Friday, 10 January 2014

BBC Radio 4’s Front Row features Istanbul arts and culture


Award-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, TV drama Magnificent Century, psychedelic folk band Baba Zula and Azize Tan, the director of the Istanbul International Film Festival, all feature in Istanbul Special. The 30-minute programme was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday evening.

Front Row presenter John Wilson visited the city to explore its current cultural scene as part of Radio 4’s MINT Season, which is covering emerging economic powers Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.

The respected presenter, who has interviewed some of the biggest names in popular music including Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Neil Young, Lou Reed and The Who, started Istanbul Special by talking to Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk. Meeting him at his Museum of Innocence in Çukurcuma, Beyoğlu, Wilson asks Pamuk about his latest novel and its connection to the museum, his 2005 trial for ‘insulting Turkishness’, the Gezi uprising and Istanbul’s changing landscape.

Wilson then goes on to interview Selin Arat, one of the producers for Turkey’s biggest TV drama Magnificent Century, based on the life of Sultan Süleyman who reigned in the 16th century. The serialisation of life in the Ottoman Court has become a huge hit abroad too, watched by over 200 million viewers in the Balkans, Middle East, North Africa and Russia.

The resurgence of the Turkish film industry is the focus for Wilson’s talk with Azize Tan (image left). She explains that most of 2013’s big box office hits in Turkey were domestic movies, including a stand-up show by comedian Cem Yılmaz (image right). She also expresses her sadness at the demolition of the historic Emek Cinema, knocked down to make way for a new development and their experiences with the police as they tried to peacefully protest.

Photo by Emrah Kolukısa

For his last interview, Wilson meets Murat Ertel, a member of Baba Zula, one of the city’s most popular alternative bands. Ertel plays an electronic Saz and shares his appreciation of stars such as Jimi Hendrix. He discusses why popular Turkish culture is currently devoid of political music, but adds that as many artists were active within the Gezi movement, this could change. 

Photo by Milos Stosic

Front Row is Radio 4’s live magazine programme on art, literature, film, media and music, and has been broadcasting since 1998. The show is produced by Timothy Prosser. 

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