Dilara Sakpınar begins her sentence with “I was looking at old pictures the other day…” She adds, “I also listened to a few of our old records,” as she remembers a few of the songs she’s recorded in the past, looking around the studio we’re in. “I feel like I’ve grown up. It might sound like a cliché, however I feel good when I look back at that journey. It’s really nice to still continue doing music.”

We begin our conversation reminiscing as we meet Dilara Sakpınar, the vocalist of a band that continues production with passion called 123, for her new solo album, regardless to Istanbul and Turkey’s recent tediousness. Dilara Sakpınar, a.k.a. Lara Di Lara as her stage name, began focusing on her solo career while still making music with her band 123. After releasing her first solo album “Oraya Doğru” in 2015, she released her second album “Hazineler İçindesin” this year under Sony Music.

Hazineler İçindesin is an album that embraces nature, animals, humans and life itself, that enlightens the soul despite it’s melancholic side, and that makes one look at the future with hope and positivity. How does she make the difference between songs she composes for the band and ones she makes for herself, I wonder? “The songs I believe that belong to my world become a part of the solo album. Those that fit stories of 123 and it’s rhythm become a part of the group album. We make the group songs together. I compose them myself if it is a part of my project. I think that is the biggest difference,” she answers with her calming tone that is reflected in her recordings, without rushing.

One can’t deny the affect on Dilara Sakpınar’s music of musicians like Feryin Kaya, Berke Can Özcan, Burak Irmak, who she makes various productions with, who accompany her on 123. She has a highly harmonious relationship with the musicians saying, “They are all very important, valuable people for me.” However her genes play a big role in the interest and talent she has developed for music. As we begin talking about “Did you always have the urge to become a musician,” the topic of her parents pop up. “I was born into a family of musicians. My father (Ender Sakpınar) is a conductor, my mother (Leyla Sakpınar) is a painter, my uncle (İlhan Erşahin) is a musician, my grandmother (Hasbiye Sakpınar) and grandfather (Sadi Sakpınar) are opera singers. There were many musicians and artists around me. That’s why I naturally found myself in music. I used to go to the operas that my father was leading when I was 3. Apparently I would memorize and sing them at home afterwards. However I never thought to myself ‘I’m going to be a singer, a musician, this is how my life is going to be.’ I studied in the music department of Bilgi University. I became a part of 123 as I was graduating. I began taking the stage with them. That’s actually how it all started.”

I wonder what kind of affect her father Ender Sakpınar, uncle İlhan Erşahin and mother Leyla Sakpınar had on steering her towards music and art. “Neither my dad nor anyone else told me ‘You will work in music.’ However my father encouraged me when I wanted to. He used to play the piano, put music on for me. My father is interested in classic music. That was the area I learned about with him. İlhan (Erşahin) introduced me to rock’n’roll.” I ask about the rock’n’roll life she mentions with a smile on her face. “Everything in the classical music scene progresses in a classic manner. Although it has a colorful and complex backstage, you watch the concert quietly sitting in front of the stage. With İlhan, I experienced the settings of those bars, small clubs where the night blends into day. I met various people more up and personal. My father and uncle had different affects that met on common grounds. As for my mother, I was introduced to paints, colors, and clay due to her work at her atelier, in a completely different environment. She also has a huge affect on me.”

That affect is certainly huge. For her mother wrote the lyrics of the first song Dilara Sakpınar sang at 14. ”İlhan came over one day. He said ‘I’m making an album, you should sing as well.’ ‘How?’ I was bewildered. We went into the studio. I had to write something in an environment like that for the first time. Then my mother said ‘I’ve written something.’ I changed a few words and sang it. That was the first song I’ve recorded. ” We begin talking about how she portrays present day through AKM, having grown up in an artistic environment like that. “I’ve been going to Taksim less lately. I find myself in the middle of nostalgia every time I go. I try to create a space where I picture myself in that time that I’m missing, and try to exist there. Recently I stood facing AKM for a while in Taksim Square, which they’ve turned into a horrific place, covered with pavement. I felt so many different feelings. Besides, my childhood played a part in it as well. Along with the present tense. I realized that maybe I haven’t treasured those times. You understand the value of something better when it’s gone. Those huge chandeliers, the red stairs, the smells that have literally engraved in walls and the sounds…”

She actually began going on stage for the first time at AKM, when she was a young kid. At the time, her presence on stage was to hand out flowers to her father rather than singing. I ask her what she remembers of that old AKM. “I always went backstage before concerts where my father was. I was always excited with an immense sense of curiosity. It was the same excitement I feel now before hitting the stage. As if I was about to take the stage myself. Clearly it made an impression that I followed the same path. I was always the one to give my father flowers on stage. That is how I experienced going on stage. I am sure that that place and all other theatres and concerts I’ve been to had an affect on my musical journey along with my family. No education could have been better than that in my opinion. Of course, school teaches other things. However every child should experience art and culture. You don’t have to be a musician or an artist in any case. It certainly opens up something in your head and heart.”

