Intervju: Sertac Ogul (As Smooth As)

We’re talking with Sertaç Ogul, also knows as “As Smooth As”, turkish DJ who lives in Belgrade and is active on our DJ scene, especially on the middle eastern-flavoured “Midnight Orient” events in KC Grad.

When and how did this transition actually happen? What is your recollection of the first memories and experiences you encountered when switching from Istanbul to Belgrade, and your entrance to Serbian DJ-ing scene.

Hmm…Memories and experiences…Parties, so many parties and then afterparties at one and only Dositejeva 3. Good times…cant say the same thing for neighbors tho…

Entrance into DJ-ing happened very smoothly in Belgrade I think. I have been playing since 2010 in Istanbul in different places and managed 2 different monthly club nights. Here, in Belgrade, I started playing music with chill hiphop beats. Hiphop is still my true passion i think, since 1995. Cartel – Cartel album  1995.

Can you tell us more about the genesis of Midnight Orient parties in KC Grad? What has changed and evolved during its existence, how did the audience initially react, and what are your impressions about the (multi or cross)-cultural exchange between local DJ’s and As Smooth As?

I was playing super smooth beats and sometimes some tracks from Istanbul, tracks from Turkish beat makers or rappers .For example, one and only Sultana – Kusu Kalkmaz. Sultana would be very surprised if she knew she is  known by many people in Belgrade. People mostly wanted to know those beats and tracks, “oriental beats” that i play. One day, Dejan, director of Kc Grad, and his wife Ljudmila, told me that they booked Oceanvs Orientalis. To be honest, I didn’t know Oceanvs Orientalis at that time. But apparently Dejan was one of the biggest fans of him. So Dejan asked me and Ali Guney (Beyond House) to host Ocenavs Orientalis. And that was the genesis of Midnight Orient parties. After that, me and Dejan decided to make it monthly.

Party evolved a lot, seriously a lot. There are people following the party since the beginning and you can ask them. Every single party we invited different local djs. So  far, Brka, Lule, Schwabe, Banda Panda, Why Bane Why, Vladimir Crvenkovic aka WC7, Kristijan Molnar, Chorbika, Vlada Janjic, Ali Guney, Damir Zekiri and dear Kozmonotosman from Turkey played at the party.Pretty good names in the local scene. I appreciate so much for all the support from these names. Great parties one after another…Also thanks to the people who came and waved their bellies for us. Once again, may the rug be flying high.

What is the idea behind “Midnight Orient” parties and what has been organized so far?

The idea behind this party is the experience. I am so sick of parties with completely same music/genre but different names and visuals that make you think it is something different. But it is not. Since the beginning I am trying to  make this party with a visual identity and the live representation of this visuals during the party. Our famous rug… The rug…It is basically our dj booth and also poster/flyer. Dear Igor, sound technician of Kc Grad, decided to project the visuals onto the rug for last two parties. Now it is real magic carpet… Setting the stage in the middle of the venue was also his idea… There has been so many great parties with all these names i mentioned above. Oh, and the last party with Chorbika and Johana Bogicevic from Banda Panda…It was on my birthday, so for the first time of my life I celebrated my birthday with a party. I usually call a small amount of people and go to some pub and drink beer. For the birthday party, I arranged this beautiful bellydancer and it was a blast! Amazing party…two weeks after the party, people were still celebrating my birthday when they see me. Thank you guys, a night to remember….

What is your take on incorporation of oriental elements in serbian and Balkan turbo-folk music? Or early psychedelics of “Juzni vetar” label, which recently garnered renewed interest in (in)famous Beforeafter articles. Did you ever play any of those songs in your DJ sets?

I am still very new to the music from here, especially ex-yugo material…I mostly learn from people sets and shares on Facebook…Brka is a very good source for me. I have learnt a lot of tracks from Vladimir Crvenkovic aka WC7 as well. Also Kompleks.

How much do your musical journeys consist of trip down nostalgia lane and digging into past of Turkish (and other) music. Which were your most pivotal discoveries on this journey? Do you connect with local DJ’s who similarly dig into Yugoslav’s music past?

I guess half and half. Because I am editing the tracks I discover and play them at gigs. So nostalgia also is always there.I am unbelievably glad that I remembered Sultana-Kusu Kalkmaz track after I moved to Belgrade. I always liked the song. The video of the song was banned due to explicit content backed then. It is a very feminist song in fact. I like the beat, I like Sultana’s rap. Another song I am very glad to remember is the last song of this mixture. Tamburada – Mavi track. I bought the cd when i was in high school, was listening this particular song a lot. I also must admit I am a big fan of Mangulica FM‘s edit of Milo Moje by Dragana Mirkovic. People gets shocked when she starts singing in the track, but I am trying to play it as much as I can. Bolji život edit by Kompleks, no doubt…I was trying so hard to learn more about ethno-jazz from this region for this mixture…I would be highly appreciated if someone sends me good example of ethno-jazz from Balkans. I remember I listen some very good Macedonian jazz, very curious about this these days…Maybe if i discover enough, I can prepare a second mixtape for you…ethno-jazz music particularly from Balkans.

Could you pick some favourite contemporary labels, producers or DJ’s who create special magic in merging and mixing traditional songs and spirituals of the Middle East with contemporary beats, bass and electronic genres?

Disco Halal is one of my favorite. Also Malka Tuti…As you know they released Tapan recently…What else…Multi CultiFuture Nuggets from Bucharest…Mehmet Aslan’s Fleeting Wax label has released very good tracks…

Djs, MR TC from Glasgow is my favorite these days…Oceanvs Orientalis for sure…All his tracks and sets…amazing. I should use this opportunity to promote El Mahdy Jr. Our friend from Istanbul…His collabs with Gantz is amazing…Also his solo releases definitely worth to check out…he is kinda on the foot prints of Muslimgauze. I also really like Gantz’s oriental beats. Check out Gantz & Commodo & Kahn – AMK. Grup Ses Beats from Istanbul worth to check out for sure. I recently discovered Gal Kadan from Israel. He has good edits and sets.

 

What is planned for the near future as “As Smooth As” and could you tell us something about the upcoming “Midnight Orient w/ Mehmet Aslan” party which is scheduled for March 24th in KC Grad.

Near future will bring more bookings from both Istanbul and Europe to Midnight Orient hopefully…We will host Mehmet Aslan on March 24th with Banda Panda crew which already played at the party couple of times before. The rug will be quite high I assume on Friday…And next month, in April, we will host Kaan Duzarat…Other than that,  planing to travel more this year around the Balkans and play in different cities, in addition to Sarajevo, Novi Sad, Banja Luka and Pančevo…

You prepared a special mix for Popscotch radio…Could you short-guide us into its discoveries ?

Music from Ziad Rahbani, Sun Ra, Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes, Okay Temiz & Aydin Esen, Sadnat Hajazz (Jazz Workshop), Okay Temiz & Johnny Dyani, Ilhan Ersahin, Rabih Abou-Khalil and Tamburada.

Ziad Rahbani, particularly Houdou Nisbi album opened my mind a lot about eastern jazz…

 

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