Music And Nightlife

Nightlife is synonymous with music, culture and food. What makes the rhythms and flavors of Turkish nights stand out are the unique colors representing this fascinating cultural crossroad, a cornucopia of rich diversions that features succulent spreads of traditional Turkish delicacies washed down with raki, Turkey’s national drink, a glass of home grown wine or a dense brew of Turkish coffee.

The choices seem endless, as Turkish artists, musicians and chefs create vibrant new masterpieces fusing decidedly Turkish themes with global influences. This creative sensibility is evident in Istanbul’s top, innovative kitchens, in the intimate jazz halls of Galata and in the addictive Arabesque sounds blasting all along Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi.

Throughout the centuries Turkey’s tradition of classical arts has been seen as a beacon of culture, commerce and intellectual light. Giuseppe Donizetti, elder brother of the opera great, Gaetano, served Sultan Mahmud II as the Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music, overseeing the military bands and teaching at the palace. Sultan Abdülhamit himself provided the first translations of classic operas and even went so far as to pen some of his own.  The Turkish State Opera and Ballet continues this tradition by staging sophisticated performances in concert halls and open-air antique amphitheaters in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, Mersin and Samsun.

The range of Turkish musical arts culminate annually with a stunning lineup of international festivals attracting audiences from around the world, blending the finest music with extraordinary settings.

  • The International Istanbul Festival is comprised of separate film, theater, jazz and classical music and dance events complemented by the extraordinary acoustics of the Hagia Irene in Topkapi Palace, atop the ramparts of Rumeli Hisari or the intimate stage at the Art Deco inspired Süreyya Opera House.
  • The International Izmir Festival features performances by renowned international ensembles on historic stages such as the Celsus Library or in the same vast Great Theater of Ephesus used by gladiators and where St. Paul preached the Gospels.
  • Spring marks the International Music Festival in Ankara, with contemporary artists playing classical, traditional and folk music from all over the world.
  • One of the most splendid of Turkey’s festivals, the Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival, takes place in the Province of Antalya, in the ancient theater of Aspendos. Soloists, orchestras and ensembles join with their audiences to experience the wonder of music beneath the stars in the best-preserved theatre of antiquity.

While Turkey’s musical sensibilities embrace the classical and the modern, including a decidedly Turkish approach to pop music, Turkey’s first love resides in the sounds of the heartland. These age-old poems set to music are played and replayed in Türkü Evi, at rural weddings and in lively meyhane or Turkish tavernas, with lyrics and rhythms played on the saz or oud that encourage dancing. These odes to Anatolia are a ubiquitous part of Turkey’s fabric, found in meyhanes along the narrow backstreets of Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, inside the ramparts of Ankara’s antique fortress, along the Kordon in Izmir, and in countless bars and resorts along the Mediterranean coast.

Classic Turkish Night shows, which are extravagant and fun, if not kitchy samplings of the range of influences infusing Turkish culture, offer another option for reveling in the atmosphere of the exotic. These shows take place on a grand scale all over Turkey. In Istanbul, the Galata Tower sets the stage for the festivities. In Kusadasi, performances take place within the inner courtyard of the 17th century Öküz Mehmet Pasa Caravansary. And in the castle of Ankara, old stone and timber Ottoman houses converted to restaurants offer a sampling of traditional Turkish music and dance in intimate dining salons.

A more recent development is the professional staging of Anatolian folk dance shows, where examples of the different traditional dance styles from all over the country are performed. These shows are set to the exciting sound of the heartland, with intriguing combinations of percussion and horn set to exotic rhythms and performed by dancers dressed in vibrant, regionally inspired costumes.

With a tradition of music, dance and yes, food that reaches back into ancient times and faraway lands, Turkey’s rich heritage offers something for everyone.