Jazz on the Bosphorus: Troubled Waters
"The problem at hand is getting Buster's loot to him for honest week's work. Let's not throw shit at each other. This is certainly not a political issue. This is about solidarity between musicians, artists and folks who love the music. The last thing we need now is other 'things' getting involved in this. Aytek is the problem here. Not the club, the other personnel and certainly not the country. Peace..."
Still no official comments from the club or its director, and apparently the situation kept deteriorating, until, on May 19, Hurriyet, a major Turkish newspaper, published a report by Barış Akpolat: "Big Earthquake at the Istanbul Jazz Center." According to the story, young jazz player Kıvaner Uraz, during a rehearsal reminded Aytek Şermet that he still had to receive some fee, but in answer he was physically attacked and told that only five people came to listen to him and on top of that he wanted money. Caustically, the writer suggested that, for Şermet, "[it] is now time to shut the door and go south to grow tomatoes...."
It seems such an outcome is even more likely after a very large and representative group of Turkish and Istanbul-resident jazz musicians signed a joint declaration calling for a boycott of the club, warts and all:
With the latest increase in the number of the live music venues Istanbul is returning back to its old magnificent and vibrant music scene. Just because there are no legal and written agreements between the business managers and the artists all the problems and communications are solved between the artists criteria and personal practices. In this equation, business managers and owners are taking the advantage of being an employer and acting as they want, behaving unjustly towards the musicians and artists. However, there is one important thing forgotten; no musician, no business. This system has to be established to be mutually beneficial, not neediness.
Unfortunately, jazz musicians are struggling with a business owner who is not responsible for his actions, business ethics and manner. For a long time we have been hearing complaints from both local and international jazz musicians about the business owner at Istanbul Jazz Center (JC's), Aytek Şermet. Lately Mr. Şermet has violently acted towards our beloved friend Uraz Kivaner, and we decided to get united, knowing that personal responses towards Mr. Şermet will not be sufficient enough.
Regardless of who they may be, as long as these false manners are not corrected, we will face these problems together as communion and we will refuse playing at these locations. We're hoping that our boycott will come to a conclusion by sharing these upsetting events with the local and international musicians and the listeners following us and the media itself.
We, musicians having their signatures below, are censuring Mr. Şermet and his actions, and announcing publicly that, without any changes applied to the management politics and apologies, [we are] refusing to play at the Istanbul Jazz Center.
More than sixty names follow, practically a who's who of Turkish jazz, including former club director himself, Kerem Görsev, Aziz Şenol Filiz and Birol Yayla of Yansimalar, Ferit Odman, a regular drummer at the club, Selen Gülün, one of the most original piano players, and the very in demand drummer Ediz Hafızoğlu. Others added their support later. From a non-unionized and notoriously individualistic category like jazz musicians this is an important step that demonstrates how unbearable the situation is. It is worth noting that the association supporting the protest has been in operation since 2011, in defense of the musicians' interests, and that their previous actiona protest against the policy of airlines regarding instruments as luggageyielded substantial results.
This press release triggered further comments from disgruntled customers about the noise of diners in the club, about shows canceled without refund of tickets, and more musicians chimed in, like German singer Stefanie Boltz:
"Incredible to hear all these stories! I was fooled as well two weeks ago! Every professional detail that can go wrong went wrongaccommodation, no-[show by] announced local musicians at the sound check (which was not their mistake), no advertising, no dinner, two times cancelled shows (which they didn't want to pay), last show we ourselves didn't go onstage cause we were not paid."