If you live in Istanbul, June signifiesIf you live in Istanbul, June signifies “good music;” music fans get excited by the festivals that takeplace at this time of year. This yearthere is an added excitement andan element of surprise. While wewere all awaiting the programs ofthe festivals, Zorlu PSM’s schedulestood out. PJ Harvey, Sigur Rosand Patti Smith dominated manyof the headliners of other festivals.Under these circumstances,it’s time to take one step closer toZorlu PSM, which we’ve been followingfrom afar, and listen to its transformation from the source!

In Zorlu PSM, Murat Abbas is the change and progressIn Zorlu PSM, Murat Abbas is the change and progresshimself… After joining one and a half years ago, theatmosphere of Zorlu PSM has completely transformed.Whether it’s his ability to use his experiences withoutloosing a pinch of excitement or his sincere approach toworking collaboratively, there is no point in denying hisoriginality. He is powerful enough to be open to all ideaswithout affecting his status. “When I first came here, Iwas mesmerized when I visited the halls and venues. Isaw that we could do so many things here with internationalstandards and skills. It’s not only about currentand alternative music. Next season PSM will declaremany strong classical music, ballet, opera and jazz programs.Actually we’re already vocal about jazz. We hostedChris Botti, Stacey Kent and Meredith Monk. NowI’m after another two names and if I can get them – I’msaying this for the first time for your magazine – in May2017, Zorlu PSM will have its own festival.” Undoubtedly,jazz will be PSM’s rising value for the upcomingseason, however Abbas focuses on classical music aswell. Regarding this, he is open to collaborations, “Wewill collaborate with IKSV, and we have meetings withBorusan. We will have our own program.” Although thealternative and current music stage are the main focuswith Abbas’ expertise, he says, “next season, differentkinds of music will strengthen the stage.”

Abbas created an alternative by introducing standing concerts at Zorlu PSM’s main Stage, “the seated format is limiting. It appeals to a certain age and profile. In order for a younger generation to attend, you need to have standing events. When I first started, I was looking for standing events to organize. Suddenly I found myself on stage and I saw the depth of it. We discussed the idea with the technical crew in meetings. We discussed whether the stage would hold that many people and once we got the okay, we began working towards these events.” The new concept was put into action with Bedük, Teoman and Duman concerts, and it will continue with PJ Harvey and Sigur Ros.

Abbas emphasizes the popularity of indoor venues forAbbas emphasizes the popularity of indoor venues forJune. “Safety first… In today’s conjuncture, outdoor concertsare unfortunately at risk. After we announced theprogram, people asked us why these names weren’t comingto outdoor events, however it’s not easy to convincethe artists. Zorlu Center has a safety advantage. Anotherfactor is the seasonal changes of summer. The weatheris not consistent anymore. Especially in June, it’s veryrainy; the rain statistics have increased. Also, outdoorconcerts have sound limitations. When we add up theconcerns of sound, safety and comfort, Zorlu PSM has alot of advantages.” Abbas claims that festivals will followthese prestigious concerts; Sonar in October will just bethe beginning. It won’t only be music that benefits fromthis change. The theatre stage is also very active at PSM.He says, “IKSV is really happy about this transformation.There will be some plays within private projects.”

When we ask about how they pick from the suggestedWhen we ask about how they pick from the suggestedevents, Abbas says “Firms who want to place a programhere introduce ideas that are relevant for the world ofPSM. That’s the reason why we’ve never said no to newideas until today, however I don’t know what we’ll say ifsomething irrelevant comes through.”

There is a serious transformation at PSM and they are keen on growing together, “We will be collaborating with anyone and everyone who is producing good things in their fields.” He mentions that there will be new projects with IKSV’s Theatre crew and will organize alternative parties. He points out sincerely that their doors are open to everyone with a good idea.

We are extremely curious about the crews and the planning process of such a multi-faceted structure. “I make sure that the employers in our Content Department come from different disciplines. In addition to our already existing crew, we are working on a vertical re-structuring with experts. I try to gather open-minded young brains who have a taste for classical music, jazz, ballet, contemporary music and art.” Further down the road, his goal is to create a functional research group. With an international committee he wants to provide original content for PSM. He adds, “We are going to create beautiful content from all over the world here, and I’m not just talking about the West, but all geographies.

