Perhaps not in her wildest dreams, when she was still working as a writer covering music festivals around the world, would Elif have imagined that she would become a widely sought-after artist in such a short time.
Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, but now residing in Barcelona, her name is quickly gaining a much-deserved place among the dance music stars, so much so that she has been performing at Coachella and most recently Tomorrowland, totaling 13 presentations in June alone.
“It’s a packed schedule this year for many reasons but I’m quite used to the high paced DJ style traveling. Of course it is a challenge but I think I’m doing the extra work to maintain a good balance between my personal and work life. There’s no recipe, it’s more like trial and error. You try and see what works for you personally and what you need to change”, she comments.
And her journey as a music producer has been as impressive as in DJing, as her debut took place at Anjunadeep, in 2019, and months later she would be featured in other impressive catalogs such as Stil Vor Talent, Abracadabra Music, A Tribe Called Kotori and Kindisch.
As a regular yoga practitioner, when looking at Elif, you will probably see a calm and always cheerful person, but behind it is a powerful woman who manages to cause a frenzy on the dance floor through curious and intense sounds that flow between melodic lines, hypnotic patterns and robust basslines.
She is also an artist who has a strong sense of community and is always thinking about helping others, so much so that she will soon open her own record label, Marginalia, receiving several producers who participate in her journey as a DJ.
“I think there’s an unjust and wrong distribution of resources in the music industry. I feel like the most important contributors of this ecosystem, the producers who spend hours and days in their studios, are the least rewarded ones. I wanted to start a label to give a home to these amazing producers to release their music and share a bit of the spotlight with them”, she explains.
We’ve gone deeper into this and other topics so that you can enter Elif’s wonderful world and meet this indisputably talented artist.
Hi Elif! It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Mixmag Brazil. You’re from Istanbul, Turkey, a place with a very strong cultural force. Despite this, your sound does not bring direct references to the region, right? How have you been shaping your identity over the years?
Hello, super happy to connect. Yes, I was born and raised in Istanbul and yes it’s a big mixture of European and Middle Eastern cultures, often compared to a melting pot :) And yes, like you said I have always shied away from using Middle Eastern sounds and references in my music.
For me culturally they represent things that don’t really belong in a club. Maybe for Westerners some of these sounds and references might sound cool and interesting but they remind me of funerals or weddings so I have always consciously avoided the regional references, and never followed the trend back in the day when it was hot either.
We heard that you moved to Barcelona at the end of last year due to the financial crisis that hit Turkey. In these months, what was the best thing you could absorb from the city? What made you choose Spain/Barcelona as your new home?
I moved to Barcelona, but not only due to the financial crisis. Having to leave my apartment due to inflation and devaluation of our currency was definitely one of the catalysts of the move but I think the crisis in Turkey is a bit bigger than just financial. I was being faced with the risk of not being able to get visas for my travels, unjustified restrictions in the entertainment industry and the general rightful angry/disappointed vibe of the youth and my traumas made me take this decision.
I lived in Barcelona 15 years ago for one semester when I was studying architecture. Spending lots of time in most major European cities, for its size, culture, food and most importantly for its wonderful airport I chose Barcelona as my new homebase and I couldn’t be happier.
I love the mediterranean culture we Turks share with the latins. What I like about Spain is that it has that easy going, sincere warm Mediterranean culture with a hint of European Union law and order on top, so things function well but no one is anally obsessed with unnecessary rules.
There’s a good work/life balance, a vibrant life on the streets, an amazing cultural hub of the coolest people from Latin America and Europe, and all of this makes me feel at home in Barcelona, even though I’m quite new in the city.
You’ve just performed at the Fusion Festival and, ahead of you, you have other great gigs like Tomorrowland and Hi Ibiza… wow! It’s a really amazing and tight schedule with more than 10 dates in a single month. How have you tried to maintain a balance between your personal and artistic life? Is this ever a challenge?
