The music of Syrian migrants in Istanbul

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BENNINGTON — Syrian musicians in Istanbul, like the rest of the 3.5 million members of Syrian society in Turkey, work under temporary, insecure, low-paid and precarious conditions. In addition to the migration policy of Turkey, the government's lack of social systems supporting the cultural productions of migrant societies subject them to limited space and severe working conditions. Under these circumstances, especially in the first years of their arrival, street musicianship, even though it is frowned upon in Syria, emerges as the most suitable option for maintaining their lives for Syrian musicians as well as musicians from other migrant communities.

Street music practices of migrant musicians can be considered as a means of claiming the right to exist in the city by filling the very heart of public space with their voices and sounds, as well as a response to homogenizing and exclusionary perspectives against them. In this presentation, ethnomusicologist Dr. Evrim Hikmet Ogut will give an overview of the musical practices of Syrian musicians in Istanbul by discussing their transformations until the ninth year of migration. After that, by drawing attention to their agency, she will focus on the tactics and strategies that this interaction through street music requests them to develop, including repertoire choice and establishing relationships with various other actors of the public space.

The Music and Migration Speaker Series is hosted by Bennington College as part of MHI 2109: Sounding Home: Music of Migration, Memory, and Exile with Joseph Alpar and Kerry Ryer-Parke. The series is sponsored by the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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