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Serving the song is always the main purpose: Elif Çağlar

Blog
Serving the song is always the main purpose: Elif Çağlar

01.10.2021

Interview: İlayda Güler

Elif Çağlar is known for her out of the box collaborations. The special performance she prepared with Defjen Daf Ensemble is kicking off 31st Akbank Jazz Festival. On the occasion of this show, we talked to Elif Çağlar about her current output and her songwriting process.

You are playing Akbank Jazz Festival on October 1 with Defjen Daf Ensemble who incorporate funk, jazz and ethnic sounds in their music. They have accompanied a number of names from Snarky Puppy to Birsen Tezer. As a musician who besides being competent in jazz, likes to explore different fields and to improvise, how did your paths meet with the Defjen Daf Ensemble?

Thanks to Akbank Jazz Festival, this exciting encounter was possible. After the long pandemic silence, we created a concept that brings together musicians from different disciplines and took it from there. I had heard about Defjen Daf Ensemble but I didn’t know them. Akbank united us and we both happily said yes. The show will be a journey to a selection of my compositions and and some surprising other sounds. It will be a different night that brings together world music with a variety of genres like jazz, soul and drum’n’bass. I am also excited that we will be underlying the eastern influences in some of my songs for the first time.

We followed your influential hardwork during the pandemic with joy. You must have missed playing with a band but it feels like you also enjoyed being solo as you improved your relationship with your vocal processor, played your first solo show, prepared videos for interpretations of songs you like, and released two singles from your Elif Çaplar On Vocals project. We would love to know what it is you want to say with your music, where you are going and any news, if there’s any. What can you share?

First of all, thank you. Yes, I am actually grateful for the teachings and the courage being alone brings. I’d been thinking about a solo vocal project for a long time, but hadn’t had the clear idea in my head. Because I was conditioned to think I needed to be busy with more experimental stuff, I had pushed the happiness simple form and harmonies bring into the background. Eventhough I frequently share these kinds of songs in my albums. I broke free from the idea “It doesn’t work without a band.” I was also relieved about different songs that focus on electronics and where I play most instruments myself. Some of them have been waiting for years. I will start releasing them in the coming months. My acoustic projects will continue as well. 

You are very prone to collaborations. Your collaborations are impossible to count. For those who are curious, we can recommend the “songs i sang or wrote for friends” playlist on your Spotify page. What does it mean to collaborate with other musicians for you?

I love writing melodies or lyrics for songs written by other musicians, building connections between their feelings and mine, and witnessing how a song becomes something else. It makes me strech my rules as well. Empathetically, I try to walk into the other musician’s world and serving the song is always the main purpose. It never is an effort to show my signature. So sometimes, in this exact mindset, songs like “Gideni Tutma” sung by dear Ceylan Ertem on the playlist come to life. Whether its yours or not, the song always commands what is going to happen.

For the first time, you recorded an album in a day with Teo Ciavarella, Domingo Muzietti, Massimo Gioannini and Massimo Manzi from Italy. Can you talk about that day a little? How did you pick the songs for Come Me Come Te? How did you feel about recording this concert-like album?

We had played the last show of the tour the night before. It was a special day I enjoyed every minute of. We created a repertoire of jazz standards we played at the shows together. I also wrote lyrics for one of Domingo’s and Teo’s songs. I also composed “Come me come te” that names the album. The album was proposed by my Italian team months ago and I accepted it with pleasure. When we entered the studio, we were very much used to playing together and we eagerly started recording. Our only intention was to make music and enjoy it. I couldn’t believe we were done with instruments and vocals in a single day. We are excitedly waiting for the “normal” days when we will be able to tour with this recording.

Your first album M-U-S-I-C is the first record in Turkey’s musical history that presents compositions in English, where all the lyrics, music and arrangements are by a woman jazz vocalist. You were one of the must-haves for the Dün, Bugün, Yarın compilation that celebrates 30 years of Akbank Jazz Festival. What is behind the song “Years Go By’ in this project?

Thank you very much. It was a pure joy and pleasure for me to be on the same album with such amazing musicians and for such an amazing celebration. While creating the song, my starting point was the festival itself. 30 years is a long time. We’ve been through a lot during this time. I was thinking about the ups and downs in life while writing the song but there was also the calm feeling of time that slowly passes by. The global pandemic might have intensified this feeling. I tried to express these feelings minimally and for the first time, except for the great wurly recordings dear Çağrı Sertel added, a song of mine where I played all the back tracks and recorded the vocals was released. So I am personally grateful to this project as it boosted my confidence in many ways.

Çağrı Sertel, Alp Ersönmez and Volkan Öktem are all your longtime musician buddies and they are all rooted in jazz just like yourself. Together in Sonic Boom, you sail towards R&B, soul, and electronic sounds. You have released two songs, and you continue to play enthusiastic shows with an energy reminiscent of the boom that is your name. Will there be a Sonic Boom album?

Yes! We are very happy about the feedback the songs receive from Turkey and abroad. We want to record new stuff continuously. The summer has been quite busy so we are running a little late but new songs will arrive very soon. We plan to go to studio as much as possible. We hope there won’t be restrictions due to the pandemic this winter. Our initial plan is to release more singles, but why not an album soon?

You moved to Muğla before the global pandemic. Is it different for you to create in a metropol and create in the countryside? Have the views you see, the sounds you hear or the people you meet changed your sources of inspiration too? Is this radical change reflected in your music?

Yes, I’ve been away from the city for 5 years. It should be reflected in my music as these are very important things! What you see, hear and speak is very important. We don’t even think about this in the city as if the details are only a background. I realized how these affect us only when I moved to a more quiet place. As my perception of life changes, it is as if I walk easier paths in my musical creation. Sometimes I don’t produce as much as I did in the city but I let it be and in the end something more satisfying than before comes to life. It’s not a matter of quantity, but quality. I don’t think as much and I am fairly happy about it.

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