Performing at Fusion was a dream come true for me alongside some incredible ‘bucket list’ shows this year like playing at Coachella and Tomorrowland. Hi Ibiza has been voted the best club in the world for a good reason.
These are incredible institutions to share music at. It’s a packed schedule this year for many reasons but I have i’m quite used to the high paced DJ style traveling. Of course it is a challenge but I think I’m doing the extra work to maintain a good balance between my personal and work life.
There’s no recipe, it’s more like trial and error. You try and see what works for you personally and what you need to change.
“I was born and raised in Istanbul and yes, it’s a big mixture of European and Middle Eastern cultures, often compared to a melting pot.”
In the midst of this hectic routine, you’re still designing a new label, Marginalia, which will support, nurture and develop mainly emerging and established artists, right? Tell us more about this initiative and the main objective behind it.
In the last few years I have been traveling and performing everywhere around the world and I wouldn’t be able to do this without the amazing music my producer friends have been sending me. I think there’s an unjust and wrong distribution of resources in the music industry.
I feel like the most important contributors of this ecosystem, the producers who spend hours and days in their studios, are the least rewarded ones. I wanted to start a label to give a home to these amazing producers to release their music and share a bit of the spotlight with them.
For most of these talented artists it is so difficult to reach big labels which never listen to new music from unknown names and mostly ‘investing’ in already built artist profiles. I am growing in a way with the music of my friends and I want us to grow together as a community.
One of the pillars of the label is the “absolute sonic freedom” that the artists will have. Why do you think this totally open creative space is important? Have you experienced difficulties in this regard?
There are always trending sounds and vibes of certain labels and I never expect or want my artists to try to follow these trends to be able to get a release or recognition.
I know a lot of producers try to fit a certain style or vibe to be able to release on these big labels but the result is them conforming to a certain sound just for the sake of it and copy paste productions that sound like each other with nothing new or interesting.
I want my artists to experiment and create what they want, not what they think the big labels or majority of the crowd wants. I’m also really grateful that these young producers have placed their trust in me with their music.
Is there any idea for the debut release? Could you tell us some names that are confirmed in the first steps of Marginalia?
I am planning the debut release to be an EP from me with collaborations with some friends that we share music and ideas with. Collabs are the best way for me to express myself artistically nowadays with my crazy touring schedule. They are faster and easier than trying to finish a track by myself and they also represent the idea I want to put out with Marginalia.
The concept of Marginalia itself dates back to the 11th Century and references the wildly inventive notes, markings, doodles and sketches made in the margins of medieval books and scriptures — a place where the human imagination was free to run wild.
One of the fundamental ways we all experience is to absorb the thoughts, musings and broken fragments of others. It’s these very fragments that help us connect ideas and spur creativity, and it perfectly represents the type of creative dialogue I’m looking to achieve with Marginalia.
For the next few months I have some incredible EP’s from friends whose music I have been playing all over the world. Canadian artist Tenvin who lives in Miami, Persian artist MANTi from LA, and my super special Brazilians; Althoff who lives in Barcelona and also my two brothers that I haven’t met in person yet MRQZ and Tito Azeveda from Brazil are the first few confirmed EPs.
We are in touch with some amazing remixers and I can not wait to share these sick creations very soon!
“It’s a packed schedule this year for many reasons but I have I’m quite used to the high paced DJ style traveling."
Still about releases, but now about yours. You’ve already signed songs through Anjunadeep, Stil Vor Talent, Abracadabra, A Tribe Called Kotori, Kindisch, but you don’t seem to be so concerned about releasing new songs all the time, something the industry has increasingly “demanded” from artists. Do you feel pressured in any way with that?
It’s not realistic for me to release new songs all the time with my touring schedule. I played 5 shows this week, and sometimes I barely find time to sleep :)
I have also recently moved from Istanbul to Barcelona, I have been restructuring all my team, changing agencies, discovering new ways to work with people who have been supporting me since the beginning, starting the label etc so this year is a transition year for me where I did not want to stress myself with the pressure of releasing music all the time.
