Sami Baha




Recently, closed down theaters and cancelled festivals and shows created a pretty introverted “New Istanbul”. Despite that feeling—and in some cases, because of it—there are still many successful creatives in the city who use this “New Istanbul” as a means and space of production. We caught up with electronic music prodigy Sami Baha and talked about how this unfamiliar megacity plays a role in his work.

You started making rap music in high school but later drifted toward electronic music. What were the reasons for this shift? How have things developed for you from a musical perspective?


I actually started making music as a child. I used to watch the seagulls and sing for hours. I started making rap music in high school. I would write lyrics, freestyle and battle rap, and download beats from the Internet and record over them. Eventually I started making my own beats. While I initially sought to make rap music, over time I stopped and shifted toward other styles. I gave up on rap because making other music was more enjoyable.


You’ve lived in London for two and a half years. Was your decision to leave influenced by the ongoing period of transformation taking place in Istanbul?


I felt a sense of pressure but I’m not sure if it directly affected my decision to leave. When you go to Europe you deal with different realities anyway. Bureaucracy and politics smack people in the face no matter where they are. On the other hand, the atmosphere in Turkey actually inspired me musically. Here the type of lifestyle and slow pace makes it easier to produce music. I produce more here without any additional effort and without waiting for a source of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we are living in an age where music can be made anywhere. I’ve been aware of this for awhile because regardless of where you are producing something, when it’s good the people you need to find end up finding you. There weren’t any collaborations on your first album but on “Free For All” there are a number of notable collaborations, including Yung Lean, Dimzy, Dj Nate, Dawsha, and Abanob.


How did you get together with these artists? What do you think they contributed to the album?


Being in London was a big part of it as many of these collaborations were made via this network there. Some occurred completely over the Internet with help from the record label. I met Dawsha and Abanob when I went to Egypt, we recorded over there. I met Yung Lean at my house! I played him my album demos, he was into it and came up with lyrics right away, and the track was done that night. DJ Nate was in Chicago and we worked over the Internet. Dimzy is from London but during the recording process his child was born so in spite of being there we had to work apart from one another. I actually didn’t conceive of the album as instrumental hip-hop. I wanted it to be like a package of genres collected by Sami Baha, an anthology of mine. The rappers actually worked over instrumental songs, we didn’t start from scratch.


I have the impression that you’re into Arabesque. What is your favorite Arabesque song ?


At the moment I’m not a very active Arabesque listener. Back in the day I lived in Tozkoparan, and there were some serious Arabesque fans around there, who also listened to hip hop. I grew up by looking toward that generation. I would go to the park and they would be listening to Müslüm Gürses and then 50 Cent, it was that kind of world. I love Müslüm Gürses’s song “Esrarlı Gözler,” it is a masterpiece from start to finish. As you listen it sounds like it is slowing down but that is the Müslüm Gürses effect. It’s a fantastic effect. Müslüm Gürses’ sense of emotion is very high, Ibrahim TatlIses’ voice is amazing, Orhan Gencebay’s arrangements are out of this world. I’m sure that all of them have influenced my sound.


What are your musical plans for the near future?


Thanks to this album, great opportunities are arising, and I’m going to look into them. I have a residence permit in London until 2020, but I’m trying not to attach myself to one place. I’d love to go to America but before that I want to open up to Asia. There is lots of demand for the music I make in Asia.