Neslihan is a young musician with a powerful emotional style. In line with today’s trends, her songs made the rounds on the Internet. Later on, she stepped from the virtual world into the real world by releasing an album.
She composed all of the lyrics and music in the album. Neslihan is responsible for “Hiç Sevmedim,” a hit song that seems to be played left and right these days. Both the song’s lyrics and music are Neslihan’s. In the beginning, because she didn’t have a musical instrument, she couldn’t compose the music for the song, even though she had already started to write the lyrics. When she decided to pair her lyrics with music, she sought out the instrument that would best interpret her feelings: the guitar. And what a process it was: She bought a friend’s guitar by selling her university exam prep books. From that day on, an inseparable part of her life has rested with her guitar, and she now composes lyrics and music and gives performances. Neslihan has said that in her songs, she wants to describe not only herself and love, but also people and life. She said, “In a place with no people, there’s nothing there at all. When I go onto the street, the person that I look at is also the person to whom I seem as though I’m lost in thought and looking elsewhere. I’ll watch people as a whole, or one by one.” Neslihan joined us with her guitar for a chat and sang her songs live for us. She was warm and sincere. By the way, she shared her latest composition, “Araz,” with us for the first time.
Where and how did music come into your life?
I started out by singing songs and playing guitar for my friends. But if we go back before that, the story stretches back to middle school. That’s when I started to write. Because I didn’t have an instrument, it was just an experimental phase. I couldn’t do any compositions, but my pen was always free to write. If you’re going to be useful to society, then you need to secure the best work that you will be able to do. I thought that the work that I could do the best and the most comfortably would be with lyrics, music, and performances. I decided to pursue this line of work.
Why the guitar?
When I decided to combine my lyrics and music, I thought that the guitar would be the best instrument for interpreting my emotions. At the time, I was living in Mersin, a city with a very developed music culture. It was possible to see a guitar in the hands of every youth. We can say that I was influenced by that context.
And you bought the guitar by selling your university exam prep books.
Yes, that’s what I did. I sold my books, bought my guitar, and started to learn.
Did you learn by teaching yourself?
Of course. There was no way I could go to a class. I learned how to play guitar by practicing for five hours a day. I had friends who helped me, too.
Didn’t you consider going to a conservatory?
Actually, I did consider it, but it didn’t happen. People were always telling me that getting into a conservatory was very difficult, and I think those comments had an influence on me.
Why the album title, Karalarda Beyazlar, “Whites in Blacks”?
While walking on the road with my friend, she told me, “Neslihan, your music seems as if it’s melancholy or pessimistic, but after listening to it I look inside myself and I’m full of pure whiteness and peacefulness. In other words, your music seems dark but inside there are pure whites.” I agreed with her, and I realized that was what my work was: expressing whites with darks, representing white with the color black, being able to write in white with a black pen … or taking white from the nights into inner realms.
So you’re saying it’s possible to see whites in blacks.
Of course. My music and lyrics articulate melancholy and pain, but they also describe lessons to be learned. If you sing a song with a melancholy voice, saying, “Get up even if you’re covered in mud, and keep going until you’re white,” you learn that if it stops like that, black is replaced with white. I hope I’m getting my message through. That’s my goal.
Are your compositions mostly about the emotions that you’ve experienced yourself, or are there parts of society that affected them, too?
In fact, I want my songs to convey traces of society, and I’m paying attention to that. Of course, I’m in my songs, too, but I’m writing while being affected by people’s lives. I don’t want any of my compositions to be about me. They should be about just the opposite; they should be a part of that. That’s why everyone can find something of themselves in my songs, which is something I really like.
Can we say that the orientation of society is toward love?
It would be wrong to say that exactly. Because of the popularity of “Hiç Sevmedim,” it might seem that way, but actually there are very few love songs. But I wouldn’t want there to be only love songs. It’s necessary to touch on many different topics.
Workers who are oppressed, students who are oppressed, injustice … If I don’t explain clearly, then I can’t go on without mentioning these things. For example, the song “Sen” seems like it’s about a particular individual, but I drew a different picture there. When I sing, “While you were leaving this place,” it can be perceived as a mother thinking about her son. Love doesn’t pass through the lyrics.
Why do you prefer an air of melancholy?
In general, I like to take an interest in the painful aspects of people’s lives. I haven’t personally experienced any disasters or the like, but other people’s pain reflects onto me. For example, for five or six years, I didn’t use any lights. There were only candles in my life. I wanted that arrangement, and I can’t stop myself from doing that.
Your source of inspiration is people. So when you go onto the street, what strikes you the most?
Yes, in a place with no people there’s nothing there at all learn this here now. When I go onto the street, the person that I look at is also the person to whom I seem as though I’m lost in thought and looking elsewhere. I’ll watch people as a whole, or one by one … The Iraq War, all of the places that are at war, all of the victims, all of those stricken by disasters, the tsunami … I think about these things a lot. I want to know and feel what life is like in those circumstances. Those who lose their loved ones, children who witness death and weapons, and the human marketplace … How can a musician not think of these things?
At the moment you’re studying business. How is that going in conjunction with music?
I can’t associate music with the subject I’m studying, but there is another way of looking at it. The classes I’m taking are in English, and I was thinking that I could use my language skills in music, too. I give precedence to my education as it will be my profession, but music will always be in my life.
You don’t perceive musicianship as a profession?
Well, for starters, I had no misgivings about seeing my album on store shelves or seeing myself on TV. For me, music is a bridge in my efforts to reach people. And one of the biggest buttresses in that bridge is education.
You’ve released an album at a time when pop culture is in high demand. Have you worried about that at all?
Yes, I have. I’ve even had nightmares about it. It tears me up inside that what I’ve been hiding and guarding inside music in general and my music in particular could be thought of as something other than human. If you are an interpreter of emotions and feelings, these concepts will never be popular. I ran far away from this in all of my songs.
You said, “I’m at an age when I will do my utmost for society.” What do you mean by utmost?
People’s success generally happens during their youth. Your health is good, your blood is running hot, your energy levels are at their peak, you have plenty of ideas … That’s why these times are the times when you will do your best work. Although I say there that my haste comes from this idea, it isn’t the same as rushing. It comes from the fear of beautiful and important years slipping by because there’s far too much work to do. I’m in the young years of my life in which I’ll be able to do my very best and most beautiful work.
And now let’s talk about your latest song, “Araz.”
Yes. I was a guest on Radio 7, and the program’s producer and host, Kahraman Tazeoğlu, gave me a novel called Araz. I read it that week, and I called him and I was going to say just a few sentences but then my hand went to my guitar… I wrote “Araz” again in my own way and composed music for it. This is the “Araz” that remains with me.