Anyone who has been to a party or festival with dub beats and live percussion, and who has been on a Middle-Eastern-psychedelic trip, probably has had the chance to meet Elektro Hafız. The musician from Istanbul, who has been living in Cologne for two years, gets everything moving with his electric saz. We had the great opportunity to ask him a few questions over a çay.
Why do you call yourself Elektro Hafız?
I’ve been playing electric guitar for over twenty years, and in the past few years I’ve had more and more fun experimenting with the electric saz. I especially wanted to introduce Germany to the alternative sounds that I grew up with in Turkey. Growing up, people like Neşet Ertaş, Erkin Koray and Barış Manço, who had been using electric saz in the 60s and 70s, really inspired me. In addition to them, along with from rock of the times I also heard a lot of Krautrock from Germany and integrated it in to my repertoire. Now I myself write and play from my heart, just like a bard (a travelling poet and singer – ed.) from Anatolia.
What moved you from Istanbul to Germany, and why did you choose Cologne?
I worked for many years as a musician in Istanbul, and experienced the city as a connector between the West and Far East. I got know various cities during concert tours in Europe, but I was especially attracted to Cologne and its alternative spirit. I like to seek out places that haven’t been so hyped up. Aside from this, Cologne really is in the heart of Europe, so I can quickly travel to Belgium, Holland or France.
What would you like to express with your music?
I’d like to bring people from the West closer to the Middle Eastern culture with my music. Of course, there is already well-known music from Turkey, but there is much more diversity and thousands of facets in our culture that remain to be discovered and shown. It also is worth getting to know the Turkish underground scene. The electric saz, originally a traditional instrument, allows me to break open the boarders that have been constructed between the East and the West. Therefore, I draw on different genres, and am perceived as a punk by the traditional saz players. It’s important to me to express my convictions in my music: Borders and rules are only constructed and can be dissolved.
You are involved in projects and workshops for young people across borders and were on the road in the East of Turkey last year. You worked together with young musicians there. What was special about this experience?
I grew up as a musician in a large city and have also visited other metropolises and got to know many projects and people. When there are many options, people quickly get their fill with art and music. It often seems to me as if some artists don’t work from their heart, but rather as a habit. For many, making music is just a fad, a hype that will quickly disappear. In Eastern Turkey, I met young people and musicians who use art and music as a voice for essential topics. They authentically talked about their experiences with discrimination, about the oppression of their language and culture, and about their daily problems, fears and dreams. Aside from that, I also saw how one can be creative despite limited opportunities.
You covered the guest workers on from the 70s “Deutsche Freunde” (engl. German Friends – ed.) and released it as a vinyl single. What other projects are still on your agenda?
The summer is around the corner and I am going to play at different festivals. Aside from that, I am working with the virtuoso musician and instrument maker, Şemo Usta, from Istanbul. He built me a brand new electric saz, exactly as I had imagined it. We would like to make it more attractive to other musicians and listeners outside of Turkey, and get it known internationally in the future. Aside from this, I recorded my solo album and am still working with a few other musicians on remixes. It’s expected to be released at the end of the year.
Text: Ahmet Sinoplu
Photos: Tanja Anlauf