Djanan Turan (pronounced “like naan bread, but with a ja!”) makes a fascinating impression, with tales on her website about singing in cupboards, and lyrics about being a goldfish. More intriguing still is her latest album, Artigo. It invokes the same euphoric absurdity of Regina Spektor at her most bizarre, but with a thread of unearthly yet catchy melodies holding the insanity together. The mixture is something akin to being trapped on an extra terrestrial carousel. In a good way.
Following Artigo’s successful launch in October, Turan has been in pre-production for the music video for ‘Goldfish’. Having experienced the EP it shouldn’t be a complete surprise to hear the video was inspired by some wood she found in a bin. “The scenario is pretty cute,” she says in an email, “this piece of wood I found is a beautiful perfect circle, painted white on one side and looks very much like a full moon.”
Turan was born in Turkey, but is based in London. Her favourite experience as a gigging musician has been to look beyond the “carbon copy” streets of London to see what’s really there. A perfect manifestation of her multicultural influences was a performance with Turkish clarinet player, Selim Sesler, after meeting at the Barbican in London.
“When I moved to this country, discovering London via performing was amazing. It’s like opening millions of little boxes, full of different surprises! So many places that people get crammed in to see live performances.”
Bridging the gap between her Turkish and English-speaking fan-bases requires running two Facebook pages and two websites, as well as responding to direct emails from fans. “We are improving my beautiful website so I can connect with more people. I get lovely messages,” she says. “[My fans] have always been quite friendly and sincere, which makes me feel I am giving that kind of warmth to people and it makes me a happy little lass.”
Women in the music industry often get a raw deal, with the focus being on anything but their music. Whether they’re not thin enough (Amanda Palmer), too thin (Christina Aguilera) too old (Madonna), too young (Willow Smith), too sexy (Rihanna) or not sexy enough (Adele), it’s apparently still something of an oddity to be a female musician, even in 2012. In a profession maligned for its sexism, Turan prefers not to focus on her gender.
“Sometimes it does feel more like a boys club, this whole music-making and performing thing. However this feeling might also be a result of frustration you get every now and then,” she says. “I keep the posture of a ‘person’ in life rather than a woman, and tend not to connect my experiences to my gender, whether they’re positive or negative.”
Aside from being the first Turkish woman I’ve ever heard say “lass”, Turan also has the distinction of being one of the few musicians who appear to genuinely want to spread joy through their shows. “I want [people] to go back home with a massive smile to keep ’til they sleep that night, and one to wake up with,” she says. There’s a : ) afterwards, too.
A true description of her music is difficult to articulate. “I’m still searching for those words myself,” she says. “Let’s say free-spirited pop!” It may well be the closest anyone gets. It’s hard to define the wonderful mix of strange melodies and beautiful lyrics produced by traditional instruments and rhythms not usually associated with pop music. Turan works backwards to figure out what the songs mean, drawing sense out of her lyrics months and years after she first brings them forth in her music.
As well as discarded chunks of wood, she draws her inspiration from the work of others, as well as anything else to hand. “Art and music obviously inspire me and help me…inspiration more often comes out from simplicity and subtlety, rather than pretty things or ecstatic feelings. Other people’s completed and shared work certainly inspires me to keep working,” she explains.
Djanan Turan will next perform at The Secret Garden pub in Battersea on 25th February. Her album, Artigo, can be found on iTunes and you can listen in on Spotify as well as getting the latest news at the Djanan Turan website.