Lifestories of creative people living in our midst
By Heidi Trautmann
There goes the legend that the stars in the
sky adapt a certain constellation to bless the birth of a coming child with the
gifts of music, but if we regard the Hoca Family of Nicosia then those stars
responsible must have chosen to be on duty several times. The Hoca Family is
blessed with four sons three of them definetely followed the call of music.
I have met with two of them, that is Ali
the oldest, who studied trombone and piano and is today with the Izmir Opera
and Ballet Orchestra; I saw him conducting the orchestra for the Turksoy Opera
Days in Bellapais on two occasions. Oskay, the second born, I have met on
various occasions, first with full
awareness with ‘Cypress Classica’ founded by him, Fikri Toros and Osman Cankoy,
and secondly as the guest conductor of the Nicosia Municipality Orchestra.
I had the chance and pleasure to meet Oskay
Hoca for the interview at the house of his friend and well known Turkish
Cypriot guitarist and composer of guitar music Kemal Belevi in Lapta for
reasons of interpreting. (I love Kemal’s rhapsodies and while I am writing
these lines I am listening to his music from a CD he gave me).
Oskay Hoca has a very friendly and soft
face, it looks as if he were in peace with himself. I have often met with this
phenomenon in professional performing artists who draw the strength for their
work from themselves, who have this inner power that rejuvenates itself with
endless creative activity in music.
Oskay Hoca was born in Nicosia in 1962.
“My parents loved music, father had joined
a Turkish music choir in Nicosia, but he did not go beyond that or play an
instrument for the simple reason that it was by far too expensive in those
When did music start to enter your life, I
asked. “It was in primary school ; I first started to play the melodica, it was
easier in connection with the school orchestra, but it soon occurred that
playing it made me feel dizzy. My father then bought me a guitar, but if you
ask me which instrument a child of this age should start with, I would recommend
What other subject did you fancy when in
school? Sports, literature?
“Actually there was nothing else than music
that interested me, really. Perhaps, what I liked doing was handicraft, to
create something. After some years I had
put the guitar aside and continued with viola; that was in my secondary school
years at the Turkish Maarif College. It was at the age of 14 years, that I started to have viola lessons with the
viola player at the TRNC State Symphony Orchestra. At the age of 15 years, I went
to Ankara, I wanted to study music and join my brother Ali who had entered the
conservatoire one year earlier. Our parents supported the idea of us studying
However, it meant that I had to start
secondary school again from the beginning; three years I have had in Cyprus, so
my first three years at the conservatoire I did nothing but music, besides
music history, harmony and I was taught piano and oboe; my oboe teacher was the
first oboeist of the Ankara Symphony Orchestra. After these three years I
continued with secondary education but skipped one year.”
Where did you live, I asked. What was your
brother studying at the conservatoire?
“My brother studied trombone and piano. We
both lived at the dormatory of the conservatoire and went home to Cyprus for
our holidays. In our free time we went to concerts, usually once a week,
entrance was free for the students. Apart from that we did enjoy our life just
as the others did, we were young.”
It must have been a marvellous time to be
together with so many like minded young people.
“Yes, there were five or six of us and
after one year my younger brother Tanju came as well to become a cellist. Ah
yes, it was a good time. I then graduated - two years ahead of time - in 1985
with honours. I returned home, and although I was offered a good future in Turkey,
I wanted to go back.”
You were 23 years old then, what happened
“18 months military service, so I was 25
when I started my career at the TRNC State Symphony Orchestra as oboist under
the directorship of Fikret Özgün. I am still with them; today I am the Director
of the TRNC State Orchestra and Choir. An orchestra which consists of three
Oh, a State Orchestra with three members
only? How come?
“This is the tragedy of Cyprus.... the
State insists on having a State Orchestra but doesn’t have the money to fully
man it... there are but three professional musicians employed, a sort of status
quo....When we want to give a concert we have to man it with amateurs....However,
we did not give a concert in ten years, except chamber concerts some 3 years
To form an orchestra we have approached the
President Mehmet Ali Talat. Talat had promised but than he declined. We have
well educated musicians in our country but the government is not prepared to
man the stools of the orchestra that are empty...what can we do, we continue
That is not very satisfying for a young
professional musician coming back home to do something for his country. Somehow
it reminds me of the sad situation with the State Theatre, that has members on
the pay roll but no theatre building to play in. How did you then satisfy your
urge to do music, I asked.
