Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Istanbul Spring 21012

Today was a wonderful day!  I woke up and straight away did the ashtanga primary yoga series in my beautiful bohemian flat with all the windows open letting the spring breeze waift through my flat while and blasting Indian music.   A fantastic way to start the day.

After a nice breakfast I made my way down Istiklal to go meet Saleh, a setar player from Iran who has been showing me Iranian makams.  Today we worked on a makam calld Charga. So dark, so beautiful!He taught me an ancient Persian wedding song in Charga.

He left and I got to practice on my own. I feel myself craving to create something new after 3 months of learning new things and shedding, so I’m starting to put all the new material into original compositions!

In the afternoon the drummers began arriving. Today it was Bunyamin, Suat Borazan, Ibo and Tarik.  We started jamming (everyone holding a rhythm and taking turns soloing over it).  This time something happened to me that’s never happened before. I entered a state ofjoy and fearlessness, and beautiful flawless phrases started effortlessly flowing out of me. It was one of the best feelings I ever had!  It felt like I was flying!

This is after more than 3 months of intense pratciing every day. In over three months there have only been two days where I didn’t go practice.   And it’s not always easy.  Even though I do love practicing, I’m not always in the mood and sometimes it more of a struggle than fun, especially when I’m practicing with such high level players.

But moments like I had today make it all worth it!

My Move!

This is my 4th year spending the winter in Istanbul, and I’ve decided it’s time to relocate and have this magical city as my home! I just got my 3 year residency permit, so after the July retreats in NY I will move here!  I’m so excited!

I'm working on some new musical projects here including a duet with a wonderful saz player Orhan Bilge and a new rhythm group with my teacher Bunyamin Olguncan and some of our other bad ass drumming friends here.  I also will start a darbuka school in Istanbul. I’m hoping to become active in Europe as well now that I’m so much closer.

I’m very excited about this! I will miss the awesome community I’ve build back in NY but I’m sure that most of my favorite people will be coming to visit, and I know that some of them are hoping to move here as well!


We had our second year in a row of March Istanbul Retreat!  We had participants from America, France, Italy, Spain, Israel, and one guy came all the way from Australia!  It was a wonderful group.  I taught a composition of Bunyamin’s called “Balik Pazar” in the early class and the afternoon was technique class w Bunyamin and Hakan Kaya.  There were crazy jam sessions every night at Bunyamin’s studio.  Everyone got a boost of inspiration!

It is customary to take off your shoes when you enter somebody’s home in Istanbul, but they don’t like to walk around barefoot, so every house provides a bunch of “Terlik”(house slippers) that are found at the entrance where you take off your shoes.

I love the custom of taking off your shoes to enter a home (I’ve always practiced that in my own house).  BUT I’m not crazy about having community slippers that I share with everybody.

So for the studio, I had a great idea.  Since I’m pretty much the only girl who hangs out there regularly I’ll get the girliest pair of high heal slippers and so there won’t be any chance of somebody else wearing them.

However, little did I know that these guys have absolutely no complex about wearing girly things.  In fact, I’ve never met more guys that wear pink than my Turkish guy friends.  So the result was that all the guys at the studio were not disuaded by the girly slippers and continued to wear them, especially Bunyamin (who happens to be my same shoe size).  He looked so cute in the high heeled girly slippers that I actually bought him his own pair (but mine are brown and his are gold and shinny) so now we have matching slippers that we wear in the studio.

Princess Island
There are some beautiful princess islands that are a ferry ride away from Istanbul.  My friend Danny and I took a trip to the biggest one called “Buyukada” (Big Island).   There are no cars so you rent bikes are ride around.  It started out as a beautiful spring day.  We got our soy lattes right before we boarded the ferry and spent the ride throwing pieces of simits (bagles) to the seaguls that followed the boat.
We rented a couple bikes (of course I got a purple one) and proceeded to ride around the Island.  We had a map that showed very clearly two routes to choose from – the short route or the long route.
How I managed to get us completely lost is beyond me, but I did.  We ended up riding up this huge hill for quite a while that led to nowhre.  Just as we realized that we were totally lost, the sky turned black, and the temperature dropped like 20 degrees and it started raining and winding.  We ended up totally bushwacking, carrying our bikes. 
Eventually we did manage to get back to the main road!  But before we made it back to the docks I saw a heartbreaking thing:
A beautiful while horse that was lying in the middle of the road, trying to get up but couldn’t!
I went up to it and tried to help it up but it couldn’t get up.  I ended up sitting on the road with its head in my lap giving it water and petting it for two hours until somebody came and called the vet.

I had to catch the boat back before the vet showed up so i dont know what happened.

One of my students was coming from the States and asked what to bring Bunyamin as a present.  So I asked Bunyamin what he wanted and and he said “vitamins”.  So I asked the student for a mens multi vitamin of some kind. 

The student arrived with two HUGE bottles- one of vitamin C and another men’s multivitamin.  I’ve never seen Bunyamin so excited.  He was like “how many per day?  what time?  should I take them with food”…  ect.  I was like “Its just vitamins – not medicine – it’s no big deal.” But to him it’s a very big deal.  When friends come over he makes a big ritual of taking out the vitamins and offering everybody.  Also when a student is struggling with a pattern Bunyamin will make them take the vitamins and then say “ok – now try it”. Actually, they usually do play better after the vitamins!

Date w KK
Kayhan Kalhor is one of the greatest Iranian kemenche players today.  He tours all over the world.  He’s also the only person besides me who plays the Shah Kemen – the incredible 12 string kemenche created by Peter Biffen in Australia.
He and I also happen to have the same birthday!  How odd is that?
He has a wonderful duet project with the Turkish saz player Erdal Erzincan and they played in Istanbul last month! It was one of the most stunning shows I’ve ever seen – only saz and kemenche.  It was like a beautiful dream! 
Erdal Erzincan is actually the teacher of Orhan, my saz player, who also attended the concert.   We both got so inspired since we are like their junior group.
The next day I got to meet Kayhan Kalhor for coffee!  It was great to see him in person and get to know him a little after listening to his albums for the last 10 years!  I hope one day to get to study with him.

I Can’t Stop
I know that it’s healthy to take a break sometimes.  Even Allah created the world in 6 days and then rested on the 7th.  I also should probably should have at least one day a week where I don’t touch a dumbek or kemenche.
But I can’t stop.  In my 3.5 months here so far there have been only two days that I didn’t come practice in the studio. Please, somebody take me on a trip or something so that I am forced to take a break!!!!

Anyway, here is the latest version of my duet with Bunyamin!  Next week we are going to Athens Greece to make a video of us playing it on Descarga Percusssion Drums!

Q drum is a big hit!
My friend Quentin Shaw from Chicago has been making these very unique metal drums with real skin heads for our store.  I brought one of them to Istanbul and it’s making a big hit!  The guys over here love it!

Identity Crisis
I’ve always played the 4 peg Raquy Dumbek in my shows and recordings.  But now after practicing on the clay drum w Bunyamin for several months, I’m having an identity crisis.  The clay drum is so warm and has the kick and the slides and all these things that the plastic skin doesn’t a have.  Then again the plastic one really cuts through on stage and is so much more durable easier to carry around.  I don’t know what I’ll use in my future shows!  Maybe the Q drum is a nice compromise.

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