Jazz, Soul, Blues in Cyprus
By Heidi Trautmann
Don’t discard your clothes of yesterday, the maxis or minis, the pointed shoes, because fashions always come round in full circle. The same happens with music; the tunes I loved in my young days are all coming back, whatever the style, and live music bands especially are back. Music to move. Musicians are getting their instruments out together with the airs they enjoyed playing decades ago, and are grouping together as if a call had reverberated through the air: it’s time to make music again!
What happened? I can only answer that from my experience of my own hometown of Munich where I sat as a young girl with my friends in front of musical platforms to listen to good old Jazz, Dixie and Blues. Then the discos took over, and the DJs became the hit, and nowhere could live bands be heard in my favourite little Schwabing restaurants and pubs. Later, some places popped up where lovers of jazz met to hear the old groups play, and jazz festivals were organized such as the one in Burghausen where the names of famous musicians are remembered in one road of fame such as Dave Brubeck, Oscar Petersen, Dizzy Gillespie, Fatty George, Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, Klaus Doldinger, Woody Herman.
Now, lately I have discovered here in North Cyprus that more and more restaurants are inviting bands for the entertainment of their guests, not folk or bar music, but good old jazz. Also hotels are opening up their entrance halls to have this kind of “old fashioned” entertainment, and even to establish jazz clubs.
I think this movement – the revival of jazz, blues, soul and even rock – has started worldwide. I don’t particularly mean the mega concerts around the globe but live groups coming back to small places, to let this kind of music enter our daily lives. The only representative for Jazz in North Cyprus over the last years was Arman Ratip, the space composer, who regularly gives concerts in Bellapais or in restaurants; and the only other place where we could hear jazz or blues in North Cyprus was in Jasmine Court Hotel once a year for the Efes Jazz Festival which this year will be on Oct 11 for just one night.
We are not frequent guests in bars or pubs but we come across the one or the other band, either first hand or by hearsay from friends. One I like very much is the young group Carpe Diem.
My curiosity grew with a jazz night initiated by Rauf Kasimov in Bellapais, a pianist of classical education and known for his involvement with teaching our budding young talents and I thought to myself that there must be some more. So I got in touch with Vic Lundie from Karaman who is known in the foreign community as an excellent trumpet player . Yes, he said, I know most of the jazz musicians here in Cyprus. So we met.
Vic Lundie and his wife Prue have lived in Karaman for 25 years, first coming for holidays, and now for good since he retired 15 years ago. Vic has travelled much and lived abroad in places where good music is played as a tradition, and not only jazz: He has lived in New Orleans, American Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Venezuela and Guyana and he has visited famous musical venues and heard renowned musicians. His passion for jazz goes back to school and university days where he taught himself to play the trumpet - later studied with Phil Parker in London - and since those young years, he has played with many musicians and music groups around the world. Just for fun and out of a passion for jazz.
Eight years ago he got his trumpet out again to play and practice regularly. This was followed by an activity held by the American Embassy which initiated a regular event in Nicosia, a bi-communal event, in which professional musicians were invited from New York every two to three months, to meet with Greek and Turkish Cypriot musicians and teach them in workshops with subsequent concerts. These take place at the Fullbright Building, but they also have music evenings and jam sessions at various places south and north of the Green Line, for example the Narnia Club in Nicosia and the Old Grape Vine and Effendi House in Kyrenia. The members of the Bi-communal Jazz Band also meet and play together outside their workshops, and his friends Ersen Sururi and Zelis, both Turkish Cypriots whom Vic Lundie respects highly, and Greek Cypriot Charis Iannou, take over the teaching when the American musicians return home; others of the same group are Ahmed Elmas and Cagit Kutrafali.
Vic Lundie has also played with Rauf Kasimov, piano, and his new musician friend Mustafa Özak, double bass, who have a lot of experience in jazz. Other groups and musicians come and go. There is the well respected Tony Jones who has played at the Malpas Hotel, the Tropicana and in a newly founded Jazz Club at the 5 Star Cratos Hotel where for a while he is joined by Ersen Sururi and Zelis; and when I look through the local newspapers there are rock and jazz concerts all around town. I must not forget the unforgettable jazz programmes at the BRT by Zeki Ali, he is believed to have the biggest collection of jazz, blues and Co.
Also the British Residents Society have had an idea to have jazz concerts during the first weekend in October at the Altinkaya Holiday Resort where the BRS Social Club has established its seat this year. Vic Lundie played there with The Stompers from Limassol.
On October 5, the German Embassy celebrated the Day of Reunification together with German residents south and north of the Green Line and there were two jazz bands playing.
I asked Vic Lundie why he thinks that Jazz is more popular today than in the days of its birth. “This kind of music originated from the poor working classes, it had the flavour of the civil rights struggle, it was associated with both alcohol prohibition and smuggling, the aftermath of the two world wars. These times are over, those associations have vanished and you can now enjoy it freely without any backward thoughts.”
For me it is the rhythm, it means my childhood and young years, and it is good music. Take the A train or Take Five! Vic tells me that today they have jazz departments at the music conservatoires. What a development! Not so long ago Jazz was taboo for students of classical music.
Jazz, Blues and Soul, also Rock, is re-conquering the world, just as Latin music has taken over the dance floors. Just the other day I heard Ulaş Bariş and his Fireballs with pure rock music at the Old Grapevine.
I must find out more about the music scene. Music is – besides the fine arts – the only movement which brings people together regardless of nationality or beliefs. It melts away problems, takes over your senses and your body muscles and – while it doesn’t make soldiers march against each other – it is a popular and welcome means of making people happy and peaceful.