İş Sanat is a cultural center run by Türkiye İs Bankası. It’s located at the headquarters of the bank in Istanbul’s Levent district in the municipality of Beşiktaş. There are art galleries and a performance hall. It’s an excellent venue for watching concerts, dance performances, and other cultural events.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending two events at İş Sanat. The first event was a dance performance highlighting dances from different regions of Turkey. I attended with my friends Martin and Gönül and a former student, Nilgün. The whole performance was exciting, but the dances from the Black Sea region brought the house down. These dances were especially meaningful for me because I grew up watching descendants of Greeks from the same region, Pontos, perform the exact same dances.
The second event I watched was with my old professor from Purdue University, Deniz. I hadn’t seen him in at least 12 years, and it was just a coincidence we were both living in his hometown of Istanbul. It was wonderful to see him after such a long time.
The event was a concert featuring Greek singers Marinella and Kostas Karafotis. Marinella is one of the most popular Greek singers of all time. She began her career in 1957 and her unique voice is easily recognizable in some of the most famous songs in Greek music history. Karafotis is a more recent Greek singer, gaining his popularity on the musical reality show Fame Story. Deniz was once the president of the Turkish fan club of Marinella and had seen her a few times in concert. His friend Pavlos from Thessaloniki had also made the trip to attend.
A concert in Istanbul with two Greek singers was probably unheard of just 10 years earlier, but there had been at least two or three each year since I moved to Istanbul. I’m sure this concert had great personal meaning for Marinella as well because this was the city of her ancestry. Her parents were refugees from Constantinople.
Marinella did three sets and Karafotis did two. The first set by Marinella wasn’t very inspiring. In fact, I thought she sounded out of tune and over the hill. I was wrong. She was just warming up. Karafotis followed her first set with a good performance. (My apologies for the video quality – cameras were not allowed at the concert)
By the time Marinella started her second set, she sounded incredible, just like I remembered from her albums. Her third set was phenomenal with her voice was as strong as ever.
After the show was over, the three of us waited for Marinella outside of the dressing room. Deniz and Pavlos had brought gifts for her. She came out to greet us and recognized Pavlos immediately. She spoke to Deniz in perfect English and a few sentences in Turkish as well. She was very gracious and genuine.
For ticket information for events İş Sanat, please click here. To get to the venue, you can take one of the limited free shuttles from Gümüşsuyu near Taksim (every night at 6:30) and Kadıköy (weekends only at 6pm). You can also take the metro to Levent and exit at Plazalar. It’s a little tricky finding the building from there with the terrible maze of roads (Turkish civil planning at its finest), so you can ask or follow the directions on the map below. In all honesty, just get a taxi. It’s so much easier and will save yourself a big hassle.