Istanbul’s trashy group of musicians recycle waste for instruments

Garbage doesn’t necessarily have to stay like garbage. “All that is gold does not shine,” writes JRR Tolkien in his famous first part of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, a story that has also been acclaimed for its environmental concerns. A Turkish band also found gold that does not glow among the garbage, because what looks like garbage to some has turned into music to their ears as they turn garbage into instruments to promote recycling.

Fungistanbul, a trio that started experimenting with a sound they call “Oriental Trash” in 2019, have joined a growing global movement of bands that hit, scratch and blow through objects they find in trash cans.

“We had no idea we would have that sound when we first started out,” band member Roni Aran admitted in the band’s studio, tucked away in a dingy part of Istanbul filled with auto repair shops.

“We were all surprised with the result, as were the audience.”

The emergence of Fungistanbul on the local music scene coincides with a constant increase in the importance given to the environment in Turkey

The vast country has been ravaged by wildfires, flash floods and other deadly disasters this year.

Herman Artuç, a member of the group Fungistanbul, plays one of his instruments made from a garbage can in Istanbul, Turkey on November 8, 2021 (AFP photo)

Aran and his two middle-aged friends, who are all professional musicians, say they promote “upcycling” – the process of adding value to old items that would otherwise have been thrown away.

“I found this near a dump,” Aran said, pointing to a large plastic box with a smile. “Fortunately, it was clean.”

Playing an eclectic mix of melodic folk music, the three friends say it takes thought and effort to turn junk pieces into reliable instruments with cohesive sounds.

They include a “drum can” made up of a large plastic container on which they have attached a case for glasses and a bell whose sound is sometimes enhanced with a small brush.

“No matter how primitive it may sound, there is technology behind all of these instruments,” said Aran.

Rolling disasters

The focus on waste is particularly poignant in a city that last summer saw a thick layer of mud – dubbed “sea snot” – cover areas of the Sea of ​​Marmara on the southern shores of Istanbul.

Scientists have blamed the slime on a combination of factors. The mucilage took months to suck up with pipes placed along the surface of the sea.

But as fishermen and beach goers complained about the mess, much of the country’s attention fell on a rapid spate of floods and fires that killed around 100 people on the northern coasts. and southern Turkey.

In the aftermath of the disasters, Turkey ratified the Paris climate agreement through parliament last month, placing renewed emphasis on the environment.

“Global warming, marine pollution … all these disasters remind us that we urgently need a solution before reaching a point of no return,” said Herman Artuç.

Fungistanbul band member Roni Aran poses as he prepares to play with one of his trash-made instruments in Istanbul, Turkey, November 8, 2021 (AFP photo)

Fungistanbul band member Roni Aran poses as he prepares to play with one of his trash-made instruments in Istanbul, Turkey, November 8, 2021 (AFP photo)

Higher goal

Percussionist specializing in Latin jazz, Artuç knocks on discarded plastic mannequins to produce various thumping sounds for Fungistanbul.

“They morphed into a multi-percussion instrument after adding an artistic touch,” he said of his models.

The band have two music videos in their “Oriental Trash” series and are working on a third one, this one involving junk.

Fungistanbul is following in the footsteps of groups such as Latin Latas (Latin Cans), formed in Colombia a decade ago, which now have an international audience and a strong social media presence.

The Turkish trio are still a novice in comparison.

“We had to question ourselves,” Artuç said. “It took a while before we could get on stage and really play these instruments. “

The group still occasionally suffer from incidents on stage, although their fans usually take it in their stride.

“Instruments sometimes go out of tune in the middle of a concert,” said Aran.

“But you can lift your spirits by saying ‘wait, I’ll retune’, and the audience will tolerate it knowing that the instruments serve a more important purpose.”

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