ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

Şevval Sam has exceeded expectations with her new “Black Sea” album. Some of her songs will make you cry while others will bring you to the dance floor. With roots in the Black Sea, Sam's great-grandparents were from Crimea and Thessaloniki. She says she's a bit of Kurd too. “My mother, father, big sister, we all sing different songs,” she said. “We inherited a sense of rhythm and talent for language. I performed songs in Hemşin, Georgian, Laz and Greek languages in a concert. It was my first; I was stunned to sing before 5,000 people.”

In folk songs there is always migration from Crimea, let's say, to Istanbul…
Folk songs have their own stories. In these lands there has never been a single nation dwelling here. Migrations, pain, massacres, exchanges took place. People are telling their own story along the way while they were being dragged from place to place. It is almost impossible to be a pure Turk in Turkey. But we do not pay attention to this and we use this against each other, turn against each other. But we should perceive this as our richness, our diversity and enjoy it.
Three songs in the album are from Hasan Tunç of Maçka. What kind of a man was he?He sings and plays single “kemençe”, small three string violin. His hit composition “Ben Seni Sevdiğumi” is 50-year-old. But a song never gets old. The finale of the “Dertliyim Kederliyim” is also nice.

The song ‘Ahmedum' is from Nokta Ana, who is she?
She is a mother who lost her son at the end of the Crimean War. And the song “Ahmedum” is for him; it is a threnody. No other woman has voiced it before. There are a few glottal voices in the piece. People from the Black Sea check to make sure I do them appropriately. Then they smile and give a nod. (She laughs).

Speaking of the Black Sea, it unfortunately brings to mind the type of people who reject diversity, a type of fascist…
I wouldn't know if this could be a regional reaction. But I think the bottom line is being uneducated and ignorant. There are two tendencies directing people: One is nationalism which is the sense of belongingness; people who fail to be individuals unite under a single flag and then think they are valuable. The other one is religion. In addition to these two elements, it is said that regional factors are also influential. “I am from the Black Sea and I use my revolver whenever…” This is not right. This is the result of miseducation. Our culture, song, art and intellect should come to the fore.
There are of course other people in the Black Sea, not only the murderers of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. There are people like Kâzım Koyuncu in the Black Sea…
Of course, there are. For years, we were cheated by whim-whams; they said this is music from the Black Sea. These songs were built on a nonsense techno rhythm. But one day Kazım came out and proved to us that the music of Black Sea is something else. We cannot hurt the pride of the Black Sea just because of ignorant people like Dink's murderer. There are so many brilliant people in the Black Sea.
Kâzım showed us even after his death that he does not need a body to change some things. A culture center was opened for his memory, his songs are still around, and his ideas are being discussed. Kâzım showed us how dirty politics are, what friendship means and why the environment needs protection. I think he wanted to say “Here is everything you need. Now it is your turn to make something out of this” and then left us. I usually cry for people left behind. That thin, slightly humpbacked little man turned into a prodigy on the stage. And it was worth seeing this child of the Black Sea on that stage. He has gone and I still am crying for us.

Your album, the Black Sea, is like a dry shot of vodka; its plain and simple arrangements relax us.
Yes. I don't belong to any music genre but I have my own way of expressing music. I like simplicity. Music should be made without rushing into anything or without trying a chaos of different motifs.
The album “Istanbul's Secrets” hit the shelves last year in Turkey. You sing Spanish, English and French songs in that album. How could you describe that type of music?
It was an important experiment for me. Bristol-style trip-hop, a fusion group it was. For the album different artists gathered from different places around the world including singers and musicians from Portugal, France and Latin America. I sang with Benjamin Escoriza from Radio Tarifa. He wants to use the Black Sea tune “Ben Seni Sevdiğumi” in his album. Now I am back and forth to Britain for the second “Istanbul's Secret's” album. It was like a sudden explosion for me after a very long time. I am preparing a fourth album in 1.5 years. (She laughs).

What is your favorite Black Sea joke?
Actually I don't like jokes; I prefer true stories. But there is this that I laughed a lot. You hit the road in the Black Sea region, you spent some time on the road, and you keep going and going, then suddenly see a sign reading “Village Breakfast, 500 m back.” (She laughs).