He quickly proved how talented he was in his violin education, which he started at an early age. He adopted the idealist aspect of his violin teacher Professor Ayhan Turan and made it his principle to leave Turkish music to the next generations as a legacy, while he was advancing in his career.
He was a pioneer in recording and introducing Turkish musical works to the world. Cihat Aşkın who continues his teaching career at İstanbul Technical University today travels abroad to teach in master classes in many cities of the world.
We met with violinist Cihat Aşkın to discuss his contributions to music and get to know him better. We talked about the reflection of music on him.
Can you tell us about the formation of Cihat Aşkın ve Küçük Arkadaşları (Cihat Aşkın and His Little Friends)?
I have always wanted to teach what I have learned to the young generation and I have believed the importance of it. If we do not teach what we have learned, the knowledge disappears with us. It is important for people like us to teach their knowledge so our culture, arts, and humanity advance. I thought that the best way of doing this was to teach children.
Why especially children?
Adults might forget so many things because of their hectic lives; however, children never forget. Children are the proof that ideas will be conveyed trustingly to the future. Children are pure in thoughts. You know, we lose our purity as we grow up… Children are pure and their perception is open. As long as you provide them with good education, new generations will be brought up well. Culture and arts will advance by protecting them with children and young people.
How was CAKA (Cihat Aşkın ve Küçük Arkadaşları) established?
I came back in 96. The art movements were slowly beginning to develop in Turkey in parallel with the world then. I wanted to start this project at İstanbul Technical University Conservatory, where I was working, I shared my ideas with the academicians. They did not want to support with the thought that it would only be a course not a serious education program. The offer I had been waiting for came in 2001. Professor Koray Çalgan, Head of Music Department of Bursa Uludağ State Conservatory, and the Principal of the school, Ali Göğüş invited me to lead the violin education. I had one condition. I told them that I wanted to realize the CAKA project; they accepted. We started working in Bursa and our project became very successful. The project spread to surrounding cities, becoming a fire, which was noticed by others. I think that CAKA became a pioneer in Turkey.
How did CAKA grow?
11 years ago, I trained the students who would train at CAKA today on the weekends. We have advanced through the devotion of 10 idealistic friends. These teachers then went to their own cities and realized CAKA projects. We have reached many young people through our work since 2001. Although there are many among them who do not make music currently, there are still many names that make music professionally. There are soloists abroad, and those who study abroad among them. Today, some of them are also teaching at significant schools. Those who do not continue making music as professionals continue to look at life through their artistic aesthetic training. The purpose of CAKA is to raise people who are socially beneficial with aesthetic perception.
What are you doing now?
We would like to open a school for CAKA. We would like to train people online. We are hoping to realize this in a few months.
Do children take a talent exam?
No, I am against it. When you examine people, you place them into categories like talented or not. I believe every person is talented. There is a situation here to do with how advanced the perception is. It’s a process that starts with parenting. If the child’s perception is open since infancy, that child can do anything. I don’t believe in the exam system because everyone’s pace is different. To me, success is self-restoration and revealing your cultural belonging. The aim of music is to reveal a person, not to be prepared like a racehorse. If a student can transfer his cultural identity to someone else, CAKA has been successful to us. We measure our students’ levels from time to time.
How old do your students begin?
We have a little friend who started at the age of 2.5; we have others who began between the ages of 16-25 in Ankara. We call them little friends but we do not have an actual limit on their age, everyone can join, if they want to.
You have contributed to Turkish music significantly, you have made records so Turkish music would be listened by the world, can you tell us about these works?
I entered the Turkish Music State Conservatory of İstanbul Technical University. This university is an institution that teaches both folk music, Turkish art music and classical western music. We were very fortunate to learn about these various music branches. While learning the violin, I learned our music as well as the world repertoire. I started thinking about how we could introduce our own music to the world. As I continued my education in the UK, my thoughts improved and I decided that we should present our music to the world market by using the standards used by the world. I have always included Turkish music in my own concerts. The biggest problem in Turkish music was that our artists did not speak the world music while they were speaking their own musical language. I think I filled a gap in this respect. I’ve spoken to both of these languages.
Which path did you follow in your concerts?
I have included many works of Turkish music as well as Western classical works in my concerts and have made great achievements. When I came back from the UK, I released the Miniatures album. Until that day, Unkapanı had not released a classical music album. If Unkapanı is our music market, if we could sell our music in this market then we would have realized a reality. This was 20 years ago. After this, many classical music albums were made.
You have numerous contributions also as an educator, can you tell us about those?
Thanks to the works I have done in my own conservatory, we established İTÜ Center for Advanced Studies in Music with Kamuran İnce. We started the doctoral education in foreign languages in music in Turkey. In order to prevent the brain drain, we brought teachers from abroad. I was the director of the Turkish Music State Conservatory between 2008-2012. We have done a lot of work for the development of Turkish music. We have introduced the new Turkish Music movement. We had new works and the new interpretations of classic works meet with the listeners in various concerts. This has allowed people to place Turkish instruments in orchestras. These leads of mine make me happy.
What are your recent concerts? You are crowning your 40th anniversary in music with a concert in May.
I started playing the violin 40 years ago. I gave my first concert when I was a violin player for a month and a half. I’m going to have a concert at Toscana on the 3rd of May. We will have a Turkish Waltz concert at Das Das on the 26th of May, and this concert series will continue through the fall. I am preparing the classical music events of TRT İstanbul Radio and we have monthly studio concerts.