From traditional Turkish folk music to modern rock to experimental bands, you’ll find everything on the streets of İstanbul. The city is colorful and musical, and everywhere you go you’ll always be accompanied by music. Just about every café, restaurant, bar, or hotel will have a different form of music playing and different music is considered to be the perfect accompaniment to different activities.
The street is no different, where whether you’re traveling, walking, shopping, or eating, there’ll be a local street musician trying to make your experience all the better. The prime locations are highly sought-after, and the best spots and best times are given to the best musicians. As a result, it’s relatively unlikely that you’ll come across a mediocre musician. They’re supported by the community and in many cases play concerts to large venues in addition to playing the streets.
As much as the music can be anything, it will typically be different from what you encounter in another cities.
Types Of Street Music
Romani music is amongst the most common forms of music you’ll find on the streets. These often feature accordion players who are remarkably skilled and produce sounds from their instrument you’ll rarely hear elsewhere. Singing is a feature of Romani music as well, so enjoy the opportunity to sample their voices.
Turkish folk music, featuring traditional Turkish instruments like the bağlama or the oud, are an integral part of Turkish daily life, as singers sing traditional songs called "Türkü"s. These songs often have a slight melancholic feel to them, and give the streets a sense of love and nostalgia.
South American or native American musicians are also surprisingly common and popular in İstanbul. They play the pan flute and wear traditional native American outfits. The music they play is common to the Andes region of South America and are very popular with locals.
Finally, expats are common to the street music scene, bringing a Western influence to Turkish music and creating some truly incredible fusions. These groups are often the most original, creating blends of folk, rock, reggae, hip-hop and more.
But where should you go to see them?
The metro in Turkey is (with a the notable exception of the world’s second-oldest metro in Tünel), relatively new and features large, clean stations. The city center is packed almost everyday, making it the perfect place for street musicians. These musicians usually congregate along the long walkways between stations and exits, and occasionally feature a crowd around the most popular of them.
Galata is the region surrounding Galata Tower, and is a beautiful region full of small, cobbled streets and local flavor. It also is one of the prime musical districts of the city. This is where the city’s best musicians come to buy their instruments, and it’s often where they play them for the first time on the streets around. Walk between Beyoğlu and the Bosphorus along Galata and enjoy the sounds of the music as it’s played all the way down.
Along İstanbul’s most famous and colorful avenue you’ll find street musicians from all over the world playing the best of their brand of music to a crowd of onlookers. This central street in Beyoğlu represents possibly the heart of İstanbul’s music scene, and if you’re lucky, you’ll on occasion find a truly famous name playing the street just before they perform at some sold out venue elsewhere in the city.
This is one of the city’s most historic districts, and the colors of its homes is equally reflected in the color of its music. The neighborhood is less touristy, so the music is more likely to be tailored to locals, and also as a result likely to be of the highest quality.
The lively center of Beşiktaş near the eagle statue at its center is full of hustle and bustle, and the district is younger and full of energy. The music you’ll hear reflects that, with the occasional rock band as well playing in the streets.
Ferries Across The Bosphorus
The best views in İstanbul accompanied with some of its best music, what could be better! Take any major ferry across the Bosphorus and you’re almost sure to be serenaded with an excellent live performance – get a cup of tea as well and enjoy!
This vibrant neighborhood on the Asian or Anatolian side of the city is chock-a-block with energy, and right along the water you’ll see street performers of all kinds with crowds surrounding them. Join in the fun!