Bilal Karaman has put the guitar at the center of his life since the age of eleven, and he has gone on to become one of the pioneering jazz guitarists in Turkey. Over the years, Karaman collaborated frequently with international musicians including Marcus Miller, Lars Danielson, Ricky Ford , Aydın Esen, Harvie S, Zakir Hussain, Fernando Paiva, Mike Moreno, Pierre Blanchard , Gustav Lundgren, Jarrod Cagwin and Dianne Reeves .
Winner of the first prize at the 2009 İstanbul Nardis Jazz Guitar Competition, the guitarist has created a different repertoire and formats for the stage. Since his debut album “Bahane” (2011), his wide range of performances include solo guitar recitals, duos, trios, quartet combo bands and gypsy jazz bands.
Since 2003, he has performed many concerts in Hungary, Macedonia, Ukraine, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Netherlands, South Korea, South Africa, and Kenya, among others. He has performed in highly esteemed festivals like İstanbul Jazz Festival and the London Jazz Festival.
In 2012, Karaman was named one of four rising guitarists of the year in an interview with Barry Cleveland in American Guitar Player. Karaman, who never leaves the quest for innovation, which is at the heart of jazz, has created a different musical world in every project. His great joy at live concerts has been his hallmark. Bilal Karaman, whose four albums bearing with his unique guitar sound is testament to this quest, initiated the album series “Manouche a La Turca” based on French gypsy jazz, the genre of Manouche created by Django Reinhardt. The first album, which successfully carried the European jazz-swing style to Anatolia, was followed by two more volumes.
One of the best-known guitarists in Turkey, Karaman fuses the music of Turkey with gypsy and jazz-swing styles pioneered by Django Reinhardt in “Manouche a La Turca”. Born in the 1930s, when American jazz influenced Europe, the musical genre of Manouche, created by the fusion of Romano-gypsy French music, is brought to Anatolia today by Karaman. This is why the series “Manouche a La Turca” is a pioneer in the history of Turkish music.
Guitarist Bilal Karaman is telling the story of “Manouche a La Turca” himself: “In Şstanbul, some time in 1997 is when I first met jazz. People likened my solos and my style to Django Reinhardt . That’s how I first heard of Django’s name. I wasn’t mature enough to realize at what point that Django was a great guitarist. And in those years, I didn’t really think it was a good idea to build my music on that genre until a jazz club in İstanbul asked me to do a special concert for Django’s 100th anniversary. At that concert, I wanted to play tunes from our land as well as known Manouche standards, and I finally composed something and brought it into our repertoire. That’s how “Manouche a La Turca” started in 2010. It took me a long time to understand and get to know this genre, because there were not many people playing Manouche except me in Turkey those years. At the same time, I was studying the “longas” and “sirtos” to consolidate the repertoire. I wanted to get the magnificent harmony between the Gypsy Swing (Manouche) school and Anatolian music .
Eventually, I felt ready and started recording the first demos in 2014. We started to record for the album in the summer of 2016; unfortunately, due to difficulties and misfortunes in the country where I live, we were able to finish the album by the end of 2017. Since there is no existing example of the music in my mind, it took me a long time to decide which which musicians should I play. At last, I decided on Göksun Çavdar for clarinet, Pierre Blanchard and Hüseyin Kemancı for violin, and Baran Say for double bass. I was playing all the guitars. In our repertoire, there were composers like Tanburi Cemil Bey and Kemani Kevser Hanım who were dominant in both Western and in Turkish music, and we were playing their classical works. In the second album of the series, I arranged the works of valuable composers Mehmet Ilgın and Sadi Işılay. Semih Çelikel and Hüseyin Kemancı are on violins, and Baran Say is on bass. In the third album of the series is a live compilation from our concerts between 2018-2020.”