Turkey’s princess of dance music: Ayşe Hatun Önal
Ayşe Hatun Önal is joyful, sincere and obviously has a spiritual side. Her songs are very emotionally powerful, with a hidden melancholy that strangely does not make the listener feel down at all.
Her new album “Selam Dengesiz” (Hi, Unbalanced) features arrangements of İskender Paydaş, Erdem Kınay, Gürsel Çelik, Kaan Gökman, Sezer Uysal and female songwriters like Gülşah Tütüncü, İsra Gülümser, and Gülhan. DJ and producer Mahmut Orhan has become an arranger for the first time with the album, in which he arranged two songs.
The first single “Olay” gives a good flavor of the whole album with its ready-for-the-floor feeling. Actually the song is a cover of a Lebanese pop song “Hafdal Ahlam” composed by Ahmed Salah Hosny. But Önal’s rendition takes the song in a new direction with Mahmut Orhan’s arrangement and with lyrics written by İsra Gülümser. The “Olay” music video was shot at Burning Man, one of the foremost dance festivals in the Black Rock Desert in the U.S. state of Nevada.
Also on the album, Gülşah Tütüncü and Kaan Gökman upgrade the song “Beyaz Atletli” (White Athletic) with their remix version. They are a great team for Önal, who also suits the song’s sense of humor very well.
Önal spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News about her new album in an exclusive interview.
The first single “Olay” is catchy dance pop for any listener who loves high-energy songs. The number of potential hit songs on the album is almost too much for the market.
Thank you very much. I waited a long time for this to happen. It is not a coincidence, as the songs were prepared in the right way. They were rerecorded and reproduced again and again. We tried to catch the right feeling after a few trials.
The costumes of the music video “Olay” were designed by the team who also designed some Madonna’s outfits.
It was a coincidence. I got along with the team so well that they did not push me too much when it came to the price. Their approach amazed me. They just said, “We love our job, we want to do a good job.” They saw my excitement and we agreed on one costume. They offered me an extra three or four outfits. It’s nice to meet people who love their jobs.
The album launch took place on a stage with dancers in a very stylish club environment and the whole album gives a big party mood. Is your energy so high in everyday life too?
It changes from time to time, but when you get on the stage, you get a whole different mood. I am generally a high-energy person, but there are times when I am very down for hours and days without doing anything. But generally my energy is high.
Mahmut Orhan, Erdem Kınay, İskender Paydaş, Gürsel Çelik did great arrangements on the album.
We also have Gülşah Tütüncü on the album. I selected people with high energy to work with. Instead of the very sad songs, I wanted the songs to include sadness in an entertaining way. In my songs, what I care most about is making sure not to make people feel sad. I do not want to share sadness and pain. That’s why this is an album to dance and entertain ourselves with.
One of the most emotionally powerful songs on the album is “Dur Dünyam” (Stop, My World), which was written by you. The lyrics are simple but very profound. Can we say it gives a clue about you?
Yes, kind of. The songs I write usually have a little melancholy, they are a bit deep. I guess I have a way of expressing feelings without much explanation, kind of indirectly. I am glad you like it.
Your song “Devran,” written by Gülhan, also deeply affected me with its emotional tone. It’s a song that is going to influence anyone who is in pain. You seem to be fragile on one side but stronger on the other?
It’s true that I don’t like to be swept by my emotions, but of course, when they are too strong you may become overwhelmed by them from time to time. Actually Gülhan’s song was risky for me. It is a song that I sang in a very high tone compared to my other songs. We wanted to refer to the 1970s and it has a tone from that period. I was afraid of performing it in the beginning. We tried it many times, made continuous tone tests, and finally got the right song. The end result is beautiful. No matter how badly you’re broken, you need to be strong. This is the rule of nature. You need to repair the broken part of you and you have to move on. I value my freedom very highly. It’s more important than anything for me, more important than love. If you ask me to choose between freedom and love, I would absolutely choose freedom.
“Sen ve Ben” (You and Me) is the best dance song I have heard in the last five years in Turkey. Your voice fits well with house music. Which dance song makes you move most on the album?
The Sezer Uysal version of “Dur Dünyam” on the album makes me move. “Dengesiz” and “Beyaz Atletli” too. The song “Beyaz Atletli” feels so fun. I think “Dur Dünyam” is a song that I would sing along loudly to, but all my songs are very moving. I can’t choose just one.
Who do you like most among global pop stars?
I like Rihanna and Beyonce in pop music. But I usually prefer to listen to groups. I like Coldplay a lot, as well as Maroon 5. Each of their songs has a different beauty. Otherwise, I usually listen to electronic music. There are a lot of names I like to listen to: Acid Pauli, YokoO among the DJs. I’ve been listening to YokoO a lot lately.
What will be the next music video from this album?
I’m thinking of shooting videos for all of them. I do not have a song to waste. I think I should act immediately and give it to the market, but that is strategically impossible. Obviously, I have to wait three months and I don’t know how to do that. The song “Olay” is going well right now and I do not want to block it, otherwise I would have already started the interviews for the next video. A few of my friends told me to wait a little for the second video so it does not block the effect of our first release. I am going to wait for the second video for a while. But hopefully we will shoot videos for all of them one after the other.