Orhan speaks no English, but our wonderful translator and guide, Mehmet Kilic from Bakiad, did not need to step in often. Orhan is so wiry and intelligent that we were able to understand his lecture about quarter tones by following his hand gestures and the passionate course of his conversation. We eagerly got out our instruments to learn a gorgeous old Turkish melody from him.
He remains constantly in motion as he teaches. He strums the oud vigorously, smiles, sings loudly, and gesticulates all at the same time. Clearly, he practices what he preaches: the all-important musical triangle of brain, ears, and throat. (He said dismissively that a good ear for music comes from God and that music schools should not teach students with no ear.)
If we didn't get something, he scurried over to within inches of the offending player, smiling encouragingly, strumming the passage in question on the oud and singing with all his might until we got it. If we did get something, we'd receive a smile and an "Evet" ("yes"), at least.
We discussed (with Mehmet) the possibility of starting a summer music festival on Princes' Island. The island is so idyllic that it simply cries out for some sort of destination festival that would offer the inimitable combination of great music played in a stunnning and delightful setting.
He hugged us all when we left, and seemed close to tears several times, saying that he'd never heard his music played by musicians like us.
Orhan's compositions are beautiful, but he lamented, according to Mehmet, "Here I am on this island, writing all these compositions, and the world does not know I'm here."
World, on a tiny island near Istanbul there lives a funny, romantic fellow who still knows why we make music, why we seek to connect across cultures, why we dream.