This year, the 15th International İstanbul Jazz Festival's "Lifetime Achievement Award" will be presented to Tuna Ötenel for the work he has done, since the 60s, in promoting the knowledge and appreciation of jazz in Turkey. A gifted player of several musical instruments, including the piano, bass, saxophone and percussion, he has played an important role in popularising jazz music in Turkey. The son of a Bulgarian immigrant, he has been involved with music ever since his birth. His first name Tuna is derived from Tuna, the Turkish name for the Danube river, while his father was given the surname Ötenel (warbler) because of the birdlike sounds he produced on his violin. He began his musical career at a very early age with piano lessons from his father and, at the age of five, he began to play in his father's dinner and dance orchestra. Even in those days he could play drums and various percussion instruments as well as the piano.
As he grew older he garnered the admiration of all his teachers and passed the entrance exam for the Ankara State Conservatoire! Unfortunately he fell in love with jazz music and began to give it most of his attention, with the result that, although he had very good grades in all his subjects, he was finally obliged to leave the Conservatoire. He began his professional career in 1964 in the Metin Gürel orchestra, took up the saxophone in 1968, when new doors were opened for him by Metin Gürel's gift of a saxophone.
Although, as a result of the lack of interest shown in Turkey towards Turkish jazz musicians, Tuna Ötenel, in spite of his talent and virtuosity, must often have felt himself somewhat marginalised, we hope that this Lifetime Achievement Award will prove to him how deeply he and his talents are appreciated by both friends and listeners.