In the first of our series of reports looking at how other creative scenes across the world have been impacted by Covid-19, we speak to Istanbul-based project Ladies on Records.
The nature of a global pandemic means that almost everyone is being affected by our current virulent nemesis. But while cultural communities around the world are facing similar challenges, is each scene responding in a similar way?
In our Isolation Dispatches series we find out how creatives based in cities across the world are dealing with their particular situation. We hear from the record labels, venues, musicians and curators on how they themselves are dealing with the crisis, and how those around them have been affected.
Kornelia Binicewicz runs the project LADIES ON RECORDS which explores female representation in music through research, compilation mixes and DJ sets live and online. She answered our questions from her city of Istanbul.
Firstly, what’s the situation in your city – is Istanbul on full lockdown or a bit more relaxed?
Istanbul is in a lockdown. As all around the world the crisis hits the poor the most. A lot of people lost any possibility of having any income. It is going to be a super hard time for Turkey, since it has already been in a deep financial crisis for a while. The culture and entertainment sector was the first to feel the impact of the virus. A city of close to 18 million people with thousands of bars, coffee places, clubs and restaurants turned into a ghost town.
How has it affected your project?
Like for all the people from music and culture sector, the crisis meant the cancellation of all my scheduled plans until summer. I was supposed to have a very busy and exciting few months, including DJ sets, participation in music conventions, cultural residencies and research projects. The project Ladies On Records is a curatorial enterprise focused on [the] presentation of female music through researching, creating music compilations, playing DJ sets. Travelling and researching in music was a crucial part of my work. That is something that now can’t happen. But it appeared to me that there were many things that I have never had time for due to frequent travels. At this moment I am focused on writing commissioned texts about female singers, creating mixtapes for radio stations and building cooperations for future projects. It is also the time of filling up all the missing parts in Ladies on Records as a project, including visibility of a brand, the mission and goals. It is not financially sustainable right now, but it is definitely important and was very needed.
How have other cultural organisations in Istanbul reacted to the measures?
Most of independent organisations, NGOs, small clubs promoting music are having extremely hard time here. They never had any support from any authorities. Their future existence is at a big risk. People believe in solidarity and building a community. It is not necessarily understood in a local way but more in a global way. One of the ways is creating fundraising campaigns for keeping the places and organisations still running. The virus situation puts shade on everything and everybody.
Istanbul is a multilayered place, a home for many people from all places in the world. It is also a place of life for a huge amount of immigrants from war and poverty zones. Artists unite to create the projects supporting those who are exposed to the crisis’s effects the most. Artists are also trying to form international solidarity projects to support the NGOs and organisations bringing help (for example, the project of bringing artists together to support the NGOs on the Greek islands who are working with the refugee crisis by releasing compilations and music on Bandcamp). The virus strongly exposed the weakness of the system and the vulnerability of so many groups of people.
Can you give a few examples of what other DJs and musicians are doing to keep themselves busy and to promote themselves in these times?
People are trying to survive and keep themselves busy with making music. We never had so much time to be creative. It is not the easiest thing to do right now though. Creating mixtapes, live sets and concerts streamed online. People still don’t know how to turn those activities into any income that is so needed now. The are attempts to ask for donations for the online stream of the sets. However it is so new for many of us so we find it a bit awkward.
How are you yourself getting through it – personally and professionally?
Just after cancellation of all my plans, it was a bit hard to find balance and think in a creative way about now and future. I found a way to believe that was taken now, was somehow given to me and as everything can be lost. But I am still myself, still curious and interested in so many things. I focused on the things that I still have like a compilation I am working on. Also, writing texts about music is a way to keep myself focused and devoted. I have created mixtapes and podcasts that give me possibility to communicate with people and share my passion. I also made a special home session for one of the cancelled festivals (Radio Meuh Circus Festival), keeping up the vibe of the festival and give people some joy in those hard times of isolation. Personally I am aware that the situation is unpredictable. [It’s] hard to think of [the] future since we don’t know anything about next months. I believe it will be hard but we will also learn to adapt to the situation and find the best possible way to survive.
How do you think this will affect the cultural scene in your city once things return to normality?
A hard question. Tomorrow is blurred. Unfortunately many places will not survive. But also new things will emerge from this chaos. A new way of thinking is super precious now and I hope Istanbul’s artists will be creative, adapt to the new reality and make new fresh solutions.
Do you have any advice for isolated creatives at the moment?
From economical point of view it is hard to give any advice. It is a standby moment currently. But I think we shall not waste this time for being in the standby mood. It is a time of research and exploration of what we can do in a new circumstances. It is time for learning of your own possibilities and following inspirations. It will definitely take us somewhere.
Also, are there any ways Bido Lito! readers can support Ladies on Records or any other project you are involved with?
The biggest support I can get from you is following Ladies On Records on my soundcloud, my website and to be open to an exploration of female singers’ music from all around the world. My major goal is to share with my passion so reading my texts and listening to my mixtapes, listening to my compilations and sharing them among other people who care. That is absolutely crucial! Thank you!