My inspirations: Ezhel

Ezhel will be closing the East vs West night on September 28 as part of Red Bull Music Festival Istanbul, and we have decided to take a journey through the ideas, figures and songs that influence his music. Take a look at Ezhel’s range of inspirations, which extends from Damien Marley to Yoda, from La Haine to Hacı Taşan.

What is the lyric that has affected you the most?
The lyrics of the song Patience from Damian Marley and Nas’s Distant Relatives album. So well written, especially Damien Marley’s part.

It starts with “Some of the smartest dummies can’t read the language of Egyptian mummies. Plant a flag on the moon and can’t find food for the starving tummies…” – and then gets even more legendary.

What was the first music video that you never forgot after watching?
Marilyn Manson – “Tainted Love”. My childhood nightmare, I can’t ever forget it.

The first live show you saw?
I think I watched my mother singing first.

What was the music at your family home during your childhood?
From Alexandrov Ensemble to Celal Güzelses, almost everything. Folk songs, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole – the list is long.

If you were to gather an orchestra from music history, who would be in the team?
Tom Morello on the guitar, Ahmet Güvenç on bass, Horsemouth – the reggae drummer – on the drums, and me on vocals. We would make great music.

If you had a time machine, what festival would you want to go back and visit?
This will be a cliché, but probably Woodstock 1968.

What are some of the most inspiring albums for you, and why?
One would be Notorious B.I.G’s Ready To Die album, I never get tired of listening to it. It’s the kind of album that makes you ask, “Not even one miss in the whole album?”. The same goes for Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. When I was working on Müptezhel, I was thinking about Ready to Die. I really like the whole feel of the album and the collective strength of the songs.

If you were living in the 1970s instead of today, what kind of music would you be making?
Definitely Turkish psychedelic rock! Anatolian rock. Reggae wasn’t a thing in Turkey back then. An older brother explained it to me this way: “We used to listen to American radios, but reggae was popular on British radios.” If I was living in the 1970s I would probably come out with the first reggae album in Turkey, but with a lot of psychedelic influence.

What kind of songs and ideas from different disciplines influence your music?
The hip-hop philosophy is fundamental to my music, because it includes visual arts, literature and philosophy; I don’t need another perspective. Aside from that, eastern philosophies like Tao and Buddhism inspire me. I could also say all major spiritual philosophies that practice love. Also, after watching “La Haine” in the cinema, my rap style definitely changed forever.

Who do you think are some of the unsung heroes from music history, who haven’t received the recognition they deserve?
Turkish wandering minstrels in general. When we look at the culture now, we usually see that they are forgotten and lost. There are some musicians who tried to bring their music into now, for those who listen. From Grup Bunalımlar to the tracks of Hacı Taşan which I haven’t heard before… I think they are all relevant today. Also, one of my secret heroes, who I also mentioned above, is bassist Ahmet Güvenç.

What inspired your first ever song? How did it sound? And what were you talking about?
I don’t remember the first ever song I wrote, some of it is lost. The first song I remember writing was at high school, a song called Hayat Dersi. I wrote about the stuff I did at school, and the absurdities of education system.

If you were to give an advice to a younger version of yourself, when you first started to be interested in music, what would it be?
I would say “Sercan, do what you know, and keep doing it.” I thought the same back then. If I have succeeded in anything, I think I owe it to following this thought.

Do you have tribute tattoos of your inspirational figures? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
On my left arm, I have Boe B’s portrait. He is the founder of Islamic Force, and you could also say he is the founding father of Turkish rap. Most of my tattoos are about my inspirations. Master Yoda is on my left hand. Yoda is small, but he is fast. I think we are similar. Also, I like his calm, wise attitude and his jokes in the original series. I also have Monkey King on my right arm. He is one of my favourite characters from Chinese mythology. He is very independent and he manages to get away with everything. I like his mischievousness and strength.

*This interview was conducted originally for Red Bull Music Festival’s official magazine “The Note”.