So a few closing thoughts (more or less) on our pilgrimage to Turkey...

Ok, by now anyone who reads this blog regularly MUST be tiring of my thoughts and obsessions on our recent trip to Turkey!  It was all I wrote about for the three weeks BEFORE we left, it is all I wrote about DURING the trip and it is all I have written about since RETURNING from the trip a week ago today.  Yeah, it was life-changing and beautiful and a privilege and all the rest... but come on, right?  Get a life, man! 

My man, Mickey Hart (of Grateful Dead fame and drummer supreme) once wrote:  No human culture has ever existed without music. Music is a necessity. It is not just for survival or for entertainment. Music makes us human.  Leonard Bernstien once said: Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.  And old Ludwig Van put it like this:  Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.

So, in order to try to get a life and get back into my Berkshire groove, here goes...

+ The chance to travel and play music with an incredible cast of musicians and lovely human beings; not every band is wonderful - but this one is - and I am grateful.

+ Making contact with the very insightful folk from the US State Department; I hope we can find other ways to share American jazz together throughout the world.

+ Opening the Inter-Cultural Dialogue Festival in Beyoglu the same night we arrived in town: what a buzz to be playing on a sweet stage before 800+ people.

+ Rockin' the house at the Pasazade Cafe and Club Barcode in Istanbul; the band played some of our best gigs on those nights - and the crowds were supportive and great.

+ The hospitality and warm welcome from Ahmet and Eser when we played in Iznik; such caring and beauty the entire weekend.

Superstition in Sultanahmet from Tessa Kelly on Vimeo.

+ Wandering the city with the Jazz Ambassadors; a wild and crazy bunch of friends who made going to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia truly special.  Eating and drinking with these guys every night was a total adventure, too.

+ Getting into the Nardis Jazz Club our last night in town - and listening to Benny bring the house down!

Go Bennie Go from Tessa Kelly on Vimeo.

+ Wandering some of the back streets of Istanbul with my sweetie:  being in a foreign land exploring with Dianne is the closest thing I know to heaven.

+ The care of all our our host - Altan, Ahmet, Eser and the US State Department staff - who shared true Turkish hospitality with us in ways that made this wild trip easier.

+ Some of the conversations that took place after each gig - with band mates or our hosts - about building bridges across cultural and religious chasms.

+ The Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art was both a must see and situated on the bank of the Bosporus:  the view alone is worth the price of admission.

+ The Turkish Lira to US dollar exchange rate was sweet.

+ The mixture of ancient and modern was stunning to my sense of aesthetics.

+ Meeting our jazz buddy, Omer, and hearing him sing "God Bless the Child." Pure heaven.


+ I missed getting connected with our World Board mission folk and regret that; I hope in future visits we can spend time together because they are key to any inter-religious dialogue.

+ Man was our part of the city wild at night!  This was way cool when we were out on the town, but when we were trying to sleep at 3 am... not so much.

+ It became clear that for any real inter-religious dialogue to happen we were going to have to cultivate people on the ground in Turkey who are interested in this work; playing jazz was a good way to open the door.  Going deeper is going to take a whole lot more work.

+ OMG is that a long plane trip!  And what's the deal with Spanish customs?  Those guys were like the Keystone Cops on crack!  Weird...

+ Not having a cell phone in Istanbul was a stone cold drag.  I am so used to just making last minute arrangements; next time we travel, this is a MUST.

+ The street hustlers got a little old - and insistent - as the trip wore on; we had to make them part of the game otherwise somebody might have gotten punched out.  As Rick Steves notes: these guys play on Americans being polite so... watch out!  Nothing dangerous, mind you, but a pain in the ass.

+ Feeling VERY uncomfortable with women in burqahs - we still have to unpack this a LOT - but given our feminist, Western context this was unsettling for a thousand and one reasons.

+ Not having comparable amplifiers and drums - this was a creative mixed bag really - but playing through a tiny amp really messed up our sound.  Next time...

Ok, ok that's enough, right?  Here's to life in the Berkshires!


Philomena Ewing said…
This is a great recount of the highlights and you must be exhausted.
Music is a great healer of divisions and the part you have played here in witnessing across cultures is brilliant.

The burqa thing got to us too when we went to Morocco this year!

I'm glad you are back safe.

Black Pete said…
Here's another reader who isn't tired of your descriptions, James. Bring it on, or if you like, create a blog dedicated to that trip alone (nah, too much work...).
RJ said…
Thanks, my friends. I suspect that there is more to say... but I need to give that some time. Blessings to you both. And lots o love.

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