Selen Gülün: “Kadınlar Matinesi”
A.K. Müzik – AK 1602-2
Arrangements: Selen Gülün
Selen Gülün (vo, p)
Monika Bulanda (d, perc)
Ceyda Köybaşıoğlu (vo, b)
Başak Yavuz (vo)
Çağıl Kaya (vo)
Ece Göksu (vo)
Elif Çağlar Muslu (vo)
Şirin Soysal (vo)
Ülkü Aybala Sunat (vo)
Serhan Erkol (ss)
Siney Yılmaz (as)
Barış Ertürk (ts)
Hakan Güven, İmge Tilif (strings)
Mehmet Yasemin, Umut Sağlam (strings)
1. Düşündükçe (Sibel Gürsoy)
2. Neden? (Ece Göksu)
3. Bekle (Değer Deniz)
4. Sen ve Ben (Başak Yavuz)
5. Düzelebilirdim (Jehan Barbur)
6. Sen Ne Sanmıştın? (Elif Çağlar Muslu)
7. Günler (Çağıl Kaya)
8. Siyah Zürafa (Şirin Soysal)
9. Neredesin? (Ayşe Tütüncü)
10. Her Yerdesin (Selen Gülün)
“Behind every successful man, there is a woman”…
For some reason this saying has always made me think.
Years ago, I thought that this saying meant that women are left behind in the men’s shadows and that there is no such thing as a ‘successful’ woman in patriarchal, or in a more superficially male-dominated, societies. However, in my later years, especially in the last 10-15 years, I happily realized that women are the “only keys to success”.
Women are greengrocers, taxi and bus drivers, editors-in-chief at various newspapers, art curators and CEOs in big firms especially in prominent European countries and in the USA and they do their jobs well and rise up in the ranks quickly with their success. On the other hand, we are having discussions like “Should there be a women-only pink Metrobus?” in Turkey, or whether to allow women to receive driving licenses, where to open the next women’s sanctuary to the discussions on “women uniting against male violence”. These topics and many other similar ones have been in discussion for years, while defending women’s right to equality in every aspect, and trying to communicate to others that they should be the superior and stronger sex to those who are adamant in not believing.
While we are unfortunately talking about problems that shouldn’t exist to begin with, best Turkish female jazz vocalists who love and do their job incredibly well and create unparalleled music, came together and united under the roof of a very special album which was recently released… “Kadınlar Matinesi” is the definition of success and contains what can possibly called the best examples of jazz in our country.
As Jazz Dergisi, we talked with Selen Gülün about her new A.K. Müzik studio album Kadınlar Matinesi, in which she directs 16 incredible musicians, and about other topics of concern:
“Kadınlar Matinesi”, women, music, jazz. Keeping in mind that jazz bands, from duos to bigger ensembles, are mainly formed by men in our country, I think it is very special to form a “jazz superband” maybe for the first time in Turkey that consists entirely of women, with Monika and Ceyda as cornerstones. It is also evident that “solidarity of women” is emphasized here. Should we talk more about this solidarity? I have always felt like this is a tasteless and unnecessary concept that shouldn’t be mentioned. This concept and need of solidarity wouldn’t provide an umbrella to avoid the downpour if there weren’t such things as violence, crime, criminal and if you just gathered with beloved friends to make a worthwhile album, to nurture it and watch it grow. Is that so?
Why? Solidarity of women isn’t a new idea! I think the standpoint of being uncomfortable with the idea should be questioned. There has been a solidarity among women ever since mankind started living socially. Women already do this. They “share”; while looking after the children, cooking, tending to wounds, heaving, having fun and while making music… I don’t understand when this is perceived solely as a political movement. Women who live in our villages come together in solidarity while sharing, creating, having fun, mourning, working in the fields and while singing folk songs in doing so, don’t they? They create and share the burden of life together. This project found and brought together musicians whose nature is to make music. I played this project with men in Rome, New York and in Istanbul. This is a female composers project. Seeing it merely as women coming together and singing would be underestimating this project. Tis isn’t its aim. I take part because I like playing with Ceyda and Monika.
Still, the history of solidarity among women goes way back in Turkey and countless projects have been done revolving around it. There is the play “Kadınlar Matinesi” with Ayşen Gruda in the lead among the examples I follow and its slogan is: “Happy people live in a country whose women can laugh freely.” Do you think “Kadınlar Matinesi” could be a reason to smile for some due to the story it tells?
I actually am not concerned about making people smile, to make them think or to create a slogan. The starting point of this project was the fact that the works of creative female musicians weren’t included much in programs globally. I started giving social gender studies classes at Bilgi University’s Music Department called “Woman and Music” to be able to justifiably talk about this subject and to create a platform for discussion. Melike Uyar teaches it now. In those classes, we used to talk about the statistical results as collected from American music magazines and watched documentaries from different parts of the world. It is important to approach this topic from a scientific point of view, because one always finds obstacles ahead. I want to mention that nobody wants to differentiate between male and female musicians, including myself. Music doesn’t segregate. However, even daily events create a environment in which we have to prove how competent we are at our jobs as women. I object to this and that’s why I put together works of female composers in my program. If you ask me ‘Who put work work in their program, who plays it?’ the reply will be women’s names. For example Asena Akan and Ayşe Tütüncü. I hope people will listen to the music first, when this album is concerned, just as they would listen to any other album. They decide how to feel. It is their decision if they will smile. Trying to find a romantic implication would hinder our point.
