We had a pleasant interview with musician and composer Melisa Yıldırım, who has achieved many successes in the international arena, on her art life.
Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
I am Melisa Yıldırım, I was born 27 years ago in Istanbul. I am a musician, composer and improviser. I play the Kemane/Kamancha instrument, which has spread to wide geographies such as Anatolia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
When and how did you start music?
I started music at a young age with my grandmother’s unique lullabies.
On some evenings, we would have family gatherings with music, bağlama would be played, folk songs would be sung. This is how I came across the most valuable melodies and micro-musical tones of Anatolian music.
Later, my aunt studied music at the conservatory, I remember when I was about 5 years old, I tried to play her instruments and produce compositions, I never did not want to leave from her room. I think I really started to touch the music at that time.
How did you meet Kabak Kemane?
I met Kabak Kemane for the first time at Istanbul Technical University Instrument Department high school. At school, my teachers wanted that I should play this instrument. I didn’t choose it actually..
It was not an instrument that I knew until then, because the Kabak Kemane is a traditional instrument played by Yoruk Turkmen in Anatolia, and I dont come from that culture. Later, in addition to my education at school, I decided to study this instrument in more detail. I got acquainted with various artists and began to explore the types of this instrument from the same family but in different geographies. According to geography, the name of the instrument and its technical structures may vary. There is something absolutely breathtaking about this diversity. I have been playing the frame and the Anatolian kamanca with a five-string design, for some time.
You have been living in London for a while. How do the British react to an instrument familiar to Turkish society?
Obviously, this instrument is not a very well-known and visible instrument in Turkey either, it is not as popular as bağlama or kaval. As well as the British, it is the first time that the Turkish community in this country encounters kemane/kamancha. Everyone agrees that it has a mystical feeling.
The British find it original to include the sound of this instrument in various musical genres and projects. Because it’s an unorthodox sound for them.
Last year, you participated in a project called OneBeat in America. Can you talk about both that process and your musical works after the project?
OneBeat was one of the most original and impressive artist residency I have attended. I met artists from 12 different cultures and countries, it was a unique experience in which I discovered their musical languages and stories, made many valuable memories and gained friendships. Trying to describe my feelings in words is limiting right now… For example, I had a musical encounter that I always thought would be the most valuable in my life. Very soon you will hear the sounds of this musical encounter, we will release a duo project. It’s a surprise… In addition, most of our musical collaborations have been published on digital platforms, some of which you can find on the album ‘Barzak’ by my Moroccan musician friend Reqteq, and some on the album ‘Onebeat 9 Mixtape’ via Bandcamp. We even rearranged and recorded a composition of mine called ‘Silk Road’ in this album together with my musician friends Leandro Cesar, Swarupa Ananth and Edgar Marun. Working with each musician was an unforgettable amazing experience.
You appeal to both eyes and ears with your instrument in different parts of the world. Your solo works are very impressive. Where did you perform your art?
Thank you, I think one of the best parts of my profession is traveling. I have toured many places in Turkey taking part in the orchestras of various artists, I took part in the Making Tracks artist residency in England and we have performed concerts in many cities of England, I have played solo in some of them. In addition, I have played at concerts of various universities in the United Kingdom, I worked with Iranian sufis, unfortunatly some of these works have been disrupted or postponed due to the pandemic. I have played solo at the EFG London Jazz festival, and recently I have made solo performances at the Isole che Parlano festival in Italy. These are some places that come to mind…
This year’s concert list has started to form, it looks like I will be traveling solo or duo to more places soon.
What other instruments do you play?
I play lute, I started to learn on my own. It has an interesting sound color. Sometimes it’s like an oud, sometimes it’s like a guitar. I like to compose on the lute, but I still can’t say that I devote a lot of time to it. I actually started music by playing Bağlama, it was the first instrument I played, then I had to stop playing it when I started conservatory. I learned piano for a short period at the conservatory. I have had experience playing instruments of different styles, I have an idea of how I can use them, although I am not as professional as Kemane/Kamancha on each of them.
What else are you interested in besides music? What are your hobbies?
I’ve been doing yoga for a while, and even started doing research on this topic, getting deeper. It’s starting to become more than a hobby for me. It has almost completely changed my life habits and way of thinking. It is possible to say that it even influenced my approach to music at some points. I have always sensed and played a spiritual side in music anyway, I always make meditations before I start playing an instrument, in fact, yoga was a missing piece in my life. I’m glad for discovered it.
Thank you for accepting my interview offer. Finally, anything you want to add?
Thank you for creating a great independent platform for artists and art lovers.