Yaşam Hancılar, a Turkish vocalist living in Amsterdam, released his second album “Strange Fish” in the beginning of 2017. His first album “Here’s To Life”, released in 2012, consisted of American and Brazilian standards. Hancılar decided to include his own compositions and lyrics in his second album. After completing his education on jazz vocal at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Hancılar founded his own music school called “Music For Life” in Amsterdam, and he still continues giving concerts with his own band. The musicians accompanying him in this second album are the same with those in the first, except for the drummer; pianist Christian Pabst, double bass player Marco Zenini and drummer Joan Terol Amigo. Pianist Orestis Petrakis accompanies the band during their concerts.
The title “Strange Fish” was born with the sad influence of 3 year-old Syrian refugee Aylan who lost her life while trying to cross to Greece from Bodrum. The titular piece is composed and its lyrics are written by Hancılar. The dramatic photograph on the album cover is a symbolic expression of this unforgettable pain. The album includes a wide and really enjoyable variety of pieces by Yaşam’s beloved composers Jobim and Milton Nascimento, as well as by pianist Fred Hersch, Herbie Hancock and Joe Sample. Let’s hear about Yaşam Hancılar Band, whose concerts will take place in Izmir on the 25th, in Istanbul on the 28th and in Ankara on the 29th of June, as well as undated concerts in Bodrum and Çeşme, and about this album in a few questions and answers by the musician himself.
Hello dear Yaşam, congratulations on your new album. Every creation process has its own beautiful and tough moments; how did your preparation process and results change in this album compared to your first one?
The most important difference was the fact that I included my own compositions in this album. The first album consisted of arrangements of jazz standards and Brazilian songs that have a special meaning for me. The creative process and preparation was fundamentally different. Writing my own compositions and lyrics provided me with an entirely different perspective. I also chose the other pieces with this different perspective, we can say that my own pieces paved the way for the others I chose to include. I think the resulting repertoire is great, that’s how the feedback is for now at least. I think this is an album with more depth than my first one.
As a musician, do you think arranging, announcing and dealing with every single step of concerts and tours by yourself is a tough learning experience?
I think all musicians have to go through this until they gain recognition and reputation, no matter what genres they play. Dealing with all the details yourself makes one understand how different, and sometimes riddled with elements unrelated to music, this world can be. Of course, ideally I would prefer to focus on the musical and artistic aspects of the business just like any musician, but the reality is quite different. I think one shouldn’t pay much heed to that, though, at least I accepted this. I came across a documentary about vocalists, and listened to Sting’s interview. He was talking about how the steps you take as a musician affects and contributes to one in the spiritual sense. For example; he was saying that those who emerge from talent competitions these days, aiming to quickly gain recognition, lack that spiritual development that a musician goes through. I agree with this and try to see this situation from that point of view. I try to think that working through all the details by yourself not as a hinderance but as a wealth of experience.
What are your thoughts on writing compositions and lyrics?
It is such a great feeling to transform the smallest musical or poetic idea into a song step by step. I take immense pleasure from listening to my own pieces on the album. I feel different when I sing them on stage. It really gives me the feeling or creating something…
Being a musician in Amsterdam?
I think being a musician anywhere is hard right now. Amsterdam, Istanbul or New York, there isn’t much difference. But I try to see things positively. There are some great aspects of being in Amsterdam, the most important one being the fact that Yaşam Hancılar Band was founded here in the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. The band members are incredible musicians. Our new pianist Orestis is Greek, our previous pianist Christian was German, our double bass player Marco is Italian, the drummer who recorded the first album with me, Mauricio is Columbian and our new drummer Joan is Catalan! Amsterdam and the conservatory here is such a huge intersection point that if I wasn’t here, this team wouldn’t have gotten together. That is why I am happy to be in Amsterdam.
Have you started working on your third album? What are your plans for the near future concerning your music, stage and school?
Yes, I have started to write new songs. I hope we can record the new album around the beginning of next year. The second album was delayed by the music school project, but one shouldn’t put too much time in between the albums.