Christina Marie Gleixner’s trip to Turkey was one of many firsts.
It was her first time on a plane, her first time out of the country and her first time traveling by herself. These firsts helped inspire her to create Yeni Nostalji, a throwback band playing Turkish pop songs from the 1960s and ’70s.
“I kind of felt like I’m meant to be singing this music,” Gleixner says over coffee at Sub Rosa Bakery. “I’m part Lebanese, so I guess in some way I’m drawing from my roots in the Middle East.”
A little more than a year ago, Gleixner contacted her friend Evrim Dogu to ask if he knew any musicians who might be interested in playing Turkish music. Dogu, who co-owns Sub Rosa with his sister Evin, knew the perfect person: himself. Dogu’s father had played bass in Turkey with some of the musicians Gleixner wanted to cover.
They formed Yeni Nostalji. Its current lineup includes Hotel X’s Tim Harding on bass and Bio Ritmo’s Rei Alvarez and Marlysse Simmons on percussion and keys, respectively. The band’s name comes from the term “nostalji,” which essentially means oldies in Turkey.
“Musicians were reinterpreting melodies and Western songs in a way that was something that had never been heard in Turkey,” Gleixner says of this period of music. Things as varied as psychedelia, traditional, French and Italian melodies, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley were blended. And unlike many of its predecessors in Turkey, this genre did without the saz, a traditional string instrument of the region.
“It was pop music and so much of this pop music was just standard Western instrumentation,” she says.
Gleixner hopes to return to Turkey this summer, and the band aims to record in Istanbul around Christmas. Dogu says Yeni Nostalji might find a second fan base in Turkish audiences.
“We want to actually bring the life of Turkey into the recordings,” Gleixner says. “I believe those things can be captured depending on your surroundings.”
In the meantime, the band is writing its own songs in Turkish to go beyond the covers that it plays. “We’re using the period and songs from the 1960s as an inspiration,” Gleixner says. “Making our own creations and bringing new life to songs from the past.”
“We’re creating something new,” she says, “and that’s what Yeni Nostalji means. It’s new nostalgia.”