Introduction to the World of Inji

“The most important thing in creating my musical style was the pressure-free environment at the beginning of my career. I did not approach my music career with stress or thinking ‘I have to make music that everyone will like’. My career started by chance, yes, but I could not have come this far without the strict musical education I received since the age of 8.”

First, let’s start from the beginning. Who are you, what have you done so far?

Greetings, I am İnci and my artist name is INJI. I was born in Kadıköy in 2001, I am from Bağdat Street. I am actually a very new adult who graduated from university just six months ago, but let me briefly summarize my life. I started my education life at Koç School, and at the age of 8, I entered the Istanbul State Conservatory Piano department part-time. I receive my graduation certificate from the conservatory under my teacher Eser Bilgeman, and then I go to Sevenoaks School in England for the last two years of high school. For university, I am studying finance and business analytics at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. These days, I’m a complete ‘geek’ and I attach great importance to academic success. My dream is to be a very successful businesswoman, starting from New York and then conquering her country. I’m going to the best business school in the world, so I even got a very prestigious job offer in New York.

It’s literally the invisible part of the iceberg. What happens next?

When the song “Gaslight”, which I made for fun with my friends in the third year of university, rose on TikTok, while I was still a student, my music career suddenly began. Until this time, music was just a hobby for me, because I was interested in classical and jazz music. While I was a senior, I released my first project, ‘LFG’ (So Let’s F^cking Go), with a short deal with Polydor Records in England. After that, I did a small headlining tour (London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco) and then I participated in the tour of a DJ called Discolines as support. During this period, the song ‘Bellydancing’, which I wrote in LA, became famous, and here we are today.

Why do you use your name Inji?

INJI is heard as PEARL when read in English. I did it so the world could read my name correctly! But this time Turkey started misreading my name… My name is İnci, please call me İnci (laughs).

What are your first memories of music?

I started my music career at the age of 8 at Istanbul University Piano department. For ten years, I have been spending my life discovering the beauties of classical piano. I realize the healing power of music, even at that young age, I learn how good I feel when I play the piano when I cannot control my emotional world. As I grew up, my interest in jazz increased and I started to sing to myself in this genre all the time. I joined many music groups in high school and university, and I have performed all kinds of music, from singing jazz with big bands to church choirs. Music has been a healing force for me throughout my life.

My music career started completely unexpectedly, by chance. When a song we wrote as a joke caught on on TikTok, I decided to continue.

What efforts did you make to improve your musical abilities? And what kind of learning process do you go through to create and develop your own musical style?

Yes, my career started by chance, but I could not have come this far without the rigorous musical education I received since the age of 8. In addition to studying piano at the conservatory, I studied solfeggio, harmony and music theory. I improved my vocal control by singing to myself for years. Recently, I have been improving my electronic music and production skills for proper communication, mostly in a session room.

The most important thing in establishing my own musical style was the pressure-free environment at the beginning of my career. I didn’t approach my music career with stress or thinking ‘I have to make music that everyone will like’. With a non-serious, playful and experiential approach, we started to produce much more original and different music. When these took hold, I tried very hard to keep the same experimentalism. I make music like no one will listen.

Can we say that bellydancing was the breaking point for you? Can you tell us about the process of creating this song?

Bellydancing was definitely the breaking point for me in Turkey. We wrote this song in Los Angeles with Neil Ormandy and the Diamond Pistols. Our goal was to write a song that could make every person in the world dance. That’s why the first thing that came to our mind was the ‘mariachi’ sound, a sound that I could never stand still when I heard it. The idea of ​​darbuka and belly dancing came towards the end of the day. Then, when I taught these concepts to this duo and watched a lot of Turkish videos, everything fell into place. What I said at the beginning of the song came completely by chance, it was something that had not been written before, it was improvised.

So, did you expect such interest from both Turkey and the world?

I expected Turks who heard Turkish to show interest, but I was very surprised that an English dance song was listened to so much in Turkey.

Apart from bellydancing, what is your most important song and why?