“So while we were and still are waiting we
continued to do music, chamber music evenings in smaller groups, I directed the
‘State’ Choir – once a year we went to participate at the Ankara Festival.
It was in 1987 that
I had joined the TRNC State Theatre and in the same year I had also started to
teach at the newly founded Anadolou Art and Music School in Nicosia music
theory, solfège and oboe for seven years. In 1995 I played my brother Ali’s Oboe
Concerto with the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra. However, being young and full
of energy I also played entertainment music on the keyboard with a band in hotels.
You must really have been desperate. When
did you start conducting the Nicosia Belediye Orchestra?
“That was in 2002. Meanwhile we have done
some concerts together on a more regular basis....”
Yes, I came across anouncements more often
and have been to hear them play once in Bellapais together with the Kyrenia
Chamber Choir only recently on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of St.
Andrew’s Church, and shortly before Christmas in the very nice concert hall at
the TED College (near the Fair Grounds) with a lovely programme of popular classic
music by Corelli, Carulli, Mozart, Dvorak, Brahms, Mozart, Gluck and Strauss
and one piece by Oskay Hoca himself: Erkek Karsilama 1.
The auditorium was frightingly empty, a
hall built for hundreds of people with a good accustic, was only occupied by
perhaps 30 people.
“Yes, it is frightening, although the
concerts are free, we don’t see music teachers with their students, although it
would be very important for them, they are all not deeply interested....”
Could it be that the modern way of living,
entertainment on internet are keeping them away from such activities? It is the
same with art exhibitions, I never see many students in art venues.
“Yes, sure, that is very true, but it would
be part of the education system to make them go.”
I know that you have been trying to make
music on many levels, also been forming the group ‘Cypress Classica’, I have
been to two of the concerts and wrote about them.
Classica” was founded in January 2008 by Fikri Toros, Oskay Hoca and Osman
Cankoy, with the slogan ‘Turkish Cypriot
Folk Music with a Classical Touch’. The Ensemble consists of Fikri
Toros (Piano), Oskay Hoca (Oboe), Osman Cankoy (Guitar
and Vocal), Petek Cankoy (Vocal Soloist), Mustafa Fegan (Violin), Ayşe Sadık
(Cello) and Eralp Adanır (Percussions). The repertoire includes folk pieces of
an era from 200-300 years ago to the
present, and are all arranged for classical instruments by Oskay Hoca. The Gala
concert took place on the 24th October 2008, which was followed by a number of
public performances accross Northern Cyprus. The mission was to bring together the “classical” with the “contemporary”, the
“past” with “today” and the “old” with the “new” all around Cyprus Turkish Folk
am strongly linked to our folk music, I also did a number
of compositions and arrangements for choir and orchestra; “Dizeler” (Lines of
Poetry) comprising three movements for orchestra; children’s songs; and “oyun” for
Oboe and Piano.”
Oskay, you are married, what is your wife
doing, is she also in the music scene?
“Yes, my wife is a music teacher but last
year she retired and my son aged 24 plays
the electronic guitar, in one of our concerts he performed as a soloist when I
arranged classical and rock music for electric guitar and orchestra. It is important to speak the same language in a
family or partnership.” I can only agree
Oskay, we have been talking of the
importance of music, of being introduced to good music, of consciously
listening to good music, what is your message or your leitmotiv which makes you
carry on in-spite of so many difficulties you encounter.
“The Arts in general – and music in
particular - are the motor of society, a life without music is empty,
meaningless, I believe it is so for all creative people, and by the music that
is performed in a country by the professional and official musical institutions
you can recognise the level of culture, also by the mastership of instrumental
and vocal interpretation and by the mastership of passing on knowledge and
understanding in educating the younger generation. It is the duty of the
knowledgables to guide and educate society.”