What I remember most fondly from our first trip to Istanbul – we went again in 1997 to perform a public concert with the XL band – is, of course, a human gesture. It was fantastic to see the underground water storage halls of the Ottomans, it was great to see the mosques (the ostrich eggs that hang in all of the mosques keep the spiders away), to walk around the great bazaar, to drink Turkish coffee etc. etc… but one gesture stands out in my mind.
I decided to go to the old part of Istanbul very early one morning to make some location recordings. I approached our Turkish driver and asked him whether he could pick me up at the hotel around 3am. He said he would be waiting in front. The next morning I got into his car with my DAT recorder and a microphone and he took me to some choice spots around town.
I spent about an hour recording sounds and when I was ready to go back to the hotel, the driver instead took me to a little bar or cafe right by the Bospherus. It was still cold by the river as the city was waking up. The driver insisted on buying me coffee and while I drank the wonderful and bitter brew the sun cleared the horizon. I enjoyed that this man, who spoke practically no English, and whom I had asked to get up so early, nevertheless took me to one of his hang-outs and bought me coffee.
Later I learned that since the driver lived quite a distance from our hotel and since he was working late the night before, he slept in the car in order to pick me up so early.
There is something special about moments like these… like two ships passing on the ocean…