Warm, cozy, groovy, organic and very melodic – these are the words that come to mind when listening to the sound of the artist duo. With their live performances they are loved all over the world. Santi and Tuğçe (from Asunción, Paraguay & Istanbul, Turkey) left their homes to follow their dreams of music and have been road companions and musical partners for more than a decade. Their current home is the colourful and lively Berlin, where they work on their sound and their catchy songs. Rooted in the richness of diverse cultural and musical traditions, and motivated by a constant pulse for open-minded inquiry and innovation, Santi & Tuğçe reclaim the power of music to express something essential about human experience. And this is exactly what you hear in their powerful productions. But let’s give them the floor now.
How would you describe your own sound?
Our music is an ever-expanding sonic journey integrating diverse influences and ideas: surgically engineered dance-floor beats, colorful instrumentation, soulful melodies, polyrhythms, nostalgic analog synthesizers, jazzy harmonies and touches of classical music. Our numerous releases so far draw upon ancient mythic tales from different parts of the world, futuristic dystopian dreams, adventures to imaginary lands on a sea-spaceship, and rhythmic planetary motions around the sun.
You often play together with live musicians – so it seems. How difficult is the realization of your set with live instruments?
Our set as a duo includes live vocals, guitar, digital marimbas, and electronics. We also perform frequently as a live band with a multi-percussionist. We have collaborated with several instrumentalists as guest appearances in our shows and our albums. One of the biggest challenges of this extended live set is the synthesis of acoustic with electronic sounds and aesthetics. Electronic patterns can be at times too precise, perfectly aligned to a grid, whereas acoustic lines are more flowing, never quite perfectly snapping to the grid. The same applies to the sound intensity. Electronic sounds are often mathematical and consistently loud and acoustic sounds are more flowing in dynamics and timbre. To make these two worlds blend, we make our electronic sequences sound more like acoustic patterns, and our acoustic patterns to feel more like electronic sequences. Then, a new aesthetic arises which is neither electronic nor acoustic, but a true hybrid.
Which set-up do you use for your gigs and what would have to be invented to make it even better?
Our set-up includes two microphones for vocals (Tuğçe’s mic is routed through effect processors for occasional tweaking), Ableton Live with the Push, a Nord Drum (connected to a custom made MaxForLive patch which allows us to use it as a marimba), a nylon-string guitar and an array of MIDI controllers for navigating and manipulating the live set. One piece of gear that Santi has been dreaming of for a while is a MIDI controller that maps better and quicker to software synthesizers. Most MIDI controllers are generic. Their layouts don’t match synthesizers well and it takes a long time to manually map parameters. It would be great if a controller is created that interfaces directly with synth plugins, so when you select the synth you want to play live, the controller automatically adapts visually and mechanically. It would then be possible to get the same analog feeling and immediacy with software instruments. Music software companies have developed similar ideas, but you never get enough knobs and buttons and they only integrate fully with specific software.
How do you start a production in the studio – how did a track like for example “Alegria Feat. JPattersson” come up?
Each track has its own journey. Some tracks (such as Mercurio) emerge spontaneously in the studio during an all night production session, some tracks (like those in our last album Terminal Caribe) come to us first as melodic or rhythmic ideas that linger with us for years until they reach their final form, and some others (such as Lúcido or Punto Cero) mutate many times until they feel “just right”. We often assume different roles in the production process. At times, Santi’s wild, free-flowing imagination finds its defining limits through Tuğçe’s precise, groove-focused edits. At other times, Tuğçe’s deep intuition and multi-sensory story-telling animate Santi’s sharp and inventive production skills. The track “Alegria” was a mix of both. Santi had the initial idea of the main melody of Alegria during a trip we had to Istanbul back in 2015. Upon hearing the melody for the first time, Tuğçe immediately remarked “This is the sound of joy! We will call this track Alegria”.
Yet it was several years later in Berlin that we got to the eventual production stage of “Alegria” as part of our most recent album “Terminal Caribe”. Since its inception in 2015, Santi had the idea that the main melody should be played by a trumpet. So once we had the first draft of the track ready, we contacted JPattersson along with the musical score and asked if he would be interested in playing it. He responded right away, and sent us his recording of the melody along with a beautiful solo within the same week, which then inspired us to revision the track once again and add more nostalgic tones to it.
In your music not only two people meet, but also two different cultures. Does that influence your sound?
We are indeed from two different parts of the world. Santi is originally from Asuncion, Paraguay and Tuğçe is from Istanbul, Turkey. So indeed our music involves a unique alchemy of elements such as Paraguan harps, Afro-Latin rhythms and Middle Eastern percussions and melodies. Yet we have each spent a considerable part of our lives outside of our countries of origin. We both lived in different parts of the US for 14 years where we studied music (Western classical composition, electronic music and jazz) and for the past 3 years we have been living in Berlin, which is considered by many to be the capital of electronic music. So, our music is not only a meeting point of two cultures, but covers a much wider palette of influences from all over the world. Back in 2007, when we first met in the US, our musical collaboration was rooted in our shared love for world music, and from there expanded to creating our own unique fusion of sounds. In each track or album, we focus on re-inventing ourselves and building a brand new soundscape, rather than following trends or repeating formulas.
Have you ever imagined doing something else than music?
Actually, we are both scientist-artist types and have been focusing on both fields ever since we met. Santi is a software engineer, and currently developing mobile apps. Tuğçe is a sociocultural psychologist and works as a researcher and university professor. We feel that our multidisciplinary background and experience significantly enrich our musical imagination.
Which gigs did you especially remember from the last year?
Some of our favorite gigs in 2019 were the Lucid festival in Theater im Delphi in Berlin, Festival Nomade party in Santiago, Zorlu Studio concert in Istanbul, the closing night of the World Music Festival in Kulturzentrum Schlachthof Kassel, and Kometa Festival in Riga. In each of these events, we had a beautiful setting, a very professional and loving crew of organizers, and a fantastic audience.
And what do you look forward to the most?
The story of Santi & Tuğçe began with music and we look forward to continuing this journey, exploring, learning, creating and sharing our sounds and stories for the years to come. One of our dreams for the near future is to integrate instrumentalists even more into our live sets. We would like to record an album and perform with a jazz trio (piano, double bass, drum set). Santi also has a composition in progress for a brass quintet with electronics. This will be a major undertaking so we hope to find the time and the opportunity to realize these dreams.