A very Turkish experience

A very Turkish experience


August 21, 2012, Tuesday/ 17:25:00

In theory, I’m as keen as the next person to sample live Turkish music, but in practice I take a considerable amount of persuading in order to forego my usual early bed routine and to be prepared to cope with the idiosyncrasies of the Turkish concert experience.

However, I was more than willing to make an exception for the famous Aynur Doğan, who recently performed at the Açık Hava Theater in Antalya’s Beach Park. Aynur is a Kurdish singer and musician born in a small mountain town in southeast Turkey. Although it’s impossible for me to understand the intricacies of the lyrics when she is performing, the power of her voice is truly amazing. We bought tickets from the Musicomania shop on the edge of the Kaleiçi and were advised at the time that although the official start, as written on the posters and tickets, was for 9 p.m., she would probably not be making her entrance until 9:30 p.m.

Excuse me!

Taking heed of the warning -- and previous experiences -- we opted not to arrive until after nine. The theater which seats several thousand, seemed ominously empty with only a trickle of people making their way on to the tiered rows. We had been informed that Aynur’s concerts in various European cities had been sold out and therefore were expecting the same in Antalya. The seats were numbered, and in good British style we made sure we were correctly positioned. Not so, many of our fellow concert-goers. We watched countless groups of people, arriving late and finding themselves involved in verbal arguments with intruders in their allotted spaces.

A father and his three daughters had settled themselves in four vacant seats in the row in front when a middle-aged chap turned up brandishing a ticket for the one occupied by the youngest child, and refusing to consider all reasonable remonstrance from both the dad, and the friend sitting alongside me, he happily settled himself down in the very midst of this party. The father was forced to abandon his two eldest children and seek two empty seats (of which there were plenty) elsewhere. Further to the front a large group had chosen to install themselves in the front row and refused to move when the owners of the correct tickets turned up later, despite the best efforts of the rather ineffectual security guards. In the UK, nobody would dream of attempting such bold effrontery, and certainly no one would dare defy the mighty power of the authorities.

Nine for 10:30

Still, at least these shenanigans kept us amused while waiting. Needless to say, 9:30 p.m. came and went without any sign of the concert beginning. Nobody around us seemed in any way bothered by this, in fact people were still drifting in gradually, surveying the scene, chatting to friends and eventually choosing somewhere to sit. All that is except my friend, who, not being either Turkish in which case a late start is the norm, or British in which case, like me, he would wait patiently and quietly for many hours. No, being neither of these nationalities, he was able to shout out at top volume that it was time to begin, causing numerous heads to turn in our direction. Clearly this made no impression on the star of the show, who finally graced the stage sometime after 10 o’clock.

Tea and biscuits

In my past, I have spent many nights going to gigs in all parts of the UK, and cheap alcohol was as much a part of the whole experience as the music itself. This rule applies not just to rock or pop music, but even at classical concerts or opera the evening was rarely complete without a trip to the bar during the interval for a quick gin and tonic. Here in Antalya, although there were two or three little kiosks positioned inside the grounds that sold cans of Efes beer, by far the majority of the audience had no interest in imbibing lukewarm cans of lager. Instead they were remarkably happy on bottles of water, cans of coke or for the most part, cups of tea accompanied by packets of chocolate biscuits. A few, including my husband, really let his hair down, and bought a bag of popcorn. But, unlike the equivalent concert in Britain, this audience had no need to enhance their enjoyment of the music with anything stronger.

Strutting their stuff

One of the last concerts that I attended in the UK, admittedly quite a few years ago, was a comeback by the great and legendary Bob Dylan in Sheffield. I went with a group of friends; we sat in the correct seats and surreptitiously drank illicit alcohol carefully disguised in plastic bottles. When Bob got going and the mood took us, we and a vast proportion of the audience took to our feet and moved forward to find a space in order to strut our stuff to the music. Within seconds, an army of security guards appeared from out of thin air and marshaled each and every one of us back to our seats issuing stern warnings not to repeat this criminal behavior. Not so in Turkey. Dancing is very much encouraged. For certain of the songs performed by this fantastic singer, there was no possible chance of many members of the audience remaining in their seats. They converged into the space in front of the stage and linking fingers danced away, while the two or three security guards looked on in admiration. When the toe-tapping song had finished they would return to their seats, but reappear at the next suitable opportunity.

Wending our weary way home

When the splendid Aynur finally wrapped up her show to many rounds of applause, it was nearly midnight. In the UK this would signal the end of any public transport and therefore an expensive taxi ride home. Not so in Antalya. Buses were still running along the main road, providing an almost door-to-door service and what’s more there was still plenty of time and opportunities to eat or drink -- beer, tea, ice cream parlors, baklava shops, kebabs or whatever might take your fancy. Compared to the dull and dreary streets of most British towns at this late hour, the trip home was nearly as exciting as the concert itself.

So if Aynur comes to a venue near you, I would strongly recommend that you make the effort to support this indomitable Kurdish singer.