The topic leads into her new album “Hazineler İçindesin” as she establishes a relationship between her past and present. She begins talking about the period when she wrote the lyrics and how the last couple of years had an affect on her. “I wrote the songs in the last 2 years. Who wasn’t affected by what has happened in the last few years? With the affect of these incidents, it’s an album that I noticed my protesting side surfacing. I didn’t write the songs thinking that way. I noticed it afterwards. Other than that, the human factor has always affected me. The way we approach one another, our respect, love and lack thereof…”

The affect of the events we’ve been experiencing on Dilara Sakpınar’s production is clear. Her new album begins with a sentence that sums up that weird feeling we have; “It’s an ‘I’m fine but I’m not’ kind of day.” This intro explains Turkey’s state exactly. “It’s a feeling I’ve been feeling frequently lately,” she explains. “I’m actually healthy. I have a home. A cat. Food. I have my basic needs. I’m happy and good. Yet I’m in a weird psychological state. I don’t feel good at all. I think about those people who are going thorough worse things. I put myself in their positions. ‘Don’t be ridiculous Dilara, how rude, of course you are fine,’ I say. I go back and forth. I guess I go thorough this every day.” Regardless of this weird situation, she says “Yet I really believe there is hope and light somehow.”

She reflects this hope in her songs as well. She says “Let’s stay, not run away” in “Giderken.” She talks about staying, pointing at those around us in talks and plans of getting out of here. “Everyone is looking for a remedy. I believe I have to hold on to something and follow through with it. I love it here. However Istanbul is a place where I feel that tidal effect. That’s why I wrote ‘Giderken.’ Concerts are getting cancelled. I begin getting refrained from my job. Just how bankers continue doing their hob, it should be the same for us, yet it’s not. It’s not only the job of course. Our freedoms are refrained. That’s why I thought ‘Let’s stay and not run away, overcoming those paths here.’ As much as we can. If we’re here, we choose to be here, we have to do the best we can. What I can do is to use my voice.”

She believes that the distress also brings people in the music industry together. “We used to appreciate one another from afar. As if people stayed in their corners. Now we have a ‘music unites’ feel. We try going to more concerts of one another, supporting each other more. Because if we don’t do this, no one else does. The more we do things together, the stronger we’ll be,” she adds as she talks about the relationship she has on female musicians in Turkey. Our conversation weds into being a woman in Turkey and taking stage as a woman, although it’s unfortunate to be talking about it. She begins speaking of what she’s been through and what she feels by saying “It’s really sad to be talking about this. I believe this is how it is in the world, not just for Turkey. Both Björk and Madonna, whom we all know, complain about discrimination. This will change not just with women supporting one another, but men joining in as well. We’re all equal. Women, men, gay, lesbian; doesn’t matter. There are only prejudices that have to be broken.”

This reminds me of another song in her album. Dilara Sakpınar questions our values and identities in “Kimiz.” She explains that existing is enough of a value for a human being. “I exist just like you do. The child trying to carry bread home in Africa exists as much as the child in Van. Existence has nothing to do with what we do, how we talk, what we believe in or how we look. These are all prejudices that people, society and cities have forced on us. There is nothing greater than treasuring each other. This dignifies you and the person next to you. We live together after all. We should clasp as oppose to turning our backs on one another. That’s what I tried to explain on ‘Buluşmuşuz Aslında.’” She defines the story of the song. “We should approach each other in a less dreading manner. Once I said ‘Open your hands.’ at a concert. I saw how people touched one another timidly, slowly, and how that touch converted energy. We’re all individuals. We were born alone, and will die alone. I think about that. Yet we always intersect in the time between. We don’t necessarily have to know each other ‘closely.’ However we have to be kind. We have to be able to talk. Maybe we don’t know one another yet we’ve met someplace anyway.”

I ask where nature and animals stand in this context. What is their place in that beautiful world she’s formed? “I believe we’re some sort of animal. It feels like the closer we get to nature and animals, the stronger we’ll get. Not physically per se. I’m talking about intellectually and communication-wise. However it seems like there is a lot to be accomplished.” She talks about how far we are from doing these as she speaks of it. As she tells of the district she lives in, Moda, she says “You know how we say safe grounds, I don’t understand what we’re safe of.” She underlines how we call a place with a park, nature, and respect for animals and human beings “safe.” Isn’t this the natural, right way anyway?

As we discuss her district, the conversation is brought to her husband and home. Dilara Sakpınar is married to Berkun Oya, one of the creators of the highly acclaimed series on BluTV, Masum. I ask her how it feels to be living with someone who is an artist like her. She begins her sentence with happiness reflected in her face, “It gives one spirits and strength living with a creative person. It’s very valuable. That’s why I’m very happy about living with someone like that. We also share ideas. We definitely cultivate one another.”

I steer the conversation to our main topic, music itself, as we end this long conversation. I ask how she evaluates and sees music production in Turkey. “Positive. Yet I think we have a long way to go” she begins, choosing her words carefully. “We need to be more innovative. Sometimes it’s like we follow trends. Maybe that’s a good thing. Of course we all want to be original and believe we are. However I think we should be pushing limits more all together. Of course there are those who do it. Let’s get strength from one another. However we have to think ‘What can I do as Dilara?’”

Dilara Sakpınar finishes her sentence explaining how she believes that maybe these unfortunate country conditions trigger this progress. After all, Hazineler İçindesin is a positive and prominent album that has come out through these negative events. It’s a piece that eases the burdens, especially with lyrics. Listen to the hidden gems of it very carefully.

Photo by Asya Çetin