Gaslight. Because this song, which I wrote by chance and without taking it seriously, shaped my entire musicianship. A song for which I wrote fearless, shameless lyrics. My song of taking back the power about someone who hurt me so much, as if no one would listen to it… When the lyrics I wrote as 100% İnci in this song worked, I stepped into a music career where I feel very much like myself.

What role does music play in your relationships with others?

It may be an answer you never expected, but what inspires me the most are the stories of my closest friends. There are a lot of songs I wrote for my best friends’ exes! My friends usually get very emotional and feel good with these songs. This is how I use music most in my personal relationships.

How would you define your own musical identity? Has this identity begun to shape his social role? Or is it too early to talk about these?

I define my musical identity as fun, full of life and joy, empowering and rebellious. My biggest goal with music is for someone who listens to my music to feel better than they did 5 minutes ago. I want to bring a smile to people’s faces and relief to their hearts with my music. I also have songs in which I make small criticisms about society. I want to make songs that you can listen to on your way to work tired in the morning and get pumped up, feel good, and fill you with energy. There is also a lot of ’empowerment’ in my songs, I do this to make everyone, but especially women, feel stronger.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music? How involved are they in your life?

Apart from music, I move a lot as a hobby. Dance, fitness, yoga, pilates. I love reading books and writing stories. Fashion is also an area that I am very interested in. Due to my education, I can say that my interests are both entrepreneurship and finance.

Who are the artists or bands that influence you?

Amy Winehouse is my number one idol. I learned how to write original and storytelling lyrics from him. I’m trying to learn from Amy how to make the listener feel emotions just by using her voice. Apart from that, Beyonce, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Sofi Tukker are among my favorite artists.

How does your songwriting process work? What are your inspirations?

When writing songs, we always start from the chorus or the most striking point of the song. I want a song I write to leave an impression on the listener after the first listen, that is, they can immediately remember a part of the song and its lyrics. At the same time, I try to surprise the listener, get a reaction from them or make them laugh in every song. I write down everything that inspires me in my daily life, from long stories to single words, in a notebook that is always with me. But in a session, we usually start the song with a word we pick up from the air, not from that notebook.

Is there a theme or message you’re trying to express in your music?

Yes; beauty of life. As I said, the purpose of my music is to fill the listener with positive emotions. One should not take life too seriously; I want to convey how to find beauty among evil and live with them. I think we should never cut off our relationship with our childish and playful side.

There are bound to be challenges you encounter in the creative process. What was the most challenging thing for you?

Repetition… I don’t like a new idea to be even slightly my own creation or something someone else has already created. Sometimes I get upset when I see that an idea I’m very excited about has been done by someone before me!

What are your thoughts on the impact of digital media on the music world?

In my opinion, digital media is the most powerful marketing tool in the world. You can appear in front of millions of people for free. This is the first time something like this has happened in the music world. My most powerful marketing method is social media.

What projects are you currently working on or planning?

A full-length EP in the summer and a world tour in September-October

What’s on your agenda? What is Inji busy doing these days?

I started reading a lot of books these days. Yes, I try to focus on the beautiful aspects of life, but with the difficult and scary state of our world, I have set a goal this year to be informed especially about history and politics.

Apart from that, I practice dancing very hard, I spend time with my family in Turkey, I go to my grandmother’s, I eat stuffed vegetables!

Are you someone who is sensitive to social issues?

A lot!

What if we hear from you about your generation? What kind of young generation do you think is coming?

I think my generation sounds like the bomb. Especially young people, we are growing up as citizens of the world.

Where do you want to reach in your music career in the future?

I want to be a global artist. The place where I feel happiest is the stage. I want to perform in big arenas and go on a world tour. My goal is not to take over the Turkish market, but to do a job that Turkey can be proud of globally.

What is your greatest purpose in life?

Love very much, be loved very much, make very happy, be very happy.

———

Interview: Serli Gazer
Photos: Emre Ünal
Fashion Director: Aslı Asil

Taken from ELLE Türkiye February 2024 Issue.

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