The Cool Cat: İlhan Erşahin

MusicJune 7, 2017
The Cool Cat: İlhan Erşahin

İlhan Erşahin is a man of many definitions – saxophonist, composer, producer, club owner, jazz festival curator, and owner of a record company. He started playing the saxophone at the age of 16 and has never stopped since then.

Impressing his audience with his charisma and relaxed attitude as much as his music, Erşahin is the owner of Nublu, one of the hotspots of New York East Village’s nightlife. Though Nublu’s Istanbul branch has been closed, one can still hope!

You collaborate and perform with musicians from different genres. How do you think your past influences this? Do you think you’d be making a different kind of music if you had been living in one place, for instance, in Sweden?

Well, I decided a while ago to be like this. I like to create with people I like whether it’s a DJ, a clarinet player or a singer, or just with simply noise. I like to be challenged and I like to go to places where I haven’t been. To me countries and cultures are important but it’s not a starting point for me. For me the starting point is yourself and your story.

What is your favorite city/venue to play in?

I don’t see it like this. For me the night is important. If the vibes are good, if the host is cool, if the audience is excited, if the food was good, if the wine was good etc. This matters to me much more then what city and what country etc.

We always see you photographed wearing a T-shirt printed with Basquiat’s Sugar Ray Robinson. Can we say that he also inspires your music? Are there other branches of art that inspires you?

Hey, I love good art, real art, art that comes from a source that has a meaning and is actually telling a story. These days everyone is an artist. The world became like this, but time always tells. Not that I don’t believe that everyone can do art but to do art there is more than talent needed. One has to tell a story, be real, be somewhat honest I guess and then it’s about taste so yes of course art always inspires me as interesting people and interesting situations do.

Can you tell us about the most extraordinary night you recently experienced at Nublu?

This is impossible to answer because every night is different. Different people, different languages, different style, different moons etc. The Nublu Jazzfest in Sao Paulo was just amazing and this past weekend a had a stage called “Nublu Stage” in north of Brasil at the very exciting and crazy town Fortaleza within a festival called Maloca Dragao Do Mar. So every day is a new day.

The expansion of the Internet and smartphones have brought along changes both in our daily lives and the world of music. This increases both accessibility and competition. What are your thoughts on this? How do you think this influences the up and coming artists?

Yes, it’s true. We see this now very much in Turkey. Now everyone plays and sounds the same as people everywhere else. No one can really tell where a DJ or a guitarist is from just listening to his or her sounds. I mean it doesn’t really matter but everything is global now. Good and bad, yes more competition for sure but also more opportunities. But to stay in the game you have to offer something different than the rest.

You always try new techniques on saxophone. What feeds you in this direction?

Haha, I don’t know. I live and play that’s it. No tricks no games really.

Are there any musicians from Turkey that you admire?

I am looking what’s new and what’s cool and what’s supposed to be cool etc. and yes in Turkey as in Brasil and as in NYC always so many new things.

Whose works you religiously follow?

I don’t have any particular things I always follow. I listen a lot since I am always at my clubs or I am playing in festivals where we share stages with all kinds of bands. I just keep me ears open and I still listen mostly to the music I grew up with like The Clash, Peter Tosh, Rolling Stones, T. Rex and some Led Zeppelin.

Author: Duygu Bengi