Pianist Fazıl Say spoke out against the criticism he had to face after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended his concert. Say wrote he thought the criticisms were hurtful and abrasive and added “I kept to myself for months”.

Sharing a post titled “My truths” on his Instagram account, Say stated the following:

“Those who misled the public really hurt me. The concert Mr. President attended was at Ankara Congresium concert hall, tickets were already sold out. They manipulated this and said “Fazıl Say gave a concert at the Palace”. My repertoire for the concert included my own solo pieces Troy Sonata, Izmir Suite and Kara Toprak. They manipulated this with stupid fake videos and said “Fazıl Say played Dombra”. The “concert salute” I did on January 18, 2019 was exactly the same as what I have done previously in the thousands of concerts I have performed in my life. They tried to smear me by saying “Fazıl Say kneeled”. Some people called me a “fluke”.

Reading, hearing these upset me deeply. I cannot begin to tell you how hurtful these are and how much they troubled me. This concert has 3000 witnesses. What I played was recorded on audio and video. The beginning of all this was when President Mr. Erdoğan called me to express his condolences after the passing of my mother and as a humanly response I invited him to my concert. I wish all politicians, government, opposition, municipalities, would go and watch all these artists, musicians, theater actors perform at their venues. I wish they would be more involved with art and encourage the public’s art interest. I wish…”

All Presidents have come see me play

“After the developments following the concert, I saw that many people whom I considered to be friends, including those whose lives I have helped a lot, decided to be a part of this lie, this hostility. This was extremely hurtful, abrasive and heart breaking for me. I kept to myself for months. Everything is over with these “friends”, bridges burned, never to be repaired again. Many writers that I read and like, wrote false things with manipulated perceptions, as if I had committed a crime. Did my ideology of 49 years suddenly change? Do you think it has? Can it change?

All presidents of Turkey in the last 30 years have once or twice come to my concerts. Özal, Sezer, Demirel, Gül and Erdoğan (in 2003 and 2006, during his prime minister term), in addition to these names I have played before many presidents around the world. In arts, sports, this is common. Politicians go to concerts, cinema or matches… They should. They should even go and see the most opposite-minded artists. If they have come and seen me, does that change the whole ideology of our lives? What kind of nonsense is this? Is there anyone in my life who doesn’t know I am a liberal, devoted democrat, Atatürk lover and patriot? Is there anyone in the world? Is there anyone who doesn’t know about my opposing stance, my troubled years, all the courts I have been through?”

Art must be experienced where it is performed

“I have only once in my life played at the Çankaya Palace; due to a very special occasion; November 1999, USA President Clinton, his wife and their delegation were visiting Turkey after the 17th August 1999 earthquake to show support and solidarity; I was politely asked to perform at the Palace that evening. Other than that, as part of my philosophy, I do not think it is right to have artistic events at official stations, both from art’s and artists’ perspectives. The philosophy must be this; we should meet where art is performed, not where politics are performed.

I told these exact words to all the ministers and consultants who contacted me, “I can take on responsibility but it should be in halls where art is made. The objective should be to bring together art with public and encourage it. I don’t know what they told their superiors. Please understand me. And we have not been contacted since. Should they wish I make music on a national day, I think it should be at Anıtkabir.

I wanted to explain the truths in writing for historical records.”

What had happened?

President Erdoğan called Fazıl Say after his mother’s passing and expressed his condolences. After the call Say said “The President’s voice was very intimate, very possessive, very real. He expressed his condolences in a very candid, very warm and very real manner” and then invited Erdoğan to his concert on January 18, 2019. Erdoğan attended the concert with his wife Emine Erdoğan and gave a short speech on stage. After the concert Say remarked “I felt the door to consensus being opened”.