Alexandra Ivanoff
Last updated: 1 October, 2012

Giant jazz festival opens the cultural season in Istanbul

Akbank, one of Turkey’s most prominent banks, has a division called Akbank Sanat (Akbank Art) which is owned and operated out of a 6-story building in the heart of Taksim Square, a vibrant commercial district in Istanbul.

In addition to presenting modern art exhibitions, film festivals, classical music concerts, modern dance, and children’s theatre, Akbank Sanat produces a large jazz festival every autumn. Beginning October 3 and ending on the 21st, a total of 62 concerts and 20 tangential events, like workshops, panels, jazz brunches and more, are offered all over the city, as well as on high school and university campuses across the nation.

This is the 22nd year of the Akbank Jazz Festival, and it has a roster of hundreds of international performers of not just classic straight-ahead jazz, but mingled with genres such as funk, avant-garde, folk fusion, hip-hop, dub, klezmer, drum & bass, Afro-Cuban, electronic, be-bop, Latin, electro-swing, R&B, contemporary, blues, DJ, gospel, dark jazz, New Orleans, and avant-garde.

Headliners like saxophonist Anthony Braxton, trombonist Nils Landgren, and guitarists Larry Coryell and Frank Vignola will grace the stages and clubs throughout the 19-day schedule, along with pianists like Ketil Bjørnstadt, Michael Wollny, Nick Bärtsch, Michiel Borstlap, and Aydin Esen. The festival prides itself on introducing new talent; among them is the young Lebanese lion of the trumpet world, Ibrahim Maalouf; a new vocalist from Capo Verde, Lura; saxophonist from India, Rudresh Mahanthappa Samdhi; and an ensemble from Finland, Elifantree.

After the Islamic holiday of Bayram from October 20-28, and Turkish Republic Day on October 29, the Turkish cultural season blasts off with a full-time schedule from as many as 50 different performing arts presenters of Western classical music, Turkish classical music, dance, theatre, film festivals, opera, folk music, jazz, pop, rock, and avant-garde, including international touring artists.

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Alexandra Ivanoff is a cultural journalist living in Istanbul and a regular contributor to Your Middle East. She also writes for TIME OUT ISTANBUL monthly magazine, TODAY’S ZAMAN daily newspaper, and the global edition of