An A Capella Group In İstanbul...
Interview: Damla Yılmaz
For those of us who don’t know, what is a capella?
Soykan: A capella is a type music performed with only human voices. Although it can be grouped into church choirs, polyphonic choirs and vocal groups, etc., technically all singing ranging from pieces sung by a choir of 50 to the songs we hum to ourselves without instrumental accompaniment can be categorized as a capella. From this perspective, a capella is probably the first music performed in history.
Çağrı: A capella can comprise all voices that a person can produce without the help of external factors.
Erkan: It is a type of music that people who don’t play or want to carry an instrument prefer. Since everyone plays an instrument in our country, not many people take up a capella!
Before getting to know you as a group, please tell us about yourselves individually. Are you all mainly involved in music?
Soykan: I am a junior at Bilgi University Department of Music. I have always been involved with music since childhood but I made the decision to choose it as a profession by enrolling in ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory Violin Department in high school.
Deniz: I am the soprano in the group. I studied Musical Theatre at Istanbul University State Conservatory. I come from a family very much interested in music. Currently I am a senior at Yıldız Technical University Lied Performance department. I also sing jingles and perform, or at least try to perform, on stage in various venues.
Tuana: I am the alto in the group, and the one they call “hey blondie, what’s up”. I am a junior at ITU Department of Industrial Design. I started singing when I joined Ministry of Culture Children’s Polyphonic Choir at age 8, and never quit.
Çağrı: I joined the group to beatbox. I occasionally join in tenor partitions. I am a student at Bilgi University Department of Music. I have always been very interested in music from a very young age, and I started playing the guitar, then joined several choirs and orchestras. I also own a jingle production company titled “Jingleberry”.
Erkan: I am a senior at YTU Department of Naval Mechanical Engineering. I am also the bass of the group so I am responsible for the tones that make you tremble. My first introduction to music was four years ago when I joined Boğaziçi Jazz Choir where I sang for two years. After a few failed attempts at forming a capella groups, I found myself in Patron Çıldırdı and another a capella group, “Beşartıbir”. For the last two years I sing as a bass in the group and also take part in song arrangements, recordings and mixes.
So, how did this group form?
Soykan: The group was formed in 2014 by six people. We had all met while we were singing for the Boğaziçi Jazz Choir but later quit for various reasons. We then set off to seek an answer to the question, “what can be done with a smaller a capella group?”. After some changes in the group, we continue with 5 singers.
Tuana: And it looks like we will continue in this direction.
When it’s a music band, each member typically plays a different instrument. But this is not the same in an a capella group. How do you determine who sings which part of the songs?
Tuana: Actually, all of our partitions are clear, I am an alto, which is the lowest female voice. But since our vocal ranges are very similar with Deniz, we can write partitions that disrupt this order. When deciding on the solo part of the song, we may say to another, “You would sing this part really well”. We are very accustomed to each other’s voices, styles and singing.
Çağrı: Since every member’s job, vocal tone and range is clear, we can say that the decision was already made when we first formed the group. So we make our song arrangements in this direction. We base our song arrangements on the bass, tenor, alto, soprano and beatbox partitions that a simple, skeleton vocal group should have. There are also unique tones that everyone can produce, and we use them in certain places to add variety.
Soykan: Every person has a vocal range, which he/she is born with and can improve, even if slightly, by working on it. For instance, I can’t even come close to the bass pitches that Erkan can sing, while he can’t produce my high pitches. So we write for a high and a low male voice. Therefore, we can say that the partitions can be set apart naturally.
Erkan: Each of us fills the vocal ranges he/she is dominant in. Consequently the voices are distinguished from one another, and function as instruments. There are several criteria we need to take into account when arranging a song. It’s not very easy to explain here but to put it simply, the arrangement should provide answers to questions such as “who would the solo suit best” and “if so, how would it link to the next partition”, etc. because you need to think of the song as a whole. Therefore the arrangement should not have too many breaks, it should “flow”; yes I think this is the right word.
What are some of the genres you sing the most?
Tuana: We mainly like arranging pop songs in our own style. We enjoy interpreting them, and fitting them into different genres. The dynamism of the songs also reflects on us so we love singing in a variety of genres such as jazz, pop, and R&B.
Deniz: If you love music, it feels great to be a part of the elements that make up the song. I think we can sing any song that brings us closer to this feeling in a capella style. I also think this is the reason why we mostly choose Western songs because the musicality in the European culture is very suited to polyphony.
How do people respond to you?
Tuana: Those that meet us for the first time are usually very surprised, and many want to record us to show to others. This is actually a very important communication for us because such first reactions from people make us hold on to this group even more. Audiences that know us previously and come to our concerts make us particularly happy. We are grateful for our audience.
Deniz: When I speak with friends that I haven’t seen for a while, this is the first topic that comes up. They say, “How refreshing, how wonderful, what you do”. People actually show great interest in the group. And being a part of it is very satisfying.
Çağrı: In addition to performing live on stage, we also set aside time for our online videos. We follow the comments on our posts, and we see great interest from people both in Turkey and also abroad. Being appreciated in many languages makes us very happy. It is also quite flattering to see questions like “where have you been” when we don’t post new videos very frequently. The level of interest rises in concerts because the communication is much more organic and intimate in such environments. Because it’s a music style that people are not very familiar with, it is usually quite responsive. If it’s an organized flashmob or other performance, people don’t just turn their heads and walk away because they can’t figure out instantly what is going on. So they want to watch and figure out, and just then the performance ends.
So what is the current status of a capella in Turkey? Are there very many a capella groups?
Tuana: There used to be very few a capella groups in Turkey but now they are increasing in number. We know all the professional a capella groups, they are also our friends.
Soykan: In addition to a few leading groups that have been doing this professionally for the last 10-15 years, we are seeing an increase in up and coming groups recently. But there is still a handful of a capella groups in Turkey unfortunately. The polyphonic choirs are not included of course. I am talking about smaller groups like ours.
Deniz: As people become more informed about this musical style, new groups join the circle. Every group has a different style and I think, as we stay in touch and follow, each of us learns something from another.
So what are some future goals of Patron Çıldırdı?
Deniz: I would say, introducing people to a capella with the help of beautifully made videos, and keeping on doing what we enjoy are among our priorities.
Tuana: People that know what a capella is think this is choral music. But we dream of transcending this type of labeling, and taking it to somewhere completely different. With a capella, you can interpret all music genres for different environments, and entertain the entire concert hall. So we want to push these limits. Opening an academy to spread a capella wider is one of our biggest dreams.
Soykan: I think the fact that a capella is not so popular and recognized in Turkey pushed us naturally to the goal of “spreading a capella music wider”. Frankly, I dream of a world where people don’t pretend to know what a capella is and say things like, “oh, how nice”. The academy project that Tuana mentioned is like a dream for me too.
Çağrı: Our goal can be happiness!
Erkan: My personal goal is to do this work that I love all my life. If I could contribute to this world, I would prefer to do it lovingly. One of our goals as a group – a dream much more than a goal – is to open an academy. It would be so wonderful, see I am dreaming again.
So how do people follow you and your performances?
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