We can hear the trumpet sounds echoing from a studio in Galata: Can Ömer Uygan is either recording, or he’s teaching. Maybe he’s working on something new for his band KAM? We actually know him from bands such as Gevende, Pinhani, Yasemin Mori and SiyaSiyaBend. Let’s visit him in his own studio to find out more…
We’ve known you as Ömer the Trumpet for years, but could you introduce yourself for those who are here to meet you?
I was born in 1982, in Bornova. After living there for 16 years I moved to Eskişehir, and then to İstanbul in 2006 with Gevende. Once I moved to İstanbul, I played with many bands including Yasemin Mori, Şirin Soysal, Pinhani, SiyaSiyaBend, Şenol Küçükyıldırım Ways, etc. and have contributed to 15 music albums as of today. I made music(separately as Gevende, Taner Yücel and myself) for short films, theater plays and dances, and also took part in some of those short films as well. Apart from these; I’ve been taking photographs for the last 1-2 years. We used some of my photographs for the first video of my new band KAM, along visuals of Fehmican Gözüm. We are planning to use them in the future videos of KAM too.
How did you discover your musical talent?
My parents were involved in dance, music and theater in the community center during their youth; I was raised with music thanks to them. We were part of the state opera choir with my older brother while I was in elementary school, I was a child actor in Carmen for 3 years. I bought my first musical instrument, a bass guitar, when I was 14. Back then my older brother, my friend Ahmet Çağan and I formed a band; we had set up a studio at Ahmet’s workplace and were practicing from time to time. If there was ever a discovery, it must have started then. At 16, I was accepted to Anadolu University State Conservatory’s Trumpet Department where I worked 1 year with Mehmet Erten and 7 with Erden Bilgen. This is when Gevende phase began. In Eskişehir, it’s not hard to meet up and practice at all; very convenient to form a band. We performed music with friends many times at home in Tepebaşı, in the studio or Carpe Diem, which meant the city’s stage for us. This is how music entered my life.
Did you have many bad memories while learning to play a hard instrument like the trumpet? Swelling lips, aching teeth…
I don’t believe the trumpet is harder than other musical instruments; however, it’s harder to get the sound you aim at once. You can think of the trumpet as a well sounding megaphone, because the sound that comes out is entirely yours. To manage this, you have to have a perfect harmony between lip placement and midriff(breath). Of course I had swollen lips, while playing you have to remember that you’re playing a wind instrument and you have to be patient; otherwise you can put too much pressure on your lips and crush them. When I was a student it said “BREATH” in my trumpet studio, school locker and instrument case. It is the most easily forgotten thing in the beginning and lack of breath makes you force your lips, which we don’t want. I remember calling Mr. Erden a few times to complain that I couldn’t make a sound with my swollen lips and he always laughed and reminded me to work on warming up and breathing. Working with a master like Erden Bilgen was a huge luck for me; I had very few swollen lips and aching teeth problems.
You attended many festivals at many countries, how does it feel to introduce your music to people of different cultures?
Going abroad to attend festivals is an excitement of its own. Meeting new people and sharing music broadens one’s horizon. For example when we went on the “Gevende on the Roof” project in Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal, we met many new cultures. We had many different experiences on the road; we attended a Sufistic night in Lahor and witnessed their ceremony, we gave concerts in Pokhara and Kathmandu and had the chance to make music with musicians of different cultures and introduce ourselves. These trips are golden opportunities for every musician, we plan to continue these trips with KAM as well.
You collaborate with successful groups and art projects, compose your own music, go abroad for concerts while at the same time taking care of KAM. How can you manage all of this?
In this country it is hard for musicians to pursue their projects and make a living at the same time. Apart from financial difficulties, you have to practice everyday to keep your physical and musical coordination in top shape. I have a studio of my own in Galata. I spend most of my time here; practicing with the groups I collaborate with, or by myself. On the other hand, I teach to those who want to start playing the trumpet or want to improve themselves, under Trompet Atölyesi(The Trumpet Workshop). You have to turn it into your life to “manage”, or be involved in, all of it.
How is your relationship with İstanbul? What are its effects on your music?
I love İstanbul despite everything, it’s pretty chaotic. Collective relationships and sharing is enabled here. Çıplak Ayaklar(Bare Feet), Gevende Stüdyo(Gevende Studio), Kamayor Sanat Atölyesi(Kamayor Art Atelier), Küllah are great examples to this. İstanbul’s effects on music are the same as well; it depends on the relationships you form with the city itself and the one you form within yourself, in the city. You can feel both alone and pluralist, and this reflects on your music.
Let’s talk a bit about KAM; what is it, where does it want to go to?
The word KAM means a number of things depending on the location. In Ottoman Turkish it means time, century, to lend an ear. In Persian; pleasure, wish and happiness. In Anatolia and Central Asia; a bard, healer, shaman. We first planted the seeds for KAM in 2011. It is a fresh group that has evolved with the ideas and tastes of its members since then.
Last but not least; any new projects or goals?
KAM is a very fresh group and goal for me. Apart from that, I want to improve The Trumpet Workshop.
Can Ömer Uygan's Recommended
King of Devil's Island
Güs Weg Watergang