introducing nilufer yanya: the 21-year-old londoner quietly speaking volumes

Press play on a shimmering, Jeff Buckley-esque debut.

by Matthew Whitehouse
09 September 2016, 12:15am

We watched a documentary the other night about about how, amidst the sprawling, streaming, struggling and chit-chattering of our cities, silence has become somewhat of a disappearing resource. It's kind of how we feel about this single by 21 year old Nilufer Yanya. A shimmering, meditative, almost otherworldly debut, it is, as the old jazz heads used to say, a song marked less by the notes she plays and more by the ones she doesn't: a Jeff Buckley-esque restraint on the guitar, a voice that's both deep and sonorous but never intrusive. In a world of ever growing noise, it's easy to forget that sometimes the most powerful thing you can be is quiet. Press play on the self-directed video and read our chat with the young Londoner below.

Hello Nilufer. We really love your song Small Crimes. Was it a very conscious decision to keep it so restrained?
It was conscious yes. The way I heard the song in my head and how I performed it was very stripped back and simple. I wanted that to be reflected in the record. I also think my ear is attracted to more minimal productions. I really like hearing how the music all fits together.

Has your heritage had any influence on your music at all? [Nilufer has Turkish, Irish and Bajan family].
I couldn't tell you much of it has influenced my music, consciously anyway. I know my dad is convinced it has but that's because he plays a lot of traditional Turkish music around the house. My mum played us a lot of classical music as children, but then I can also remember her singing Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and Macy Gray. My nan was always playing this Irish folk CD at hers, but there was also Bob Marley and Sweat by Nelly, so who knows?

Have you ever committed a small crime?
I've got loads and loads of library books that need returning. The worst part is you have to own up to it when you bring them back.

Your Twitter bio says "I'm not rlly a singer"... If you really weren't a singer, what would you be doing?
Haha. I put that up there because I'm still not used to identifying with being a "singer" as it's the part that came last. Funnily enough If I were to be doing something else it would have to be something which allows me to have a voice. I've always thought about writing a book or designing clothes.

We like the motorbike sound at the start of your video. If you had to pick the best motorbike sound out of Leader Of The Pack by The Shangri-Las, Speedway by Morrissey or Small Crimes by Nilufer Yanya, which would you choose?
The Morrissey one is pretty strong!

You've covered The Pixies in the past. Which other artist should everyone have as part of their musical education?
A friend introduced me to Laurie Anderson the other day who is another 80s artist. I can't believe no one had ever played her to me before! There is still so much basic listening I need to do.

We also saw that you were taught guitar by Dave Okumu from The Invisible… What was the most important thing he taught you?
Dave was my first guitar teacher at school for about two years. I'd only just picked it up so I think the most important thing was just that he was so inspiring, encouraging and cool! Him and [fellow Invisible member] Tom Herbert also ran this 'Year Nine Rockband' workshop with us that my friends and I played in. I remember him talking about the importance of writing because we were "creating something that hadn't existed before". It sounds like an obvious thing now but I don't think I'd ever thought about music in terms of existing like that back then.

What are you doing next? Where can we see you live?
I've got another single coming out in October and will definitely be bringing out more after that too. I'm playing with my band on 20 October at George IV in Chiswick and doing the EP launch on 17 November at the Slaughtered Lamb.

Finally, is that your dog in the video or did you nick like all those library books?
That's Coco! She is my sister's dog, but we hang out quite a bit.

Small Crimes is out now on Blue Flowers Music.


Text Matthew Whitehouse
Photography Hollie Fernando

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