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On the trail of progressive sounds: JAPA

Blog
On the trail of progressive sounds: JAPA

16.03.2021

Consisting of Çağla Karaali, Oğulcan Akça and Efe Artun Yüksel, JAPA is one of the thrilling young bands in local jazz scene. The trio answered our questions, right before their live performance on Akbank Sanat YouTube channel on March 18th.

Interview: İpek Temizkan
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

How did Çağla Karaali, Oğulcan Akça ve Efe Artun Yüksel get together? How did you decide on the name JAPA?

We know each other (Oğulcan and Çağla) from BAU Jazz Certificate’s ensemble lessons. We found out that our pianist would not be able to play with us two days prior to our gig. We phoned Artun, rehearsed twice and played our first show. During the rehearsals we started building a really nice friendship. The show was a joy to all of us. A few days after the show we got together and talked about carrying on together and started planning our repertoire. We decide on JAPA because of its lovely meaning. JAPA actually means to repeat. It is not clear what is being repeated but it points to internalising and integrating with the repeated in this act of repeating. This turned into a theme we would always like to remember in terms of sound and designed music. Beyond the simplicity of the concept, what effected us most was how strong its meaning was.

With all the difficulty it brought, how was 2020 as a first year for JAPA? Can you tell us about the opportunities the pandemic might have provided for you or its effects on you in general?

The pandemic has been a difficult process for all of us. We all got isolated at our apartments. We were so lucky to have created a space that belongs to us and where we can play together. Eventhough we were seriously detached from the stage or any musical spaces, we never stopped playing together when we met each other. Being left without a stage surely takes away motivation. But we never stopped making plans and dreaming as a band.

On March 18, we will be listening to you on Akbank Sanat YouTube channel. What kind of preparation are you in for this performance?

Besides the arrangements of our favorite tracks, we are also working hard on our compositions for this show. We are excited to share our own music at this concert. 

What do you think about musical events on digital platforms? Both as performers and listeners?

Digital music events are a whole different experience. Digital platforms are not the medium neither the listener nor the musician is used to or expect. Concert culture is an interactive culture. Music events on digital platforms leave the impact of the venue or the interaction with the listener to the impact of the home studio environment or unaudienced venues. Both as listeners and as artists, we really miss the shows before the pandemic. But in this period, we are also very much motivated by these events. We are grateful for every accessible event that is organized for the sake of music.

Both modern or mainstream jazz works and your own compositions are evident in your repertoire. How do you pick your songs?

The thematic unity is more important to us than the unity of sound while making our repertoire. Under these circumstances, a song from the 1950’s can be played together with a song that is written after 2000’s can be played together in the same repertoire. We can say that JAPA has a uniquely progressing and everchanging sound. We pick the songs that we find close to our sound, that are progressive in nature or that are from different genres which are transformable. Although our sessions are based on mainstream jazz or bebop, the JAPA sound is not actually about these genres.

Which bands or artists does JAPA find close to itself?

We are getting inspiration from tens of different bands and artists from Bill Frisell to Pink Floyd, from Charles Mingus to Brad Mehldau, from Keith Jarrett to Camel and, of course, last but not least, Radiohead. We feel close to them and we resonance with them. Almost all the names that are innovators in music history are valuable to us.

What are your expectations for 2021 and beyond? Do you have plans or preparations?

Our priority is to work on our own compositions and sound. In 2021 and later, we want to emphasize on these as much as possible. We want to do regular recording sessions, play many shows and reach more audiences.

(To Çağla Karaali) Since early age, we know that you play many instruments and have had different contacts with music. After Minus Two, you are practicing drums with vocals together at JAPA too. What new experiences does this practice bring to you?

I believe that the opportunity to work with different musicians enables me get to know myself in different aspects. It’s a long road to walk for me and JAPA is the perfect band for this. The interaction among us when we play together always reminds me that band music is not only about listening, feeling and playing; it is also about many different themes to get used to and to work on. Playing drums and singing is sometimes an advantage and sometimes it becomes a disadvantage. But one person commanding on two different instruments brings with it the continuous engagement of vocalist and the drummer. The notion of ‘comp’ which I really valued with JAPA, became an even bigger concept as I played with JAPA. I discover different dimensions to my vocal and drums as the musical interaction between me and Artun and Oğulcan deepens.

(To Oğulcan Akça) Can you briefly tell us about how you got introduced to jazz and your story starting with Karavan?

The period I played with Karavan has been a milestone for me. I got introduced to both the bass guitar and the concept of ‘experiencing the music’ during that time. And I can say, that’s when the whole story began. After that period I started thinking that music has to be in the focus of my academic life. Then the periof of moving from Ankara to Istanbul began. I was accepted at first to Bahçeşehir University Jazz Certificate program and than Yıldız Technical University Bass Guitar program. Jazz got me very excited with its political stance and its improvisation practice, which we actually use all the time in our lives. I can say that this excitement is still with me.

(To Efe Artun Yüksel) Efe Artun Yüksel Trio is another project that you work on besides JAPA. We guess you are working quite intensively. Are you planning to relase a single or an album?

Actually I haven’t been able to work intensely with my trio project because of the pandemic. My production process continues swirling around many small ideas, but cannot create a wholeness. I spend more time on playing the guitar better. I believe in the coming days, I will start recording sessions in İstanbul and İzmir for my trio project.

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