Συνέντευξη με τους Light in Babylon - Interview with Light in Babylon


Οι Light in Babylon είναι ένα συγκρότημα που δημιουργεί και παίζει world music. Αποτελείται από τους Michal Elia Kamal, Metehan Çiftçi and Julien Demarque. Δεδομένης της επερχόμενης συναυλίας τους στις 9 Νοεμβρίου, στο ΚΥΤΤΑΡΟ, ζήτησα από την τραγουδίστριά τους να μου παραχωρήσει μια συνέντευξη, την οποία παραθέτω αυτούσια στα αγγλικά.

Light in Babylon is a band that makes world music. It is made up by Michal Elia Kamal, Metehan Çiftçi and Julien Demarque. In light of their upcoming concert in Athens, on November 8, at KYTTARO Live Club, I asked their singer, Michal, for an interview.

When did the band start?
This project began when me and Julien met in 2009. Later, in 2010, we decided to come back to Istanbul, build what we call today the "Light in Babylon" band and turn from covers of folk songs to original compositions. Then we met Metehan Çiftçi (santoor player). Since then we cooperate together. We started our way back in the days in Istiklal street in Istanbul. That year, Istanbul was the "European capital of culture" and had a lot of cultural events happening outside, especially in the center around Taksim square and Istiklal street. For example, theater, art and of course music. When we were playing there, in less than a minute we had a big circle of audience of people listening to our music. With the years we grew, and we got more and more fans in Turkey and all over the world as well. Our videos got very popular. At our first years as a band we were still playing in Istiklal street when we had the time but at the same time we arrived at big stages, concerts halls, cultural centers and well known festivals all over Europe. Today we do not play in Istiklal street of course, simply because we could not do that forever, and we grow and do many more amazing things and bigger concerts. We hope to be an example for many other young bands to follow their musical dream and the most important, to work hard for it and stay humble.

How did you come up with the name?
There are two reasons why we chose the name "Light in Babylon" as our band name. Our first stage was the street. In the street, people are walking home, going to or back from work, nobody looks, and nobody smiles. The moment you put music in the street it makes people stop to listen, to smile, to cry, to dance and to communicate with each other. Babylon is a name for the system that forces us to look in only one direction. At the moment you put any kind of art in the system you create light, making the people also look to a different direction.

The second reason is the story about the Babel tower, the time when cultures separated and people started to speak different languages. In our band, we are also from different places and we speak different languages, but despite that, we have a common culture and language, music.

What is your inspiration?
Many things influenced me, not necessarily one specific type of music but a mix of music, cultures and ideas. I grew up in a home that woman power was something very important and I think you can feel this in my way of singing and voice. I come from a Persian home (both of my parents were born and grew up in Iran) so the culture and the music from home affected me as well. Our band was formed in Istanbul. Istanbul is a very special place to us, and always will be.


What motivates you to keep making music?
We believe that music is not only entertainment, not only for passing the time. Music has a meaning and impact in our life. Light in Babylon brings not only music, but also emotion. In a world where people need more and more to hide their emotion, where television has become more cynical and the pop music more artificial, people are hungry for something real, they want not only to hear music but also to feel it! The music we make says something, there is something honest in it, full of hope.

What has changed since you started up until today?
We performed in Istiklal street in our first years as a band. I must say that Istiklal street is not just a street, not like any street but a very special place. At the time (2012) it was a place where people who passed by were searching for something. Something to happen, some music or art. It was a place of diversity, different people, different cultures, religions, and opinions, all passing there and listening to our music and feeling something. The reaction of the people was amazing, they wanted to get close, to cry, or smile, or dance. To put something like our music in the middle of someone's day, just like that, live with no boundaries, create a strong impact and touch the listeners deeply, but not only them, also us, we learn a lot from it, how to understand people, how to respect people, and how to be modest and humble. Now that we've become more famous and play in all kinds of big stages, we still remember what we learned from our time in Istiklal street.

Of course we do not play in Istiklal (or any) street anymore, we did it for some time and it gave us so much but since then we moved forward to the next step. Just passing by Istiklal street today gets us a lot of attention from people who ask for photos (which we are always happy to meet). Having a performance there would be a mess and also, in general, many things have changed in this place since our time performing there. We were hoping to inspire new young groups to continue this culture and go out there and share their music.

We must say that we feel ourselves very lucky to have such amazing people listening to our music. After each of our concerts, we always spend time and invite the audience to meet us for some photos, signatures and CDs, and it gives us the time to see our audience in the eyes. Even if it is crowded and takes a long time, we always stay till the last person because, for me, it is the best part of the concert. It gives me a lot of hope to meet so many people with open hearts and open minds, people who still believe in people and have hope and spark in their eyes like me. It doesn’t matter if it's in Europe or another place, people who listen to our music always react the same and the warm part of them comes out.


One would label your music as “world music”. What do you say about that?
We always call our music "world music", we see ourselves as the people of the world, and our message is that before all nationality, culture, religion, language... we are all first of all humans. When we remember that, we will remember to respect each other. Of course, when you listen to our songs you can hear the Mediterranean and the Orientalism, together with new fresh style.

Having travelled a lot, and having seen many different cultures, what would you say about discrimination, based on things like skin color, religion or sexual orientation? Are there really huge differences that divide us from each other?
Indeed, travelling a lot, meeting with the audience in so many different countries has taught us a lot, but at the end of the day, it has mainly taught us that we are all humans and we are so similar to each other, more than we realize. We all have something in common and it is "feelings". In our concerts in every country, people eventually react in a similar way - with their feelings! Their eyes are shining, they smile or cry, and this connection is, for us, something very beautiful and powerful to experience. In our concerts, you can find people from different religions and nationalities. We still believe in people in this world, we still believe in open hearts, and yes, some people in this world choose to live in darkness and judgment and negativity, but we have nothing to do with them, but offer some light.

What can we expect from your concert in November?
This November, we will finally come to Athens. I must say "thank you" first of all, to all of our fans from Athens, that for a really long time haven't given up and have kept sending us messages and waiting for us, until finally we are coming to their city. We are getting so much support these days for this upcoming concert from people simply taking pictures of their tickets and sending them to me with a heart and "see you soon" greetings. After the concert we will be waiting to meet with everybody, to give hugs and take pictures. It is very important, especially to me, to also see the people out of the social media. We got really great feedback from this concert, many tickets have been sold already, that's why I advise whoever reading this, to get their tickets in advance. It is going to be a full band concert full of dance, emotions and special moments. From our past experience from concerts in other places around Greece, we got such a warm welcome, people with such an open heart, some of them almost brought me to tears. Honestly, I can't wait.

 You can find more about Light in Babylon in their Facebook page.