After listening to the album, I assumed that all the musicians recorded this album with the ambition of being the best who plays this music, but on the other hand, I don’t think you are really worried about giving a message, possibly due to the level of professionalism of the musicians who took part?
Yes, there is no intent to give a message. As you also said, I am triggered when a female musician’s competency is perceived as ambition. There wasn’t anyone who came to the studio with a mindset that said “I will go there, I will play so incredibly, I will prove everyone that I am amazing.” On the contrary, the atmosphere was incredibly peaceful, pleasant and fun. Nobody caused any delays, uneasiness or complaints except for the normal stress of recording. These are all people who do their best for themselves and for music. It isn’t about being competent or not. It is about expressing yourself. For this project, I worked with incredible women who have overcome the obstacles to express themselves. I feel incredibly lucky. And none of them knew what I have done to their pieces when they came to the recording session. We rehearsed without them present. They came, recorded live, and left. They were all at ease with the comfort of being able to express themselves through music. As I said before, it is all about sharing and creating… That is how we did it.
“Donne In Musica / Women In Music” is a formation that aims to bring together women who play and write compositions in all sorts of music genres, and to present these to the music-lovers. Can we hear more about this formation, and how you and Kadınlar Matinesi are positioned within this formation? I also believe that you are preparing a book about this formation?
The first steps of Kadınlar Matinesi were taken while I was working with ‘Donne in Musica’ in Rome. The president of the foundation, Patricia Adkins Chiti, asked me whether I could like to perform works of female Turkish composers in “Donne in Jazz” Festival. I was already playing with two amazing musicians from Rome. Therefore, I gave a concert in November 2011 at Frascati Roma which consisted of the works of Jehan Barbur, Ceylan Ertem, Şirin Soysal, Ayşe Tütüncü, Sibel Gürsoy and myself. Back then, there weren’t as many female composers in Turkey who have recorded albums for the creative music circles as there is now. Of course, I rearranged the pieces. We performed to a full house and it went amazing. I decided to make this a permanent project and to play it only abroad. I wanted others to listen to the music of these incredibly women as well. I went there for 3 months in order to compile the names, information and if possible the works of female composers with the demand and fellowship of the foundation. I was working for the female composers in Turkey in this project, called WIMUST, which was put together with the cooperation of the European Union about the visibility and the job and life conditions of female composers. The book project wasn’t being discussed back then. Patricia suggested the book project when issues of female composers became overshadowed by the women’s right to live in the country after 2013. We thought “Let’s do this now and contribute to the cause!” We wrote an article each with Şehvar Beşiroğlu, who has recently and untimely lost her life, and Şirin Özgün. The book will be published both in Turkish and English. Information on 160 Turkish female composers will be included in it. It will be the first book to be published in Turkey on this subject. Just like our album.
It isn’t that hard for a dedicated listener to understand, or at least to guess, the direction that the album is leading towards from the lyrics, but I am really curious about the story and importance of “Siyah Zürafa” for Şirin Sosyal! By the way, I don’t know if it is related but dreaming about giraffes (“zürafa” in Turkish) apparently signifies a victory that is to be won against the enemies!
Interesting, I did not know that! Şirin told me that she wrote the lyrics for Siyah Zürafa in the last minute, influenced by a dream she had. I think it embodies a little bit of the Gezi spirit. I always cry at “Ağaçlarımız bize seslendi, seslerini duyduk” (“Our trees called out to us, we heard their voices”). I cried while playing during the recording session too. She feels like Siyah Zürafa (meaning ‘Black Giraffe’) is an image of god, and she saw it as it was leaving a lake. Can you imagine! What a bizarre and powerful scene! Its lyrics are really influential, they really move me. I see Şirin as a wizard of stories. She truly is a bard.
You have been sharing your journey in Japan, where your creativity took a more personal and specific turn while expanding and developing, with us and invite us to your every single note. Now the stage is set for “Kadınlar Matinesi”. What do your musician friends in Japan or musical authorities who have listened to the album think of it as a whole and as a concept? An all-women album is like a dream come true for us jazz-lovers, but it shouldn’t be that out of the norm for them?
Somebody wrote “she is back, she is home” on Facebook the other day. I really liked that! I play my Turkish songs in all of my concerts here. I receive positive and encouraging feedback. They are more interested in the music of the composers instead of the fact that they are all women (I want to emphasize again that this isn’t the point). Just as any other real listener, they are interested in who wrote the song, and their other works. Therefore, the album serves its purpose. Of course, they find the project interesting. I aim to play Kadınlar Matinesi here as well. Will I be able to bring all the musicians here? There are many female musicians in Japan. For example, there is such a thing as the “trumpet player tradition”, I listen to some incredible musicians. Female pianist and singers dominate the musical circles already. Music is very important as an education and art branch in Japan. Let me ask you a question, have you listened to an album with a similar concept before?
I haven’t. I haven’t listened to such a diligently crafted album that brings together different voices so beautifully for such a long time.
I should mention this: Despite the fact that “Selen Gülün” is written in capital letters next to Kadınlar Matinesi, the uniting and integral power of the album that I mentioned before shows that anyone who has contributed in this album can identify with it.
“Kadınlar Matinesi” can easily be included in the top of the list of most sought-after albums.