He emphasizes the increase in exhibition programs forHe emphasizes the increase in exhibition programs forthe next season and says, “We chose digital art relatedfields in regards to exhibitions because along with us,there are successful institutions like SSM, İstanbul Modernand Salt. Rather than entering their field, we wantedto focus on another one.”

Before, I only knew a small“Before, I only knew a smallportion of what I know now,now the door is completelyopen to me. Actually, withthe opportunities here, it’spossible to do more thingsfrom my previous field aswell.

We question what was the most exciting thing for MuratWe question what was the most exciting thing for MuratAbbas upon his arrival to PSM, “I am someone whothinks that there is a reason for every personal adventureand this leads them towards progress. My expertise wason a specific subject but when I came here, I was reallyexcited with the opportunities I had here. In a few years,this will be a unique place within the world. It can evenbe a ‘case study.’ I stand by this statement. Before, I onlyknew a small portion of what I know now, now the dooris completely open to me. Actually, with the opportunitieshere, it’s possible to do more things from myprevious field as well.” Abbas’ approach is both excitingand hopeful for Istanbul’s culture and art scene. He alsowants to keep the interaction of Zorlu PSM and youngpeople at its highest, and says, “We need to contributeto the culture and art life in Turkey. It’s not only aboutbringing events.” He adds that they will arrange a universityeducation research and create a workspace withhigh interaction levels.

We ask about the Şehir Sahnesi project where youngWe ask about the Şehir Sahnesi project where youngpeople will be able to showcase themselves and theirmusic; he says that, “Şehir Sahnesi addresses a branchwhich was established with good intentions but couldnot be fulfilled.” Abbas has a holistic approach beyondjust creating a place for talented people to show theirabilities; he is for education and consistency of thesefields, it’s further than a daily fairy tale. “I was watchinga video yesterday and I saw a small kid playing thedarbuka with such talent and an ear for it. I’m sure thatanyone who saw that would ask who he was. It wouldbe our shame not to do something for that child andmany others here. If I were to get him to play here once,that wouldn’t be enough. How can I turn this into aproject and bring in such talents and young people wholack opportunities?” He says, “last year we organizedBarış İçin Müzik and there were 300 – 310 children here.All those kids had a different story; some of them hadn’ttouched an instrument four and a half months prior tothat, they didn’t know anything about notes or instruments.Those kids began playing instruments within fourmonths. 300 children filled the stage under the tutelageof Şasa Götze, where from the most experienced at thetop to the orchestra chef, then down to the music playersat the orchestra, there was complete balance as a circle.This was an incredible project. When you can inspirethose children and make them a permanent part of theorchestra, their lives will change.”

When we ask what his favoriteWhen we ask what his favoriteconcert is for June, he immediatelysays, “I have a special interest inSigur Ros.” He says, “I guess it wasaround 2007. I watched the Heimadocumentary at !f. and I was so impressed.I remember what I felt thatnight very clearly. I had a crater ontop of my head and it was burning.That day I told myself that I wouldwatch Sigur Ros in their homeland,Reyjkavik. And I really did. That’swhy Sigur Ros has a very specialplace for me,” and he adds: “I reallylove PJ Harvey. I saw her at RoyalAlbert Hall during the Let EnglandShake album tour. She was amazingin black. I cried a lot. It was anincredibly emotional concert.” Hementions that he saw Patti Smithfor the first time in Babylon in 2007.Abbas also talks about his heartbreakalong with his enthusiasm, “Iwas so excited for Max Richter butI’m angry with him now, he will beinformed about it too, I will writeto him. I bought all his records tillthis day, I was looking forward toseeing him, I was even going to goto London to his concert, but nowI won’t go to that one either.” Inour current situation, many namesbounce off the post. Unfortunatelywhen this is the case, being able tobring these names to our country isincredibly valuable and important.For all that, we look forward tohearing the news of Murat Abbaswho is working for change!

Photography: Hikmet Güler