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Re:konstruKt: New Music Online from Istanbul

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The online independent label re:konstruKt was founded in 2008 by Umut Çağlar, an Istanbul-based guitarist and leader of the konstruKt quartet. The label was formed few months after the band's first rehearsals. Its initial purpose was to document the evolution of the Istanbul experimental scene.

Çağlar's development as a musician is a good example of the way Turkish improvisers have paved their own way: "We can talk about 'constructions' and 'constructed parts,'" he says. "I first started to make music by playing avant-garde, jazz, punk and noise stuff"—asked for some references, Çağlar cites the early work of saxophonists John Zorn, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane and composer Heiner Goebbels and improv musician Steve Beresford]—"with no technical knowledge but playing by instinct."


From left: Barlas Tan Ozemek, Korhan Futaci, Marshall Allen

At the beginning, Çağlar knew very little about harmony, melody or any other aspects of music theory. "When I started university I was interested in electronic music and I worked as a DJ. I was involved in some experimental projects with electronics, computers and this stuff. But when I started to play guitar I was able to mix and melt together my knowledge of electronic music with free guitar playing. Sometimes I feel like I'm playing a loop on my guitar, not looping it electronically but playing the loop myself. It's not common, there's something similar in the music of Terry Riley and in other experimental things, but in free jazz it's kind of strange to some people."

Even if Çağlar cites instinct as his first ignition, a look at the overall Istanbul scene shows a surprising degree of coherence. To get some context, listen to percussionist Okay Temiz's records with multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry or drummer Pete La Roca's Turkish Women at the Bath (Douglas, 1967). A good place to start can be imagining a mix between percussionist, vibraphonist and pianist Hüseyin Ertunç's Musiki (Intex Records, 1972)—one of Mats Gustaffson's collector's items —recorded in Los Angeles in 1972 with a couple of local free jazz players, and the obscure stuff made by Alan Sondheim in 1967 for ESP—an forerunner of the AMM collective.

Ertunç, who lives in Bodrum and is also a painter, is Çağlar's close friend. He appears as a percussionist in konstruKt's Vibrations of the Day (re:konstruKt, 2010), also featuring alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, and as a pianist in a session the quartet and tenorist Peter Brötzmann recorded in May 2011. The latter, unlike the recent Dolunay (re:konstruKt, 2011) record, will be put out on vinyl on an European label Çağlar is still looking for.

The team at re:konstruKt has become international, while the pool of local musicians involved numbers more than twenty. "It's something new, according to the whole avant-garde music history," says Çağlar. "We're here doing this since two or three years right now, and I see there is a younger generation after us who have started to do similar things. It's good to have a feedback on that. Maybe we started something, and after ten years we'll see what we have done, and people can judge us for what we did, but right now we're in the middle of it. But after four years I can see progress. People look at us and say 'oh, they do strange stuff but they can handle it.'"


From left: Huseyin Ertunc, Korhan Arguden

The konstruKt group started playing locally in small bars and clubs, but festival appearances followed and in 2009-10 it picked up some useful international profile. Canadian magazine Signal To Noise gave some coverage in 2009, followed by the UK's The Wire, which added a free CD to its December 2010 issue.

Social networking and the presence of prime international movers and shakers has been helpful not only in promoting the music but in making Istanbul a new "hot spot" for improvisation. "So many people are aware of what we do right now," says Çağlar. "And Facebook and Myspace and other social networks help in spreading the name of the label and the band. When I say 'I'm from konstruKt,' or 'I'm from the re:konstruKt label,' they know of it. We are dealing with a bunch of Dutch organizations, and I think we're going to organize things, making and sharing records from Amsterdam to Istanbul and back, and also concerts and workshops.

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