Mare Wakefield & Nomad: Istanbul, Turkey
Nomad Ovunc, Musician and Producer
Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish-born Nomad Ovunc’s, from the duo Mare Wakefield & Nomad, musical education began at the exclusive Istanbul Conservatory and continued with a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. Ovunc’s gift for musical arrangements includes a full arsenal of classical, folk and jazz chops. As for Mare, wanderlust has always been in her DNA—she lived in eight different places before she was ten. Versatility and travel-scapes are evident in their music. Listeners of the pair roam through Arizona deserts, Oklahoma oil fields, and Amsterdam canals. Journeys go inward too, exploring hope, heartbreak, and barroom brawls. Story and song are woven together by Mare’s intimate delivery and Nomad’s exquisite piano and accordion. Currently based in Nashville, Mare Wakefield & Nomad were 2016 and 2015 Kerrville NewFolk finalists and 2015 Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists.

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What is your favorite word to describe Istanbul?

Maximum: because whatever it is that you’re thinking, you’ll find it here to the maximum. Joy, food, spirituality, beauty, traffic, stress, materialism, ask for it and Istanbul will deliver it! Maximum.

What word best reflects the people of Istanbul?

Scrappy. You’ve got to be resourceful, fast, and sly to stay alive in that jungle.

What is the most creative, spiritual or emotional place in Istanbul?

Historically it’s been the Beyoglu district—a neighborhood which sits on the northern side of the Golden Horn. It’s a vibrant place which was home to many artists. It has beautiful architecture, amazing restaurants, and nightlife. Some of the oldest gathering places of Sufism and some of the most prominent churches all intermingle in Beyoglu. For me though, it’s the Bosphorus strip and all the little neighborhoods that line the waterfront. They have a few things in common: a central mosque or church in what loosely resembles a neighborhood center. A few cafes for tea, coffee, backgammon and breakfast, plus a bakery, a casual seafood restaurant and a few giant old plane trees. Kanlica, Anadolu Hisari, Pashabahce, Ortakoy, Rumeli Hisari, Arnavutkoy, Sariyer.

What is your favorite outdoor activity in Istanbul?

Riding the ferries with a good stash of desserts I picked up from of the oldest neighborhoods with some OG shops. (Right next to the grand bazaar!) I rode those ferries all through 6-11th grade. Early in the morning, you can feed the seagulls chasing the ferries (not cool for wildlife but those things are not wild...haven’t been for a long time) they’ll catch the sesame ring breads in mid-air. Sunset from the ferries! OMG. Best view of Istanbul. You can see the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and so many other iconic places, depending on what line you’re riding. I strongly recommend grabbing outdoor seating on the ferry.

What is your favorite indoor activity in Istanbul?

Concerts. All these old churches and cisterns are often home to very prestigious concert series. Basilica Cistern, Hagia Irene. I saw my teachers from the conservatory perform in these places. Magical.

What is your favorite sound or noise in Istanbul?

Seagulls. And the pre-dawn Call to Prayer -- but only if it’s a good muezzin (singer). This sound even inspired me to compose an instrumental piano piece a while back titled “Call to Prayer.” I’m not a particularly religious person, but the Call to Prayer can be a very enchanting thing to wake up to.

What is your favorite smell or taste in Istanbul?

Roasted chestnuts from a street vendor in winter. They’ll serve it in small paper bags, which you can put in the inside pocket of your jacket — so that you also get warm while you eat them one by one.

What drink best reflects Istanbul?

Raki (a clear brandy made of distilled grapes, flavored with anise). No doubt. Have lots of appetizers with it. Sip it, don’t slam it. No need to order an entrée. Just many tiny bites of meze (appetizers) and tiny sips spread over a long night of conversation with good company.

What song or type of music best reflects Istanbul?

It’s really hard to pick just one! There are just so many styles—from traditional sufi, to Turkish rock, Western Classical, Turkish classical, even jazz. It’s an extremely versatile city with a long history in everything. Like I said earlier, you can find whatever you’re looking for in Istanbul.

If Heaven were Istanbul, what would God say to a visitor when they arrive at the Pearly Gates?

It’s a beta version. I’m still working on it.

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