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Araf Cafe & Bar

World Music and Balkan Beats
High above the side streets of Taksim, on the rooftop of an old building, Araf Bar streams out world music and Balkan beats with live performances and DJs every night of the week. If you're used to dancing to 4/4 beats of western music, then you might have to sit out a few dances, take in the views of Istanbul, and absorb the Turkish 9/8 rhythm often played here. It's a little tricky to dance to at first—but made easier with an Efes beer or two under your dancing belt!

Check Araf's website for its music program that features styles such as reggae, Balkan rock, and the soulful Middle Eastern tunes played by my personal favorite, Cümbüş Cemaat.

Live Music and Dancing in Istanbul
I never knew how to dance to the clarinet before I came to Istanbul. One of the best dance parties to be found here is when folk bands (some of them are amongst the most well known in the region) take the stage, and the crowd becomes a whirling love-fest of raised snapping hands, circle dances, and belly dancing. Araf, a small bar up several flights of stairs, is one of the best places to catch these types of shows, and other “world” music, and the crowd, a motly crew of hippies, university students, foreigners, and unusually happy people, is almost always friendly. In fact, when the music plays, they won’t let you sit down.