Soundscapes of Istanbul

Sounds of Istanbul / Echoes in the Void

After three years this is the second time I am embarking on a ferry from Beşiktaş to Kadıköy, on an approximately 30 minutes ride gliding the turquoise waves of Bosphorus. It’s an afternoon in late June and the weather is so unusually hot and humid that a skillful charlatan could easily trick any person to believe that it is indeed August and that the time lag between the present you think you are in and the charlatan’s now was in fact a chronometric void imposed by the giant cocoon-tower rising from the hills of Çamlıca swaddling who-knows-what. In a nutshell, it is scorching and the mind could do nothing other than to keep itself in a stultified standstill allowing only the basic bodily functions to operate (breathing, keeping the eyes open, sitting without slouching…). Alas, instead of letting the wind play with my curls and me enjoying the swirls and scents of the Bosphorus breeze (aka instead of going out to the open air deck) I let the AC cuddle me up in its iciness and let go of all the friskinesses of a ferry ride that I usually enjoy. 

Ten minutes in, and I am slowly coming to my senses (even though I am still suspicious of the cocoon-tower and what it might be capable of). And there it starts: a loud tune effusing from the speakers and a countertenor voice singing an old folk song. I am utterly surprised and mortified, because I know very well what’s wrong with this picture. 

Disclaimer: as for my relationship with this city, time froze in 2016. For all I know, I could have been deep under cryogenic sleep, dreaming that I went to live with my partner in Vancouver and that for three years we traveled the world meeting friends and family here and there, never returning; until now. (A void echoing in slumber) Wake up. Open your eyes. Take a ferry ride. And here you are. In an Istanbul where (just seconds ago) students from music conservatory / who play lively tunes on a ferry / were chased away by the security / and taken under custody… Or: students from music conservatory / who play lively tunes on a ferry / were chastised by the security / to whom scolding was returned reciprocally / through the students protected by the elderly / and the guitar case or the ukulele stowed away clandestinely / only to make the police stupefy intensely… Or: students from music conservatory / who play lively tunes on a ferry / were joined in by the passengers cheerily / with clapping and joy all around / security guards watched helplessly… 

Now it is an uneasy silence that I hear blanketing over the soundscape of the ferries. Of course, there are occasional appreciations in the form of hesitant claps. Of course there are people joining in (does it matter they only move their lips inaudibly?) Of course there are elderly who support the musicians by throwing in coins. Other than that I see faces searching for kindred vulnerable glances not knowing what to do with this monster that is clouding their spirits and taking hostage their mood by blasting gloom, melancholia, and misery. 

On a different ferry ride, I notice the musician and the man in the kiosk greeting one another nodding their heads. Another time, the badge another musician was wearing catches my eye. … In the first few rides, I leave the ferry colonized with all the affects I just listed. One time I decided not to anymore. The moment the same tunes start to play, the moment I hear the speakers get ready to release the monster, I put on my headphones. It is Brian Molko: What’s wrong with this picture?

to be continued…