Local Voice: Hayati Kafe, Jazz Crooner

Local Voice: Hayati Kafe, Jazz Crooner

In our series Local Voices, we’ll be introducing you to locals and some of their favourite things to do in Stockholm.

All photos by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

All photos by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Born in 1941 in Istanbul, Turkey, Hayati Kafe is one of Sweden’s legendary jazz crooners with a career that has spanned over 60 years. He became a teenage idol when his recording of the Italian song ” Segretamente” became a hit in the 60s.  In 1962, he traveled to Sweden on a three-month tour with the Turkish Orchestra and has called Sweden home ever since.

He is well-known within the Swedish jazz music scene and has collaborated with many top jazz performers across Scandinavia. Hayati has performed in all the Scandinavian countries, appeared on TV, recorded singles. LPs and CDs. He has also worked in Great Britain, Holland, Germany and France.

On August 29, he will be celebrating his 75th birthday in style by putting on a 60+ year jubilee concert at premier jazz scene Fasching.

STS met Hayati at one of his favourite places in Stockholm – Konditori Ritorno – which he has personally been visiting for the last thirty years.

Tell us why this place is so special to you.

Well, I’m sad that this is not a television interview so you could see the place. It’s one of the real authentic cafes that hasn’t changed. Everything is like it used to be, maybe 40, 50 years ago. At one point, there used to be live music. People could bring their guitars for impromptu jam sessions.

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You have an impressive career that has spanned over 60 years. What has surprised you so far on this journey?

I never could imagine that I would still be working after 60 years. That’s one of the biggest surprises. Many people retire.  Their voices change over the years. Thanks to God and my physical health still being quite good, that’s why I can do it. I’ve always liked sports and I used to play tennis. I grew up walking and I like being active.

When it comes to my voice, I practice almost every day. Maybe since I’m not an opera singer I don’t use my vocal chords as much as they do. You have Tony Bennett who is almost 90 now, and he’s still singing at the top of his voice. It’s not as it was in his premium days, but almost.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of different artists as well which has also kept your work timeless across the decades.

I actually didn’t start as a jazz singer. In the 1950s, I started out by singing Italian songs and some American pop songs that were popular. Paul Anka was one of my inspirations. You had all these teenyboppers, American singers. Then somehow by accident, I stumbled upon jazz music.

I started learning a couple of jazz songs, and one thing led to another, and all of a sudden, I noticed I was the only guy in Turkey doing that. This was appreciated by other musicians, and that’s how I got my first radio show. I think that was really a first in Turkey at the time.

You started your career at 16 years old. Can you share more about that journey?

I started working in an American NCO club in Istanbul. There were a lot of American soldiers at the time, and they had their own clubs. I was there and I started singing American songs instead of the Italian ones.

Yeah, I had one Italian song that became a hit actually in 1960 in Turkey and was in the Top 10 list there. I think it was there for about two months,  10 weeks or something like that, sitting at number two.

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What would you say are some of your most treasured career memories as an artist and why?

I can tell you one of the finest memories I have is way back in the beginning when I came to Sweden. The first summer I was in Malmö and singing in a dance club. We went to listen to jazz pianist Count Basie. We were huge fans, and they were our idols then. We went to play in this night club. At about 11pm, some of the guys from the band came to the club where we were performing. Among others, saxophone player and flute player Frank Wess, who was also one of my idols.

That was one of the biggest surprises and memories of my life.

The second one was when I had quit the band I was working with 1963, and I went to this place next to Fasching called Zanzibar at the time. The owner there knew me because I had worked for him and he told me there was a very well-known band leader who was looking for a singer. Well, one thing led to another, and I got the gig. That was what cemented my career in Sweden and made me stay here.

The third one was maybe when I was invited to Berlin to perform with Rias Big Band. The BBC was there to cover the event.

You’re based in Stockholm now. Have you always been based in Stockholm?

Yes, I moved to Stockholm in 1963.Well in the beginning, we had a two-month contract. We were traveling around because we kept getting new contracts in Sweden. I had visited Stockholm a couple of times those years before finally settling. I knew that it was the capital and the most important place in Sweden for music.

What’s next for you? You’ve got the Jubilee concert on August 29th at Fasching. What should your fans expect? 

I don’t know if some of my fans are still alive. They are older than I am. This Jubilee is a little present to myself actually because I’m also turning 75 years old. It’s a combination of celebrating 60 working years as an artist as well as my 75th birthday.

I sincerely hope I can go on working a few more years because I enjoy it. I like the music and I like meeting young musicians, getting new ideas and learning new trends within the kind of music that I’m working in.

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What are some of your favourite places and things to do?

Stockholm is a wonderful town, there are so many nice places to go to if you want to walk around. Besides Konditori Ritorno, I often go for long walks along the canal by Kungsholms strand and Klarastrandsleden. Almost every day I go for a 3-5 kilometre walk around there and there’s also a park with a fountain (around Grubbens trappor).

I also like taking portrait photographs of people. Mostly black and white.

Where do you like to go listen to good jazz music or live jazz?

Well, Fasching is obviously where to go. Fasching is the only true jazz club with jazz music being played maybe three to four nights a week. They used to have it every night in the olden days, but now they have pop music on other nights. Fridays and Saturdays are more disco-tech and house music. There used to be a cool place called the Glenn Miller Café, but it’s gone now.

If you’re lucky on a Monday during the summer, you can go Skansen. During the summer, they have special Blue Monday (Blå måndag) performances dedicated to jazz music. Blues club Stampen also features some live jazz music.

I’m sad to say that jazz music in Stockholm has dwindled, the clubs at least. The jazz clubs are now out in the suburbs. There are about 10 jazz clubs around Stockholm, and they are all run by local communities and non-profit societies, and you can hear good music. But for somebody visiting Stockholm, it’s very difficult to find.

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Do you know any local voices you’d love us to spotlight or would you love to share your voice and your Stockholm with us? Please get in touch.


Author: Lola A. Åkerström

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning writer, photographer, and travel blogger, and is also the Founder/Editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic Creative. She tweets at @LolaAkinmade.

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