Born in Gaziantep in the south of Turkey – the geographical and cultural counterpart to Aleppo across the Syrian border – Olcay’s childhood was characterized by transition. Moving every few years to different areas of Anatolia gave the young Olcay an insight into the diverse cultural and religious approaches of the region, and what it means to be Anatolian: “I believe that culture – more than religion or nationality – provides identity. I’d rather talk about traditions and regions, rather than specific religions and nations. You are you, whatever religion or country you’re from.”
Classically trained as a soprano, collaborations with musicians from all around the world have informed Olcay’s music as much as the rich tradition of Kurdish and Turkish folk songs of her youth. Olcay’s music, arranged and produced by Al MacSween and Giuliano Modarelli, exemplifies this and bears the musical stamp of their worldjazz collective Kefaya – a lilting west African feel somehow sits comfortably with Kurdish song Ferzê, and the traditional Cypriot dance song Dolama is restructured with a catchy melodic hook and a groove that builds to an ecstatic climax. Olcay prefers to think of herself as a citizen of the world, an identity carved moving from place to place, absorbing cultural influences along the way.
At the age of sixteen, Olcay and her family moved to London, an experience she credits as forming the cornerstone of her musical identity. It was a time of intense vulnerability for Olcay. Not knowing the language rendered her practically mute; for some time, music was the manner by which Olcay could best interact with the new world around her.
Olcay Bayır’s music is a natural marriage of her time-honoured Anatolian heritage and the vibrant, eclectic sounds of London, which she now calls home.
Of course, music is in Olcay’s blood. Her father was an ashik, a musical bard of the Anatolian region and purveyor of oral culture. In the Alevi tradition, the ashik accompanies religious and social ceremonies, providing song as the basis for worship and community. Her father occupying such a role had a profound influence on Olcay’s formative years (she started composing at the age of six), and helped instil in her the love of music that guides her today.
Talking Gigs2 looks forward to you joining us at The HUBS in Sheffield for a magical Middle Eastern musical evening.
A captivating show that takes the audience on a journey into the heart of Anatolia. Based around songs from her highly-regarded album Rüya (Dream), Olcay explores the cultures and sensibilities of the region from Istanbul to the Mediterranean and the East, meeting wandering ashik bards, 17th century poets, and mystics, reflecting through the universal language of music the rich patchwork of identities in this diverse region.
The tour takes place around Newroz, the Spring Equinox festival, celebrated around 21 March by Kurds and other communities across Central Asia, and which provides a focus for community identity and New Year hopes.
For tickets go to Talking Gigs
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