In Conversation: Musician Hande Başaran

Hande Başaran
Hande singing and playing the çeng. Photo: Emre Başaran

Hande Başaran is a Renaissance woman: musician, singer, mother, kindergarten teacher and all-round creator. When I first heard Hande perform, I was struck by the mystical quality of her voice. Immediately, I was captivated. The way she carries a song, a special energy radiates out of her and connects with the audience. Playing music, she says, allows her to open up and express her inner self while at the same time connecting to others. Her voice resonates with the sounds of ancient Anatolia – pure of heart and soul.

Hande plays with An’dan Içeri this coming Wednesday, February 24 at 18:00 at Mephisto Bookstore Cafe on Istiklal Street.

How did you become interested in music?

It starts from my childhood, with my grandfather, who was very much into Turkish classical music. He played the kanun in his spare time and he was always listening to music. Music got into me somehow since I was spending a lot of time with him. In 2006, I met my music teacher, who is also a musical therapist, and I fell in love with the kind of music he plays; traditional Turkish music coming from central Asia, Anatolian classical music and Sufi music. I wanted to learn more so I started going to the rehearsals.

What instruments do you play and what instruments would you like to learn how to play?

The rebab (bowed string instrument), the bağlama (turkish string instrument) and the çeng (turkish harp). I want to learn how to play the oud (pear shaped string instrument).

When did you discover your singing voice?

Singing came to me naturally. I was always singing but I was very shy. People started telling me I had a nice voice. I also started feeling it. There is a certain level in the voice and when I sing from this level something happens from my heart. It touches my own heart.

Who do you play music for?

Since I play with a few different groups of musicians, there are different audiences. It depends who I am playing music with. For example, with my teacher’s music therapy group we play for patients. Sometimes I play for children. With my friends, the group An’dan Içeri, we play for different audiences at many places: venues, on the streets or at universities. My favourite audience is the people on the street where you play for everyone. We have mostly played on İstiklal Street in Beyoğlu and in Kadıköy on Bahariye.

What motivates you to play music?

The emotions and the trance in the music is a big motivation. Also the musicians I play with. First, the feeling of togetherness comes and then you want to do something together. For this, the music creates a space and this space takes you in somehow. There are people that I really enjoy playing with so with them it is really easy to be motivated. It’s also a really nice language, the music, to communicate. If a melody touches someone, this is something special.

What are your influences as a musician?

Some musician friends, the music they make influences me deeply. Nature is also a great influence, always. Playing outside with the sounds of the birds and the wind. Yalova in this sense, is a very strong place for me to make music since there is this Sema held there every summer. Sema is a festival celebrating Sufi music and dance. The music goes on 24 hours and there I can play all day long. It’s also a good place to practise and be together with other musicians.

Are you composing your own music or do you collaborate with other musicians?

Personally, I’m not composing so much … it will come, maybe, as that feeling is coming slowly. With a group of friends, we play as An’dan Içeri (to be inside the moment). We are 7 to 3 musicians playing and performing together at a time. We are taking poems from Yunus Emre and improvising with them. Slowly, the melody comes and the music is born. I like working collaboratively and when we capture the same feeling, if we are in the same state of mind and in the moment, I really enjoy the experience. What we create is very much about friendship and the love we share for each other.

With my teacher’s group, Tumata, every week we are practising central Asian and Sufi songs. When we have a concert coming up, we rehearse the concert repertoire. My husband also plays with this group. He plays the ney and I play the rebab. We are also taking oud lessons together so it’s nice to practise together.

What are your dreams?

I have this dream of a all-female band. I have had it for a long time because I had this very close friend who passed away and we were drumming together and singing. I feel that I have to make this band a reality. A different type of energy comes out when women play together. It’s not better or worse, just different.

Another dream is to have a place where I can come together with friends and produce, a place mostly for women. I like this female energy very much. I would like this place to be in nature, to create and live from nature. I always miss and long for that.

What do you like about living in Istanbul?

It’s a very beautiful city. This is my village. I was born into this place. I like my house and my garden. Whenever I can, I like going to the islands. The social life in İstanbul too, going to my friend’s tea shop where musicians from all over the city gather. There are many possibilities here in İstanbul for making music.

Goals for the future?

To be more disciplined and practise more, trust myself more and make the women’s collective I mentioned earlier.

Hande’s music encourages you to be in the moment. While listening to her sing and perform, you will experience a special energy that she transcends through her music to the audience touching your heart as well as her own.

All photos by Emre Başaran.

To listen to Hande perform with An’dan Içeri check out these links:

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Marga Patterson
Turkish at heart, lover of nature and adventure. Always ready to explore the hidden treasures of Istanbul. Drawing and writing keeps her alive and well. You can check out more of her work here: http://margapatterson.com/

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