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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

maNga in Budapest

"Cultural Mosaics" by Timi, writing from Kisvárda, Hungary

Six Days With Turkey's Craziest Guys

Performing for the first time outside of Turkey at the Sziget Festival, in Budapest, Hungary on 13th August 2006, and making history for being the first Turkish rock band ever to take stage at the festival, I had 6 manic days of maNga.

The band arrived at Budapest Ferihegy Airport on 12th August, at 16.00 pm, with the largest set of luggage I have ever seen in my life. It was about to rain and the weather was fairly cool - and they were all wearing shorts. When the minibus had to wait half an hour because they all lit a cigarette, I aready knew there was a very long weekend ahead of me. If only I had known!

There were 9 of them, the band itself with 5 members, two managers, one guy from their technical crew and the wife of one of the band's members (she was the only one we never had problems with). Having left their luggage at the hotel, we set off to find a good restaurant and after walking for 40 minutes we finally sat down to eat something. Why did it take us so long? Because we stopped at least 10 times to take a photo of a ruined house (Ferman Akgül, the vocalist, is an architect by profession and he never missed the chance to closely look at every single building), dogs playing in the Danube, babies in their mothers' arms or a homeless guy along the road. That night half of the group decided to watch the Radiohead concert at the festival, so we took two taxies and entered the festival area.

Then the madness began.

You won't understand how crazy these guys are unless you know the usual behaviour of Turkish people - on their own polite, wise, witty, patient gentlemen - but when with others... God, that's what I call a kindergarten!

Handsome Turkish DJ Efe YilmazSo to start from the beginning, Ferman (vocal), Yağmur Sarıgül (electric guitar) and Efe Yılmaz (DJ - see pic) along with Cağatay (from their crew), the tour manager Ismail abi and the "boss manager" Hadi really had a lot of fun that night. Poor Hadi tried to keep the band together ("Don't go that way!", "Please stick together, let's not lose each other", "For God's sake put that down!") - of course he didn't succeed. It took us 2 hours to collect them from an island - or sziget (pronounced see-get) - that has a capacity of 50,000 people a day.

Next morning, when their performance was due, I was waiting for them in the hotel lobby.

For at least an hour.

Hadi was first to come down and then he went to wake the children up, and after an hour we were ready to go. Except that the band's frontman was nowhere. Hadi ran upstairs and while he was trying to (literally) pull Ferman down, the others told me and my girlfriends (Clau, Melike and Zsuzsi) that it is a totally hopeless procedure to wake Ferman up. He needs at least 15 hours of sleep a day and he will not get up before that. Great. 10 minutes later Hadi trudged down the stairs swearing.

"I won't go up again dammit, he's kicking about! Look at my arm!" (We girls politely hid our giggles.)

Bass guitarist Cem BahtiyarSo Cem Bahtiyar (see pic), the bass guitarist, walked upstairs and finally after 10 minutes or so Ferman appeared. Big sighs and we started off. I managed to get a bunch of backstage passes for the girls (I guess the stage manager was too busy to ask questions) and we stayed backstage, and admittedly those were the best 4 hours of my life, I guess. The boys were joking about, and we had the chance to get to know them better.

Then the concert began. My friend Melike took her enourmous Turkish flag and we waved it all through the concert. The stage capacity was 5000 people and we calculated that there might be about 2500 people watching a totally unknown band's concert. After the first two songs, people just started to flow in from outside in masses. Well, good music attracts people, doesn't it? I have never seen such an energetic concert in my life (and that's having been to two Tarkan concerts).

Everyone was jumping and waving hands and shouting "Turkey, Turkey" - including all the foreign people. Ferman's voice was incredibly beautiful. In the end, several foreigners came about wanting to buy the album and foreign radio and television channels stayed in a queue to make an interview with the band.

We spent the next days talking and going sightseeing. They couldn't see much of the city, though, because they never got up before noon. They saw the Basilica, the Mathias Church and the Fishermen's Bastion along with the Chain Bridge, the Parliament and Heroes' Square. We even visited Gül Baba's tomb. And in the meantime we talked a lot. I got to know these guys better and I must admit, they became really close to me. And to the others, as well. However crazy they are, they are simply loveable.

On Tuesday, Ferman cheated us. He got up when told, and Hadi came down with a huge smile, telling me how witty he was to get 'Feroş' out of bed this early. After ten minutes, Ferman was nowhere, of course. Hadi rang him but no reply. He went upstairs and knocked on his door. Nothing. For half an hour we were shouting in front of his door. Nothing. Then, all patience gone, we had the cleaning woman open the door with the spare key. And our precious singer was not in! As it turned out later, he went into another room used by the band - and fell asleep, again! So we left him in the hotel.

Finally, it was Thursday, the last day. We accompanied the band to the airport and waved goodbye. It was hard to separate from them. We got used to these crazy-lovely guys. They insisted that we should visit them in Istanbul again. Clau, Melike and I climbed up to the top of the terminal building and watched their plane taking off. Melike (being a Hungarian Muslim) prayed for their safety. Somehow all of us felt empty inside as the plane became a distant spot in the sky and finally disappeared.

We still miss them. Although we talk everyday (God bless MSN messenger), we miss them so much. And I hope they miss us a bit, too...

Notes from my Scrapbook

Scrapbook banner

Briefly introducing the members of the band through my own eyes:

Scrapbook picturesFerman: Being the vocalist of the band, he is always in the frontline and most of the fans adore his looks as well, not only his voice. Yes, he is really handsome. And cute. And absolutely crazy. I guess people rarely come across such a man. He's an architect and a rock singer at the same time, quite a strange mixture. We couldn't really get to know him more as he was always sleeping and he left Budapest 2 days earlier than the others (for Rome).

Yağmur: He is the electric guitarist (and the main composer/lyricist) and he is even stranger than Ferman. When you meet him you see a silent, almost shy, boy - rarely talking, rarely asking questions, usually deep in thought. But when he does talk, he turns out to be a witty and adorable person, intelligent and really cute. He is a real artist, in every sense of the word. On stage he finds his own world, he becomes an energy bomb. As Kaan Demirçelik, the creator of the manga-characters of the band, said "Yagmur doesn't seem to belong to this world". He lives inside music.

Cem: Bass guitar. He speaks French and was so happy to find out that Zsuzsi also speaks this language - so he could practice? At first he seemed to be the one keeping a certain distance but he slowly opened up, as well and turned out to be a warm, friendly guy (and certain girls from our group were over the moon about his smile).

Scrapbook picturesÖzgür Can Öney: The drummer. He has recently got married and his wife, let's call her P., is one of the cutest women I know. Özgür himself is a living encyclopedia, there is not a single thing he doesn't know. He is well versed in the art of kick-boxing, but I have never seen him angry or unpatient. I guess this comes with the philosophy behind martial arts.

Efe: Well, what can I say about this heartbreaker DJ? He's certainly a good match to Ferman when it comes to being crazy. He's the party-goer, the fun-lover, the "cool guy" who loves danger, but just from outside. If you have the chance to look behind this mask, you find a very sensitive man with a great sense of humour.

Hadi: The manager. For months we were mailing each other and before we met I thought he was a cold businessman in a suit and tie, running about with a suitcase and a laptop. I was wrong (except for the laptop part). He turned out to be a light-hearted, warm, generous and funny guy running about in jeans. Thank you for everything, Hadi bey!

To read a video of this exciting event, click here.

Pictures courtesy of Marton Magocsi.

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