Not Even a Bloody Political Coup Could Stop the Istanbul Jazz Festival

In 2016, a failed political coup almost put an end to the Istanbul Jazz Festival.  This year, more than 20,000 people attended the event.

Last year, the 23rd Annual Istanbul Jazz Festival coincided with a bloody political coup.  The festival ran from June 27th to July 25th.

It was a well-planned event.  But there was just one problem.  On July 15th, a Turkish Armed Forces faction led a military uprising against state institutions.  Dubbed the Peace at Home Council, they aimed to replace President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by seizing control of key cities across the country.

To overthrow the government, the military faction wanted to control Ankara, Istanbul, Marmaris, Kars, and Malatya.

In a hostile takeover of state broadcaster TRT, the Council claimed that under President Erdoğan, conditions had worsened.  The country had lost international credibility, people lost faith in the state religion, and Erdoğan had completely disregarded human rights.

On July 16th, forces loyal to President Erdoğan pushed the rebels back, and ultimately defeated them.  Over 300 people died during the failed coup.  More than 2,100 were injured.

Out of fear for their personal safety, several acts pulled out from the Istanbul Jazz Festival.

Laura Mvula and Vintage Trouble were among those who cancelled their performances.  In a statement, festival director Pelin Opcin paid tribute to performers, organizers, and attendees.

“We realized the festival under unusual conditions this year.  Every note that could be played, every footprint that remained from the listeners who filled in our concerts, were our main sources of motivation and courage.”

In a veiled statement to artists who pulled out, Opcin added,

Our heartfelt thanks goes to our distinguished audiences and the contributing artists who prioritized meeting with their listeners in Istanbul over anything else.

Organizers had worried about low attendance numbers for this year’s event.  So, they hosted the festival in smaller venues.  In previous years, up to 45,000 people have attended the event.

Once the Istanbul Jazz Festival wrapped up on July 24th, Opcin confirmed that 25,000 people had attended.

The audience reaction was amazing.  We reached our target of 98% attendance, with 25,000 people attending.

People who attended this year’s event didn’t feel nervous at all.  Opcin noted that they felt ecstatic about being there.

But it’s not just about the numbers.  What was also important for us was seeing how long people stayed at the festival outside of the concert times, and what the general vibe was like.  We were delighted – the eagerness and enthusiasm I saw among attendees this year is really promising.

Opcin felt optimistic about future events experiencing high attendance once more.

Based on this year’s experience I feel confident we will…return to 45,000 capacity next year.

Joshua Redman, Donny McCaslin, and Christian McBridge, among others, performed at this year’s Istanbul Jazz Festival.  It ran from July 4th to the 20th.