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Olcay Bayır

Turkey

Exquisite and beguiling singer

“I believe that culture –more than religion or nationality –provides identity. I’d rather talk about traditions and regions, rather than specific religions and nations.” Born and raised in Anatolia, the westernmost point of Asia, Olcay Bayir has indeed allowed culture to shape her art. Olcay arrived in London at the age of 16, and unable to speak a word of English. But within a couple of years she was studying for a music degree, with the aim of becoming a classical soprano. That was the plan. Instead, she opted to re-explore her Turkish-Kurdish heritage through her music, investigating Anatolian folk traditions as well as absorbing the jazz and more global impulses she’s encountered in the UK. It was a wise move, her enchanting voice being an instrumental of unrefined beauty that, in the words of The Guardian’s Robin Denselow, is replete “with a style that reflects her complex history”.