AfterParty Hero: The Musician Who Rocks out for 100 Nights for Recovery
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AfterParty Hero: The Musician Who Rocks out for 100 Nights for Recovery

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It isn’t often you get a musician going on record to promote awareness and concern about drug addiction. Usually if they’re talking about drugs, they’re simultaneously high, or perhaps jonesing for their next line of blow. This isn’t the case for all musicians, of course, but it’s certainly a trend in the biz—the industry is famous for the prevalence of illicit substances, overdoses and lead vocalists or singer/songwriters hitting rehab over and over and over for drug and alcohol problems.

The Bonzai Boom

But Turkish rock star Haluk Levent is a contrarian. By taking the stage for 10 and a half hours straight, longer than any musician in history, he’s broken the Guinness World Record for longest concert to raise awareness of drug addiction. And this summer, he plans to perform for 100 straight nights throughout Turkey, which will top the Guinness World Record for shows performed consecutively. The first concert is scheduled to be held in May in the Aegean province of Izmir; the 100th will be held at Istanbul’s Harbiye open-air stage.

“We aim to draw more attention to narcotics and mobilize everyone to save youngsters from this dangerous swamp,” Levent told reporters. “A portion of the proceeds from these concerts will be put into a rehabilitation center, to be used in the fight against drugs.”

Levent’s noble effort is a response to the widespread use of bonzai, which has caused serious alarm in Turkey in recent years. A synthetic drug that’s marketed on the streets in Turkey as a safe alternative to marijuana, bonzai has become a growing public health threat. The drug, which was more or less unknown prior to 2010, now accounts for 50 percent of illicit drug use in Istanbul. It’s already caused more than 300 deaths and the side effects include rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure, hallucinations, memory loss, temporary blindness and temporary paralysis.

More Credible Than Nancy Reagan

A rock star is certainly a more credible spokesperson for drug abstinence than Nancy Reagan—especially when the message is aimed at high-school students and young adults, who are especially influenced by pop culture personalities and make up the main demographic of bonzai users. It’s also refreshing and inspiring that a guy with lots of notoriety is using it to put the kibosh on deadly drug use in his homeland, saving young lives in the process.

So far, I’m a real fan of Haluk Levent. I only wish I understood Turkish, so I could actually enjoy his lyrics. Google Translate only does so much.

Photo courtesy of Maneki Neko (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.