“There Was A Certain Lightness In India, Despite The Intensity”: Nene Hatun On BMR & Departures From Critical Spaces
To call Beste Aydin’s music unusual would be a tragic understatement. Mesmerising, dark, and otherworldly are among the other words that fall short. It is paradoxical in that it inspires both stillness and manic motion, sometimes all at once. Her foray into experimental electronic music began after her years as a classically trained pianist in Stuttgart; a part of her story that has no doubt raised an eyebrow or two. Donning the stage name Nene Hatun (after a 19th century Turkish revolutionary), she embarks on a personal revolution to achieve new states of hearing, seeing and being. In 2016, she participated in Border Movement’s two-month long residency programme – BMR: South Asia. We caught up with Beste after her return to Berlin to get a sense of the time she spent in India, and what it means for her music.
What did you expect this residency would do for you? Did you arrive with an idea of what you hoped to achieve?
I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Honestly, I’m the kind of person that tries to stay open to everything that comes my way. As far as the music goes, I was hoping to learn more about DJing. Wild City and ILM Academy made it possible, and it was great.
As many travellers have discovered, India leaves its mark. It has ways of slipping into both body and mind, especially during the creative process. How did this influence your music, if at all?
My time in India was intense, and I find intensity to be incredibly beneficial to the creative process. For me, anyway. I feel it is that state of mind that keeps you sharp. Amplified feelings that lead to a level of acceptance. That was India’s influence on me. My personal process while making music has remained the same, though. There’s a lot of work there, on a cerebral level, that stays the same.
Your exit from classical music was described as an act of rebellion. Have you left it behind completely? Or do you find ghosts of it in your work today?
Oh, those ghosts chase me everywhere. It is a very critical space, but more than space itself, it is the conversations that people have about the music. You begin to realise that keeping up with those conversations is difficult because you already have a radically different perspective on it. I also found that it made listening to music harder. I would analyse everything I heard and it became exhausting. I’d go to a club or a party and I would spend my time analysing the forms and sounds. It can make you no fun to be around and can even make you more judgemental.
This country is home to a massive host of sounds, which must have been added to your collection of recordings. Was there anything that you heard during your time here that you knew you wanted in your music?
I was always in love with Sufi music. The kind that comes from Rajasthan. Actually, I grew up listening to a lot of it, and I finally got a chance to hear it live! It was so moving, and I cried through the entire concert. I did get the chance to explore the music further and discover more artists. Then there was the caves at Ajanta. My visit there was a little random, and some Buddhist monks from Mysore were there – chanting. The music is striking and incredibly complex. It sounds technically advanced and yet ancient at the same time. I made some recordings there and looked up some more of it on the Internet. The sounds are so complicated; it takes on this weird form. At moments it was dissonant, and it sounded very contemporary. I haven’t been able to analyze it all properly, but I will use some of those forms in my work for sure.
After 2 months in India, what were your impressions of the scene and which local artists really grabbed your attention?
I did check out some music from India before I got there, so I think I had formed somewhat of an impression about it. I checked out Hashback Hashish, and Kohra from Qilla Records. I really like the work they do. Jamblu is also very interesting. He’s so diverse! And then Kalab, whose music and weirdness I absolutely love. At the end of my time there I met these amazing guys from Sound.Codes who are doing some fascinating things. I was quite impressed by the scene generally, and how willing every seems to work together. Most of it felt very real and they have this power and energy that is incredible to watch.
In an interview with Border Movement before you embarked on the residency you implied that the experience would bring about massive changes for you; what were they?
So the massive shift hasn’t occurred yet. It has only been a few days since I got back to Berlin, and I’m hoping to work on all these areas over the coming months. There was a certain lightness in India, despite the intensity. I really want to hold on to that. I think that it leads to a healthy way to work, you know, without breaking yourself.
What will you miss most about India?
Ooooh, chai! Classic Milds, Luna the dog. Wild City, especially Sarah and Munbir, as well as all of the friends I made there. Nature. Goa! The sun, and food! Also, the friendliness of people. These are the things I have been talking and thinking about since I left.
written by Alexander Thomas