t work on or composition.


The Turkish Chai (Tea) is a huge thing. There is a certain way that Turks may tea. They are very picky about it. One day I was like “I’ll make the tea” and I started doing it and three different people ran over to me frantically giving instructions about how to do it. So now I know and am officially qualified to make the tea. It’s very bitter and strong and they serve it in these cute little glasses. I’d say Bunyamin drinks about 15 of those every day. One day the tea pot broke and it was a big crisis. Bunyamin was on the phone for hours trying to get a friend to bring another one! Thank god the next day we got another one!

My Awesome Saz Player!!!

I started a new duet project here, saz and kemenche, with a wonderful saz player named Orhan Bilge. He's awesome and his studio is right next door to ours so we rehearse a few times a week. He's learning my compositions and it's turning out soooo beautiful! Saz and kemenche are just gorgeous together! Plus he's a really nice guy and not so bad to look at either! Right now we're just rehearsing but I hope we'll do some show in a couple months!

My Tantrums at TurkCell
Every time I come back to Turkey my cell phone doesn’t work and I have to have two or three tantrums at the TurkCell office.
I’ve come to look forward to these tantrums. This year I had to go so many times it became a part of my daily routine – have breakfast, study Turkish, go to TurkCell and have a tantrum, go antraman, ect. It was so much fun.
Unfortunately after about 12 visits this year, my I phone is working perfectly as a Turkish phone, so I have no more excuses to go back, I hope something will stop working soon.

My Laaz Kemenche Friend

When you walk up and down Istiklal, the pedestrian walkway you see amazing musicians all along the way. My favorite is this Laaz guy from the Black Sea who plays the pontic kemenche. I love him. One day I mentioned to him that I play to so he immediately handed me his kemenche, had me sit down in his seat and told me “I need a break – bye!” and left.
Fortunately I know how to play one song on the pontic kemenche so I sat there for a while and played that song over and over (people are walking by so its okay to play the same song on repeat) and made a little money for him. It was so much fun!

My Mom is Coming!

After four years of me living part time in Istanbul I finally convinced my mama to come visit! She has work to do on her Masters degree, so I can still antraman while she’s here. I’m so excited to show her my favorite city! She’s coming Feb 18th for 6 days. I think she’s gonna love it here!!!

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