Esra Dalfidan was born in 1975, of Turkish parents, and raised in the German industrial town of Solingen. After a brief career as a music therapist, and after 10 years of studying classical guitar, she decided to switch her life round and focus fully on becoming a professional musician. She was admitted to the Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz singing and completed her Master's degree in 2007 with honours. She now lives in the Netherlands.
As a singer she is difficult to categorize, but it would be fair to say that the core of her music is founded on the broad carpet of musical styles that we call jazz. Her fondness of Turkish and Azeri traditional music gives all of her songs and compositions an oriental accent, sometimes passionate, then melancholic and yearning, and always full of surprises, both in its melodic lines, tempi, and phrasing.
Her own compositions are crisp and precise and full of irregular and changing tempi, 5/4, 7/4, and more, without ever sounding forced. Each of her songs tells a story, and leads the listener on a journey through the singer's and listener's landscape of memories and emotions. It's probably not for nothing that her CD liner notes contain the brief reminder 'Based on a true story'. All this makes for a musical experience quite unlike any other.
Her voice is always on the move. In her songs, the presence and absence of her voice provides a nice balance between her singing and playing time for her band members. She sings words and scats, she is loud, she is soft, she is in ballad mode, she is up tempo. The pure sound of her voice opens up the mind like Coltrane's tenor sax could, when playing tunes like India, Spiritual, Olé. There is a remarkable similarity in timbre and straight sound with no or minimal vibrato. With this variety and complexity the music never sounds complex or difficult, on the contrary, it sounds natural, not least because her band members are so well attuned to her and each other.
To quote the artist herself, from her Myspace site:
"The repertoire consists of her compositions: expressing each member's personal musicality and creative way of playing in an uniquely-arranged ensemble. Experimentation with rhythmic patterns, eastern scales and characteristic melodic and harmonic movements have become inevitable trademarks of this formation which carry their listener to diverse and unforgettable moments."
Her band is called Fidan, a Turkish word meaning 'twig' or 'branch'.
Tobias Klein, bass clarinet. The instrument suits the music, and is played brilliantly, echoing the genius of Eric Dolphy at times.,
Franz von Chossy, piano. Award winning pianist who moves in and out of and around the singer's tunes weaving a carpet of patterns that supports the whole band beautifully. At times reminiscent of McCoy Tyner in the famous Coltrane group of 1960-1965.,
Sean Fasciani, double bass. Sean Fasciani is an award winning bassplayer who rejoined Fidan in 2009, after spending time in New York City. With his distinct sound and groovy basslines Sean brings a sexy swing to the band.,
Uli Genenger, drums and percussion. Supports the complex tempi and rhythms effortlessly without ever sounding facile, and there are duets between voice and drums that are breathtaking.,
As her main influences and source of inspiration Esra mentions the Azeri singer and pianist Aziza Mustafa Zadeh and the Portuguese singer Maria João.,
Aziza developed a unique blend of jazz, modern, and Azeri traditional music, called mugam jazz. To get a taste of Aziza's music click here.,
Maria João created a style similar to Esra's, mixing jazz, traditional Portuguese, modern and world music. Check out Maria João's fan club's website to see and hear some of her performances.,
The Turkish popular singer Nilüfer features as a secondary influence.
The second half of 2008 is marked by new compositions and collaborations, notably a series of concerts with the Tineke Postma Group, extending into the first half of 2009. Esra also features in an ensemble called Gandhi Bazaar, created and led by Ned McGowan. This group brings together five musicians with various backgrounds in jazz, classical, improvised, traditional Indian, Turkish and Flamenco, creating a form of collective chamber music which uses techniques from all these genres. Particularly remarkable is the interplay between two master percussionists in the group, Indian drummer B.C. Manjunath and Spanish percussionist Enric Montfort. The Gandhi Bazaar concert tour was commissioned by the Dutch Fund for the Performing Arts, and some of the compositions have been created to bring to life texts by the Dutch/Iranian poet Nafiss Nia.
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