Young British musicians needed for unique cross-border music project in Istanbul and Cambridge

If you’re young, British, musically gifted, and free to travel for a fortnight at the end of October, this project needs you!

A British arts charity is arranging for 30 young musicians from Britain to travel to Turkey to perform alongside their Roma peers as part of an exciting new project called Music Beyond Barriers. A return leg is planned for Cambridge in 2016, with the experiences of the young music makers captured on film for a documentary.

There are an estimated 2 million people of Roma heritage in Turkey and their cultural traditions, commonly comprising violin, clarinet, darbuka, drums, dancing and singing, are internationally renowned. Two of Turkey’s most celebrated Roma performers are Selim Sesler and Sibel Can.

For centuries, Istanbul’s Sulukule district was home to some of the most talented Roma musicians; locals and tourists alike would visit to enjoy their legendary live entertainment. Sadly, between 2006 and 2010, the district was totally demolished to make way for an urban regeneration scheme that pushed all the Roma people out.

Music Beyond Barriers is the creation of Cambridge-based Balik Arts, which has extensive experience of transnational cultural projects. They are partnered by the Zero Discrimination Association, which works closely with Turkey’s Roma community. Funding is provided by the EU’s Erasmus Plus scheme, with the Istanbul leg hosted by Şişli Municipality.

Asst. Prof. Mehtap Demir
Music Beyond Barriers patron Mehtap Demir

The project’s music direction will be led by Ethnomusicologist, Asst. Prof. Mehtap Demir. As well as teaching, Mehtap Demir is also a recording artist who sings, and is one of Turkey’s few female kemane players. During her professional life, she has shared the same stage with the likes of Yasmin Levy, Savina Yannatou and Mor Kabasi.

The British musical troupe will fly out to Istanbul on 25th October 2015 and return two weeks later on 8th November. The dates for the Cambridge leg in 2016 have yet to be confirmed.

The project is open to all young musicians aged between 18 and 30 years old who are resident in the UK.

Flights, airport transfers, accommodation, and travel to and from the rehearsal venue are all covered by Balik Arts. However, participants will need to contribute towards some of their meal expenses (the project includes a free daily open buffet breakfast, but there is a small charge for lunch and dinner – subsidised meals cost 9 Turkish Lira) and for any other spending they choose to make during the trip.

Participants need to attend an induction day in October, when they will be required to pay a £50 deposit to secure their place on the trip. This will be returned to them on the outbound journey, once they board the plane to Istanbul.

Interested parties should apply by email with details about themselves and their musical talents to as soon as possible. Places will be filled on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.