TEN QUESTIONS WITH INJI
Welcome to the Injiverse. The 22-year-old Turkish artist INJI, now based in New York, is one to watch for 2024. Her recent single BELLYDANCING has taken over the world with millions of streams. Produced by Diamond Pistols, the song is the essence of INJI’s feel-good, underground electronic sound.
From studying piano at the Istanbul University Site Conservatory, to touring around Italy performing jazz and classical music, INJI has found herself in the electronic/house music world, creating neon-infused, sassy, upbeat music that makes us dance. We spoke to the artist ahead of what is set to be the year of INJI:
BELLYDANCING is so fun and you’ve had such a great response to it. How has it felt to have the song resonate on this level? What did you hope people would feel listening to BELLYDANCING?
Thank you! This song connected with the audience beyond a level I could ever imagine. Thousands and thousands of people who could understand the Turkish intro created videos explaining “they also just wanted to bellydance for a second” weeks before the song ever came out. It’s been so amazing seeing so many people both relate to and buy into an idea I put forward. I created this song to make people let loose, get dancing, and feel hyped up. The response has been nothing less than that!
Tell us about creating the record. What was the inspiration behind BELLYDANCING?
This record came together in a very improvisational way. Our goal was to make a dance track that could make everyone from 7 to 70 get up and dance. Thinking about some influences of “undeniably danceable world music” we first thought of a mariachi band. You could be from anywhere in the world, and a Mariachi band is going to get you on your feet. Our second idea came from my home culture, Turkey. Darbuka, a type of drum used for BELLYDANCING and collective dances in celebrations is a sound no Turkish person can resist. We decided to bring together these Mexican & Middle Eastern influences together and tie them using a lyrical story.
We’ve read that you worked with Diamond Pistols… how was this experience and what did you learn from them?
Diamond Pistols has quickly become one of my favorite people to work with, and a close friend. The guy has endless creativity, crazy talent, and just knows how to get you bouncing. I met him when I was really new to doing sessions, and quickly learned from him the power of pivoting and adapting in the middle of a session if the idea doesn’t feel 100%. It can feel hard to let go of an idea you gave a few hours to, but DP showed me that it can be SO worth it to reset, restart and try to beat your own ideas.
You have a background in classical piano and jazz music. How do you think this knowledge has informed your music-making and sound?
Yes! I spent 10 years studying classical piano in a conservatory in Istanbul, and my early days of singing revolve around jazz. Classical piano taught me a lot about structuring music to evoke emotion. How to build tension, the importance of simplicity, how to create high energy moments.. A lot of this intuition comes from years of me trying to capture complex stories just using the piano. Jazz taught me a lot about how to use my voice skilfully, and how improvisation can lead to magic.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Amy Winehouse is probably my number 1 influence when it comes to how I write. For me, the lyrical part of a song is what makes it true to me. I spent a lot of my childhood listening to Amy Winehouse, falling in love first with her vocal expression and later with her lyricism. I try to give the audience snippets of puzzles and word games they’ve never heard before just like I see Amy do.
Dream collaboration? What would it sound like?
Nile Rodgers! He has completely revolutionized dance music, and I feel like he still has that magic touch that turns everything he’s involved with into a visionary example. I would absolutely love to work with him!
You have a great visual world. Where do you draw inspiration from for your visuals?
Thank you! My daily life! I’ve been keeping my visual word limited to my actual daily life and farther away from highly produced studio stuff as much as possible. My music videos have been shot in my school, my home, with all my best friends, with collaborators I organically met. Also, once I started making music and started gaining the confidence to lean into my creative part, I truly felt the joy in self-expression. So this visual world tries to reflect the happiness I find in my own real life.
As we're getting to know you, what’s something you’d like people to know about you that they can’t get from listening to your music? Is there something you’re particularly passionate about, aside from music?
I recently heard about the concept of “toxic positivity” and got some feedback online about how this related to my music. My musical project until now has held the purpose of reminding people of the unserious and joyous parts of life, and therefore been exclusively positive. So, I’ve recently felt the need to explain that, this doesn’t mean my life is always, 100% positive, at all! The purpose of the music isn’t to claim that everything is all good, it’s to see the good in life, my life which is also filled with sadness and stresses sometimes too.
For this who don’t yet know, why ‘INJI’?
It’s my real name, typed differently! My name is Inci, which means pearl in Turkish, pronounced In-gee. Therefore, INJI.
Is BELLYDANCING the start of a new INJI era? What’s next?!
I CAN’T WAIT to start the new era!!! There’s so so much more that the Injiverse that we haven’t explored yet… INJI might have gone through some heartbreak… Expect some new twists to my lyrics!
Listen to INJI here.