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Okay Temiz

In Istanbul in 1939, Okay Temiz’s mother not only gave him the gift of life, but the gift of music. He has since dedicated his life to sharing that gift with the world. Music has been playing in his DNA since birth, being inspired as a child by his mother, Naciye Temiz, who was classically trained in Turkish music. With her encouragement, he studied percussion and tympani at the State Conservatoire of Classical Music in Ankara. On launching his professional musical career in 1955, Okay continued his studies at the Tophane Art Institute. where he acquired the musical knowledge and skills that enabled him to create his own drums and percussion instruments with unique sounds and features. He now has a wide collection of self-made ethnic and electronic instruments, including a hand-made copper drum kit, the Magic Pyramid and Artemiz, which he constructed using camel and sheep bells. These add a unique and transformative quality to his accomplished musicianship and distinctive style.

Between 1959 and 1967, Temiz performed in several programmes and shows, accompanying dance music groups in Turkey. In 1967, he joined Ulvi Temel’s group and performed in some of the most prestigious music halls in Europe. This led to a move to Sweden where he met trumpeter Maffy Falay whose artistry in improvised music had a strong impact on Okay. The duo formed the group Sevda, their fascinating pulsating fusion of the striking melodies and rhythms of Turkish folk music with western jazz winning great acclaim. In the following years, Temiz provided a clear and bright musical palette for Stockholm radio stations, not to mention the Symphonic Orchestra, to which he added new sonic and percussive elements. While in both Sweden and Denmark, Temiz collaborated with highly esteemed names of the jazz scene, such as Dexter Gordon, George Russell and Clark Teery during a period full of rich musical experiences.

During that time, he met the American trumpet master Don Cherry, who was then settled in Sweden and renowned for being one of the pioneers of world music. This became a long-lasting partnership, with them performing together for years at festivals, concerts and on recordings. With the addition of the African bassist Johnny Dyani in 1971, the trio began facilitating courses at New Hampshire College, one of the leading popular music schools in the USA. That same year, they recorded a concert in Ankara for the Sonet Records label.

A year later, Temiz, together with the accomplished musicians, bassist Dyani and South African trumpeter Mongezi Feza, formed the group Xaba. This formed a significant stage in his musical career, as they rapidly gained considerable attention via three albums that could be described as an individual style of avant-garde jazz, effectively securing the group’s place in the history of jazz. Okay greatly appreciated the musicianship of his two collaborators and there was a palpable telepathic connection between them all. He has stated that these were amongst the best times of his career. The albums were released by the UK label Sonet Records in Scandinavia, the USA and the UK.

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