SirenFest 2012: Reggae Weekend on the Beach

This week Facebook's superhuman advertising spy network tipped me off about the Sirenfest Reggae Music Festival on a beach no more than two hours from central Istanbul.

The festival had apparently met some success a number of years ago but, as the ranks of Istanbul's reggae scene have swollen, another one was deemed to be in order and it was a fantastic day out with sun, sea, sand and good vibrations.
Sıska have been consistently tight both times I've seen them

Kilyos is a small coastal town in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul that overlooks the Black Sea as it becomes the Bosphorus straight. It's a beautiful setting and the route alone, by minibus over the green hills surrounding Istanbul's rural north, was spectacular. A day ticket cost 30 TL and we were all given wristbands to allow access in and out. There were many familiar faces from the Wailers concert and Nayah bar, along with not-so-familiar bunches of friendly out-going Erasmus sorts, but none the less the atmosphere was perfect owing to the setting, the chilled-out afternoon DJ sets, and the trials of a journey not everyone would be prepared to make.

The whole festival area, taking a comfortable chunk of Baykuş Beach, consisted of a large terrace with tables and chairs, with a view overlooking the stage and a small area to pitch tents. After a sorting out a place to stay we hobbled back down to see the live performances, that had already hit the stage by 10pm. 

I had the great pleasure to meet Orçun Sünear from Istanbul's premiere reggae band Sattas, while milling around the bar area. A very humble and relaxed figure, he was genuinely pleased to meet everyone who stopped for a chat. 

As one attendee told me, "this wouldn't be a reggae festival without Sattas" - and truly, despite the high calibre performs of the other groups, the star quality is definitely reserved for Sattas. In fact, I would go one further and say there would probably not even be a note-worthy reggae scene in Istanbul without the hard work that they have put in to promoting the music, including in the form of documentary coming out soon: Regici: Bir Müzik Belgesel (Ragga Man: A Music Documentary). Sattas, though phenomenal, were not the only band of note and I'm happy to say that, Sıska, who I have seen perform pitch-perfect renditions of songs like Night Nurse at the Nayah bar, were really on form. The set was incredibly tight and their own material stood out. I'm not always appreciative of brass, but Sıska's bassist/second-front-man/trumpeteer whose name I simply must find, blew me away. I can't find any online links to their stuff but I'm on the look-out. Haberiniz olsun. I can't wait until next year.

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