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Simon Johns

Occasional dispatches from the edge of Europe

Based in Istanbul. Hosts weekly music programme on Açik Radyo. Writes about art, music and politics in Turkey. Bassist with Stereolab.

Blood Disorder: Turkey's Never-Ending Civil Strife

Violent death on the streets in Turkey is not "the new normal," as some feared this Tuesday. It's the same old, same old. (I grew up in the UK during the height of the IRA's mainland bombing campaign, so it's been the same old for most of my life).
15/01/2016 19:33 GMT

Steve Albini: A Solution to the Problem With Music

Albini has a long history as a vehement critic of the music industry. His seminal 1993 essay Stereolab a gentle poke, attacks the industry's coercion of bands into believing they must sign opaque contracts at all costs
30/06/2015 11:43 BST

Turkish President Preaches to the Choir

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent string of off-key statements are music to the ears of both his supporters and an opposition that loves to poke fun from the sidelines but offers scant intelligent counterpoint.
04/12/2014 14:19 GMT

Neil Young on the Edge of Fire

Neil Young chose mostly songs of love and conciliation at his first-ever concert this week in Istanbul. Like the rare July rain that fell, the sentiment was a relief from the violence that smoulders throughout the region.
18/07/2014 00:30 BST

A City Without a Museum

Some may argue that a city museum in Istanbul would be redundant. Istanbul is itself a living museum, they might say as they trip over unmarked relics and ruins that literally dot the streets here. But this lets people off the hook for the wholesale destruction Istanbul has faced on a near constant basis since, well, always. Istanbullus like to eulogise their city but don't seem particularly interested in preserving it.
21/02/2014 14:45 GMT

Amid Protests, Istanbul Biennale Retreats Indoors

The biennale, the city's most important contemporary art event, was to originally go on show in public spaces, including Gezi Park, that are slated for demolition amid Turkey's frantic urban-redevelopment boom...
21/10/2013 09:43 BST

Turkish Government Still Making a Hashtag of Social Media

After branding social media a "scourge" at the height of the Gezi Park protests in June, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has had a change of heart. The ruling AKP government recently hired a 6,000-strong brigade of social media operatives to direct public opinion and win hearts and minds.
02/10/2013 17:13 BST

Swimming for Dear Life

This past Sunday, two boatloads of raucous semi-clad people ranging in age from 14 to 83 made their way up the Bosphorus Strait, a long stretch of sea that divides the European and Asian sides of Turkey's largest city... During the voyage, the competitors were chanting, "Everywhere is Taksim. Everywhere is resistance."
11/07/2013 00:25 BST

Swans Soar Over Istanbul

The young Turks at the sold-out show applauded politely as the group of musicians, very much their seniors, ambled onstage at the Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation's smart new venue. What awaited the crowd was something not best described as heavy: a performance that started with an enchanting drone and gradually built into a tremulous, raucous wail.
09/04/2013 17:03 BST

The Best We Have: Saying Goodbye to Rock's Greatest Generation

Musicians who made it through the 1960s are now dying in their 60s. Within the next 20 years, the generation that sang <em>My Generation</em> will be gone. (John Entwhistle died in 2002 aged 57.) These players belong to my parents' generation, and this is what makes their passing so bitter: You know Mum and Dad are next.
25/02/2013 18:35 GMT

With the End of Pop Music in Sight, Bill Drummond's New Project Hits the Reset Button

Infinitely available, free music also spells the end of most musicians earning a living modest enough to dedicate themselves to music making full-time. No more money to burn. It meant the band I played in for a decade, Stereolab, bowed out nearly four years ago, mainly out of exhaustion from a grinding tour schedule necessitated to drive ever-declining record sales.
10/12/2012 17:36 GMT

Ex-BP CEO Chooses Sea Protection Forum to Talk About Spill

BP should have done more to prevent the Gulf of Mexico oil spill two years ago but the company's complacency was not unique in the industry, former CEO Tony Hayward said this week in his most public comments yet about the disaster.
04/05/2012 14:21 BST

Greek Carnival Revives the Spirit of an Ancient City

Despite the constraints they face, Baklahorani demonstrates that, at least on the street level, Greeks are more comfortable about expressing their identity. Istanbulites have in recent years begun celebrating the city's native culture.
28/02/2012 21:53 GMT

Turkish Earthquake Reveals Nationalist Fault Lines

Out of tragedy, community is often born. Turkey realised that in 1999 when successive earthquakes here and in Greece prompted mutual outpourings of aid and led to reconciliation between the arch enemies. The earthquake in Van offers Turkey another chance at such "earthquake diplomacy," this time inviting it to make peace with its own citizens.
06/11/2011 23:26 GMT