Ceyl’an Ertem just gets more popular

Ceyl’an Ertem just gets more popular

Cenk Erdem
Ceyl’an Ertem just gets more popular Ceyl’an Ertem, one of the most prominent alternative singers in Turkey, has released four studio albums full of original songs, and her authentic style has attracted many listeners for years, resulting in sold-out concerts and pretty good album sales, too. 

But her latest album, “Yuh” (The Hooting), with her rendition of popular songs from different styles, is now attracting even more listeners by surprising fans with popular songs from hit names like Sezen Aksu and more. Ertem’s “Yuh” keeps on winning more fans each and every day thanks to her rebellious attitude and powerful singing style. Her renditions make listeners feel both her vulnerability to suffering in love and her strength to cope with pain. Ertem’s experimental way of playing with jazz and alternative rock tunes make her a brilliant alternative star. I had a chance to catch up with her during her tour around the country.

Diehard alternative music listeners have always loved you in Turkey, but can we say that your rendition of popular songs gives you a better place in the pop scene, too? 

I have always been open to trying to cover songs since the very beginning. I have always loved to cover the songs of Neşet Ertaş, Bergen, Sezen Aksu, Bulutsuzluk Özlemi, Ortaçgil, Umay and so many more songwriters who inspired me a lot. There are so many listeners following my releases and loving my original songs, but coming up with covers and writing down your own songs at the same time gives you a power. I don’t think it’s really important whether they love my covers or original songs. Anyone who feels the sincerity embraces you, wondering about your work all the more. It’s a good thing… 

Your rendition of a famous Yıldız Tilbe song gives the song a kind of a protest feeling, but how would you describe the inspiration she gives to you? 

Her heart is so sincere and truthful. She is a poet. She looks you in the eye in a very loving way without any expectation. You can’t stop yourself trying to find an answer for that look. I really want to be that sincere, and it’s the best way to be a good singer. But if you open your heart genuinely then you become vulnerable to pain and suffering. It’s a matter of choice: either you’re in or you wouldn’t dare.

The title of your latest album, “Yuh” (The Hooting), feels like a protest against all the corruption in our society. So can we say that it serves as a kind of therapy? 

This is exactly what I say at my live performances. Facing so many young people, friends and different kind of people with different perspectives, I am saying that they are broken and they feel sick and tired, so let’s discharge our feelings with a folk song 

For instance you picked up the famous Bergen song referring to violence against women, right?

Yes. But of course it means something stronger, too. In a way she could show the world declaring: “I am on stage feeling stronger though he threw acid in my face.” You show strength, bravery and you never give up. I love that attitude.

You tour all around Turkey, so how would you describe the common traits in the profile of your audience? 

I can describe a crowd believing in peace, thinking as one, in love with love but also loving the suffering in love. A crowd believing in utopias, a crowd a little bit resentful and crazy. I can describe my female fans and all gay fans just like that. 

In your video recording of the famous song “Sevda” in collaboration with Nükhet Duru, Duru looks as impressed as a fan at the very first moment you sing. But what about you? Who do you like to listen to the most? 

Of course, Nükhet Duru. I guess I love anybody who cares about his or her work, anybody who works so hard anybody, or who puts so much love into his or her work. I love people who never look down on the other just because of his or her past wounds. I am truly a fan of anybody trying to treat people in the right way with justice and conscience. But I am a real fan of animals with beautiful eyes. 

You describe yourself as happy as the famous novel and cartoon character “Heidi,” but I feel as if your version of Heidi might be a rebellious, too? 

… little orphan, lovely Heidi… What I am trying to say is that I am such a fool just like Heidi waking up happy each and every day. We have to be hopeful. We have to move on without denying the past.  
You keep on performing in so many cities on so many different stages, so do you have any pre-show rituals?
Throughout the preshow, I feel a little bit depressed and melancholic. I really don’t know why… So, I’d rather be alone before the show.

I have heard that you always enjoy some guests at home, so if you had a dream team tea party, who would you want to invite?

Müzeyyen Senar [as it’s only a dream], PJ Harvey, Yıldız Tilbe, Sezen Aksu, Meredith Monk, Girija Devi, Abida Parveen, Tomris Uyar, Janis Joplin and the list may go on and on…

You sound like a world music star; so do you listen to world music stars like Yasmin Levy or Mariza? 

Thank you, but I don’t really listen to Yasmin Levy and Mariza.

What’s next for you?

A brand-new album! We are planning to record the album in October.