Music production, like any creative output, should come naturally. Of course it’s part of our job and of course I do take some collabs and remixes every now and then. I have to work with deadlines - I find them to be a good creative push by the way - but I am hoping to spend more time around home once I have my residence permit. Also when my profile is a bit more established hopefully I can shape my touring schedule to be able to have more relaxed studio and personal time at home :)
Despite that, there are new tracks being finalized, including with Brazilian artists, isn’t that right? What is your relationship with our country? Do you follow any particular artist more closely? How did you connect with Althoff, MRQZ and Tito Azevedo for these upcoming works?
It is so funny because I have never been to Brazil even though I have visited many times and even lived in Latin America. It’s so high on my wishlist to visit this incredible country.
One of the few places I don’t need a visa as a Turkish citizen ahaha! I also find Turks and Latin Americans get along super well. We have a very similar culture. Similar ways to connect and relate.
Ale (Althoff) lives in Barcelona. I have been playing his music everywhere for some time so he was one of the first artists I asked for music when I decided to start the label and eventually we also started some collabs together. It’s so much easier when you live in the same city. Ale’s girlfriend Marina loves Turkey and Turkish food and sometimes we cook together in my house. I’m very grateful to call these beautiful souls my friends.
MRQZ and Tito I have never met in real life. We are cyber-friends LOL :) These two incredibly talented producers have been sending me their music always, until a few months ago they didn’t even have anything released on Beatport. Recently they started releasing on some very good labels and I am so happy & proud to see their growth in that sense. Super looking forward to their bomb EP as well.
I can’t wait to visit Brazil, play music there - and I do receive so many messages - and form a stronger bond with this incredible country!
“I want my artists to experiment and create what they want, not what they think the big labels or majority of the crowd wants.”
Changing the focus a little: we just went through a pandemic and now we can say that we’re in the era of streaming, of AI, with a very strong presence of the audiovisual part in the electronic scene. What opportunities and challenges have you encountered along the way and how have you sought to absorb/insert these transformations into your artistic career?
When the world shut down during the lockdowns I found a way to play music and stay connected and that was through streaming. I love technology that makes it possible for us to connect instantly and remotely. Of course a twitch show is not the same as a club but it was the next best thing and I’m grateful for it.
Today AI is a very interesting topic and I’m super excited about it, but also I hope we humans are smart about it. I’m celebrating anything that will save humans some time clearing some robotic tasks off our plate.
I hope it won’t make the lower classes of the society who were merely a workforce for the rich more irrelevant and disposable. I hope it enables better use of resources and saves humans from boring/difficult programmable tasks while creating a more equal society with more time for pleasure and creativity. I hope humans don’t fuck it up this time.
And in addition to what we’ve already talked about, what’s new for the next few months that you can share with us? New songs, collabs, remixes or other projects...
The label launch being my main focus I have also been able to work on some remixes. One should come out late summer, for an artist that I love dearly as a human being and also admire as an artist.
Another remix for a bomb factory duo, for a track that I have been playing everywhere! No release date for that one yet. Also working on collabs with some of my favorite producers and probably will release most of them on my label :)
Last but not least: what advice would you give to those artists who are still fighting for more recognition? What is the biggest lesson you take away from your journey that you would like to share? Thanks!
Patience is a very important virtue on this journey. Also I always say this: one should embrace their own strengths and weaknesses and build a strategy for recognition honoring those.
Don’t be a hater of how things are today with social media and all. It’s so easy to look at all this and be a bit disgusted to be honest. But I do this and I also advise this to anyone who asks me for it: Try to see how you can be YOU and make use of these tools with intention.
Don’t be a grumpy hater but also don’t be someone who plays the popularity game losing the essence of oneself.
“Canadian artist Tenvin who lives in Miami, Persian artist MANTi from LA, and my super special Brazilians; Althoff who lives in Barcelona, MRQZ and Tito Azeveda, from Brazil, are the first few confirmed EPs.”
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