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

Entries by Simon Johns

Blood Disorder: Turkey's Never-Ending Civil Strife

(3) Comments | Posted 16 January 2016 | (00:00)

A street in Turkey was once again spattered with blood and chunks of human remains this week when another suicide bomber detonated himself, this time in the heart of ancient Istanbul.

A sense of inevitability smothered the city. It was the fourth bombing blamed on Islamic State...

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Steve Albini: A Solution to the Problem With Music

(0) Comments | Posted 29 June 2015 | (14:31)

Musicians are usually deeply flawed or immensely tedious. Steve Albini is neither. Since the 1980s, he has been a guitarist and singer in three seminal bands and the recording engineer of some of the most important alternative music of the past 30 years. He's also an essayist, restaurant...

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Turkish President Preaches to the Choir

(0) Comments | Posted 4 December 2014 | (06:41)

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.

While they were laughing, the Turkish Parliament passed a bill that...

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Neil Young on the Edge of Fire

(0) Comments | Posted 17 July 2014 | (17:42)


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.

Backed by his long-serving band...

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A City Without a Museum

(0) Comments | Posted 20 February 2014 | (16:03)


Istanbul is in a constant state of flux. A decade of economic growth is reshaping a skyline that had been untouched for centuries, as bullying new tower blocks and bridges spring up. Below, the change is more abrupt: a fluid mass of constantly...

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Amid Protests, Istanbul Biennale Retreats Indoors

(0) Comments | Posted 21 October 2013 | (01:00)

Gezi Park, the scruffy public space at the centre of violent anti-government demonstrations in Turkey over the summer, is felt most at this year's Istanbul Biennale by its absence.

The biennale, the city's most important contemporary art event, was to originally go on show in...

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Turkish Government Still Making a Hashtag of Social Media

(1) Comments | Posted 3 October 2013 | (01:00)

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...

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Swimming for Dear Life

(0) Comments | Posted 11 July 2013 | (01:00)

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.

The vessels were transporting swimmers to the start...

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Swans Soar Over Istanbul

(0) Comments | Posted 10 April 2013 | (01:00)

New York's seminal No Wave band Swans, led by singer Michael Gira, spent much of the last of three decades making uncompromising music. Now, Gira has emerged from a long hiatus with the release of My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky in 2010 and The...

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

(3) Comments | Posted 26 February 2013 | (00:00)

Songwriter Kevin Ayers died last week at the unripe old age of 68. He was in my favourite band, Soft Machine. Ayers brought a graunchy bass-playing style and a mellifluous baritone voice to counter drummer Robert Wyatt's skittish rhythms and athletic tenor and Mike Ratledge's howling...

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

(8) Comments | Posted 11 December 2012 | (00:00)

What happens after all music that will ever be conceived has been written, performed, recorded, packaged, marketed, sold and downloaded for free? That question, posed by British artist and musician Bill Drummond, would be answered in a small artist's studio in Istanbul on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon....

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

(1) Comments | Posted 4 May 2012 | (13:58)

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.

Hayward chose to talk about the disaster, the...

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Greek Carnival Revives the Spirit of an Ancient City

(2) Comments | Posted 29 February 2012 | (00:00)

Most of Istanbul's Greeks may be gone, but a revival of the raucous, pre-Lent festival of Baklahorani helps keep their spirit alive.

Two parades, led by troupes of costumed revelers banging drums and blaring clarinets, wound through the streets of Istanbul on Sunday and Monday to celebrate Carnival...

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Turkish Earthquake Reveals Nationalist Fault Lines

(4) Comments | Posted 6 November 2011 | (23:00)

A killer earthquake in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast a fortnight ago sparked a genuine show of popular support and charity, but the ugly rhetoric of nationalism was not far behind. And the vitriol comes from the mainstream, not just the political fringes.

The 7.2-magnitude quake in Van province on 23...

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