Istanbul is unique. It is the only city in the world where two continents meet. Enjoy old and new in the cultural capital of Turkey with Istanbul expert Marc Guillet

Babylon, my favorite live music club

Posted on 29 September 2011

Babylon. Photo: Slawomira Kozieniec

Undisputed No. 1 by far is Babylon on my list of the ten best live music and dance clubs in Istanbul. For over ten years Babylon has been a prominent venue for live music because of its excellent programming.

Except in Summer, the rest of the year they have several concerts a week. Babylon presents a wide range of musical styles and artists: from world music to rock, jazz, R & B, electronic and more.

I recently enjoyed a performance of Baba Zula. A colorful band that is known for its neo-psychedelic folk rock. In a multidisciplinary show with belly dancers, saz, guitar, percussion and a creative artist who is commenting on the action on stage by drawing on an i-mac and projecting it on the wall.

Other great bands I saw there last week were Rainbow Arabia is an electronic duo from Los Angeles consisting of Future Pigeon keyboardist Danny Preston and wife Tiffany Preston, who plays guitar and is a very original vocalist. They performed a brand of dance music that contains elements of North African and Arabic sounds with hints of American avant-garde dance pop.

Ethiopian musician and composer Mulatu Astatke, a music legend who is considered to be the creator of Ethio-Jazz genre. He combines traditional Ethiopian folk music with classic jazz and latin. He was performing with London based jazz formation ‘Heliocentrics’. A great night of modern jazz mixed with Latin rhythms.

Tinariwen from the Sahara dessert

And Tinariwen a band of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed in 1979 in Libyan refugee camps but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s.

Tinariwen was founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who at age 4 witnessed the execution of his father during an uprising. Tinariwen who have adopted the nomadic way of life in the deserts, have released four albums and they blend local intruments with western guitars. It was a great concert. Sahara blues, great rhythms and melancholic sounds. I felt their pain and the hard life of the Tuareg nomads.

The guys enjoyed it so much that they didn’t play for and and a half hours, but for two hours!

The Babylon club has a modern design with an excellent sound system. Everyone can clearly see and be close to the performing artists, since both the ground floor and the balcony have quite some space. Their capacity is 400+ people.

One of the other highlights for me at Babylon was a concert by the Flemish indie rock band Zita Swoon, led by the charismatic singer/guitarist/composer and song writer Stef Kamil Carlens.

Babylon is located in the bustling nightlife district of Asmalımescit (Tünel) at the start of Istiklal Caddesi, the pedestrian shopping area where you find many bars, clubs and restaurants. You could compare this trendy neighborhood with New York’s Soho entertainment district.

Babylon Lounge

 Babylon Lounge

As the new season has kicked of, the Babylon Lounge is attracting more people as well. It is the backroom of the music club and it is a great place to meet with friends, listen to music or work on your notebook.

It is a meeting point with comfortable wide seats, a warm decor, wireless high speed internet and a comfortable atmosphere. Any time of the day Babylon Lounge is an ideal choice to hang out before the concerts, parties, and to listen and dance on the music of guest DJ sets. After the concerts in Babylon you can meet the musicians there as well!

Moreover, all alcoholic beverages at Babylon Lounge till 9.30 pm have up to 50% discount. What kind of music you can expect there? Motown, Funk, Jazz, Afrobeat, Reggae and much more.


This location of Bbylon has been closed. They have relocated to the Bomonti hood.


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