Sami Baha is an Istanbul-born, London-based producer making futuristic club tracks. Stream his debut EP, Mavericks, inside
Sami Baha started out producing beats in Istanbul’s hip hop scene before moving to his current base in South London. His new EP, Mavericks, was produced while Turkey’s political and economic situation was becoming increasingly less stable, with Baha finding that his own music was becoming similarly fractured and glassy. "I didn't really design it that way, but I feel like the sound got more aggressive over the years," Baha says of the EP.
The result is a dramatic, futuristic form of club music that draws on the melodies of ‘Arabesk’ Turkish music with the drum rhythms and heavyweight bass of Atlanta rap. Besides featuring a collaboration with producer Kuedo, Mavericks also includes a bona fide underground anthem in the form of “Chunk”, a tune that’s been played extensively in underground clubnights as well as on stations like NTS and Radar Radio. Fans of underground producers like Evian Christ, Kamixlo, Visionist, and Nguzunguzu will find plenty to sink their teeth into.
You can stream Mavericks — out today via pioneering experimental/electronic label Planet Mu — in its entirety below, and get to know Sami Baha in his short Q&A with Dazed.
When did you first move to London? Why did you leave Istanbul?
Sami Baha: I moved at the end of summer, just before people started to be afraid to commute in the city. Essentially, I felt like I couldn’t live in Istanbul anymore because the music and entertainment industry couldn’t financially nurture the electronic music scene. Also, politics was affecting our lives more directly than ever — socially and economically, it was becoming a bit catastrophic for everyone, especially for young people starting their lives. After a while I didn’t know why I was complaining yet repeating the same daily routine over and over again. I decided to move.
How did you get into producing?
Sami Baha: I started with rapping in high school and moved onto producing and making beats. Had fun with a lot of different genres while making beats for a long while and returned to hip hop instrumentals more seriously after.
What are some of your major musical and creative inspirations?
Sami Baha: Especially earlier, I was drawn to G-funk, DJ Screw, and the south scene. Living just outside Istanbul, during hot summers I kind of connected with the heat and the southern feeling in that music. I also listened to a lot of stoner rock and sludge metal like Sleep and Electric Wizard. I really liked the drums. I found it familiar to southern beats and also tried writing drums like that. I think even the album artwork of Mavericks reflects my love for Dopesmoker a little bit. Also, gaming was and is an important part of my life, and game soundtracks were really important experiences and strong influences on my music, the Red Alert series by Frank Klepacki being one example.
“I am so very bad with describing auditory experiences, but if I tried, I could say Mavericks is violently soft and emotionally chaotic. I heard it creates a space for people to dream and wonder when they’re dancing — I liked that.” — Sami Baha
Do you feel like your Turkish background plays much of a part in the way you produce your music?
Sami Baha: I grew up when Arabesk was in the centre stage of Turkish culture, listening to artists like Muslum Gurses alongside DJ Screw and Atlanta scene. I know people don’t hear the orient instruments and samples in my music — it’s more about the feeling, maybe the drums sometimes. I feel like Arabesk (and its recent sub genre Arabesk-rap) and trap are very similar in where they come from and in their feel. Actually, I think “warm and intricate” is a great way to describe the feeling of both Arabesk and the Mavericks EP.
How did you become involved with the underground/club/electronic scene in London?
Sami Baha: I've only played here a handful of times. I believe people found me through my Soundcloud account or Planet Mu’s website. Also, friends who were musicians invited me to play at their nights and radio shows. It's been an organic process — mostly word-of-mouth.
What can you tell us about your new EP?
Sami Baha: Moving to a new city and starting fresh gives one a lot of time alone and allows learning through making and obsession, which shaped the EP in later stages more than I imagined. I had some invaluable critique from (Planet Mu label boss) Mike Paradinas; he taught me a lot. I was also involved in making the artwork, and I’m happy to say me and the artist (Beyza Ucak) live and work from the same place, which reflected on the depth of the project. It wasn’t about me finishing and then packaging the album — it grew together authentically and I’m proud to say that we both left the comfort zone of our practise. I am so very bad with describing auditory experiences, but if I tried, I could say Mavericks is violently soft and emotionally chaotic. I heard it creates a space for people to dream and wonder when they’re dancing — I liked that.
What other musicians are exciting you right now?
Sami Baha: Fatima Al Qadiri, NA, Mechatok, Kamixlo, Uli K, Kufu-Ra, and v1984.