Syrian Musicians’ Orchestra Host the First Night of the 23rd Istanbul Jazz Festival

The festival aims to showcase the cultural riches of Syria and build bridges between Turkish and Syrian communities in Istanbul

July 08th, 2016

In a move of symbolic significance, the head of the Istanbul Jazz Festival hands the reins to the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians for the first night, in acknowledgement of the changing cultural dynamic of the city.

Istanbul is now home to more than 300,000 Syrian refugees, a fact that explains the Jazz Festival’s trilingual programme in Turkish, English and Arabic. The head of the Festival, Pelin Opcin, said of the strong Arab presence: “we wanted to organise a concert that would reflect the new cultural mosaic that our country is home to. We are convinced that music has the power to unite people from different cultures and open up paths of dialogue and learning.” The effect of having the Syrian orchestra host the first night was to change the perception of Syrians from solely refugees to part of the larger global community, and give them an opportunity to showcase their cultural riches.

The music on the evening spanned many styles, with the Syrian Orchestra accompanying various musical guests, ranging from Damon Albarn, lead singer of “Blur” and “Gorillaz”, to an Arabic Hip Hop quartet.
Through the musical focus of the event, the emphasis was on the human side of the recent refugee crisis, rather than solely on the problems seen on mainstream media. This idea was reiterated by Eslam Jawaad, a Lebanese-Syrian rapper born in Damascus, who expressed dismay at the media’s coverage of Syria, saying “the media only reports on the war zones, not what else is going on in Syria.”

The feeling of unity between the Turkish audience and their Syrian neighbours was tangible, proving that cultural bridges are achievable between the many displace Syrians and their host countries.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Chris Schneider, CD News