Many of us recognise him as the founder of “360”, the first jazz club of Turkey in Bebek, but Hasan Kocamaz’s personal story is much longer than this short sentence. Following an extended hiatus, most music fans heard his name through the buzz formed around Emin Fındıkoğlu’s album.

Hasan Kocamaz, born in 1928 in Istanbul, encountered jazz music during his education at Galatasaray High School. He started out with drums, continued on with bandoneón and lastly transferred to harmonica, which he played in the school’s famous scout band “İzcaz.” He then formed his own bands. Kocamaz played together with that era’s most significant musicians such as Erdem Buri, Doktor Fazıl Abrak, İlhan Mimaroğlu, Nejat Cendeli, Turan Eteke and Eray Turgay. World War II had just ended when he listened to jazz music for the first time in his life at Mihtaryan Armenian School in Pangaltı. Arto the trombonist, Kohenka the drummer, Dikran Haçaduryan the trumpeter, Alex the pianist and legendary Hırant Lüsikyan used to play together. Arif Mardin was among the audiences as well.

Kocamaz won the first prize at a harmonica contest held in Paris in 1959. Around the same time, he had started to learn the trumpet with Cüneyt Sermet’s encouragement. He collaborated with prominent musicians of the day, such as Yavuz Özışık, Tülay German, Erol Büyükburç and Necdet Karar.

Kocamaz did not complete a thorough music education, but always worked towards understanding the essence of music. He inscribed the mathematical equation of jazz to his heart.

He lived as an expat for years but decided to return to his homeland. After moving from Bebek due to sea pollution, he currently lives in a house with a garden in Kilyos, close to the nature he loves. Kocamaz is a passionate motorcyclist, who is one of the first Vespa owners of the country, as well as an accomplised hunter. He continues to observe today’s jazz music with his profound amd historical experience.

Hasan Kocamaz is an integral part and a living witness of Turkish jazz history and in his story, you can also find the story of Turkey’s transformation.

– Tunçel Gülsoy