Turkish group recycles waste into sounds

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Istanbul (AFP) – An empty can, the base of a lamp and some string: what sounds like rubbish to some is music to the ears of a Turkish group that transforms waste 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.”

Fungistanbul’s emergence on the local music scene coincides with a steady increase in the importance of the environment for Turkish voters – especially young people, where it ranks alongside the largest economy in polls of opinion.

The vast country has been ravaged by wildfires, flash floods and other deadly disasters this year, putting pressure on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan less than two years before the next scheduled elections.

Aran and his two middle-aged friends, all of whom are professional musicians, say they promote “up-cycling” – 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.”

“We were all amazed at the result, as were the audience,” said Fungistanbul member Roni Aran of the sounds the band created from their instruments made from scrap. Ozan KOSE AFP

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 attributed the sludge to a combination of factors, including years of improper disposal of industrial waste.

Turkey has been ravaged by wildfires, flash floods and other deadly disasters this year, pressuring President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to finally force the Paris climate agreement into parliament on last month
Turkey has been ravaged by wildfires, flash floods and other deadly disasters this year, pressuring President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to finally force the Paris climate agreement into parliament on last month Ozan KOSE AFP

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.

The amalgamation of disasters forced Erdogan’s government to end a more than five-year wait and finally force the Paris climate deal into parliament last month.

Now, the Turks must hold their government to account and “make sure that the agreements it signs don’t just stay on paper,” said Herman Artuc, another member of the group.

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

Higher goal

Percussionist specializing in Latin jazz, Artuc 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.

Latin jazz percussionist Herman Artuc taps discarded plastic mannequins to produce sounds for Fungistanbul
Latin jazz percussionist Herman Artuc taps discarded plastic mannequins to produce sounds for Fungistanbul Ozan KOSE AFP

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,” Artuc said. “It took a while before I could get on stage and really play these instruments.”

The band still occasionally suffer from mishaps on stage, although their fans usually take it without hesitation.

“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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