Women in music during Covid-19: Zeynep Kaya Béraud, musician

As part of the “Women in music during Covid19” series, Zeynep Isil Isik Dursun interviewed Zeynep Kaya Béraud on her situation as a musician during the pandemic in France.

Biography

After obtaining her BA and MA on opera singing at Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey), Zeynep Kaya went to France with a scholarship from TEV and the French state to continue her postgraduate studies at Strasbourg Conservatory. She obtained a diploma of Specialisation and on Perfectionnement in opera singing and a bachelor’s in Jazz Vocal / Free Improvisation.

Drawing on many genres, she is the singer of the Strasbourg based post-punk band Hermetic Delight and traditional Turkish/Greek music band Sousta Politiki. She also continues to improvise regularly with different collectives, has various side projects and collaborations ranging from noise to soul.

Zeynep Kaya Béraud

Zeynep Kaya Béraud

What do you do professionally, how do you earn your income?

I’m a musician, more specifically a singer. I earn my income from concerts, private singing lessons and teaching at a music school.

How were you affected by the pandemic? Both you and your husband Yves are musicians, did you notice any gender-based difference?

We were very affected. We had a few open-air gigs in summer, but most of our concerts were cancelled. Most of my private lessons were also cancelled, as it was hard to continue singing lessons online. I can tell that we were both affected very much, but as a woman, I didn’t feel any gender-based difference in our family.

Did the pandemic affect your musical creativity?

It did, but not in a good way. I saw many musicians making videos and songs, but the obscurity affected me negatively and I was feeling depressed like many of my musician friends. I didn’t feel like writing any songs during the first lockdown.

Did your government support musicians economically during this situation? What about crowdfunding?

Firstly, there is a system called “intermittence” in France, in which musicians get a monthly support based on their rehearsals and concert hours. As most of the concerts were cancelled because of the pandemic, some alterations were made in the system which made it a bit easier to obtain this status. Secondly, there were subventions from the municipalities. Thirdly, there were governmental economic supports concerning the cancelled concerts. Last but not least, the Strasbourg municipality supported us to perform open-air concerts during summer and online concerts during winter. I didn’t hear of any crowdfunding, but new governmental aids are on the way. Even though I live in France I’m always in touch with my home country Turkey, and I’ve noticed how vulnerable musicians in many countries are. I wish there was a system like intermittence in these countries as well.

 How did the pandemic affect your work with your bands, Hermetic Delight and Sousta Politiki?

What affected us most with Hermetic Delight was the cancellation of our two-month European tour. We’d just released a new album, yet we could only make three concerts after the release — and you know, concerts are a very important part of publicity. We couldn’t experience the excitement of playing our songs in concerts. However, we knew what we were facing when we released this album. Its production took 2 years and we didn’t want to wait for another 2 years to release it. Our production process was affected as home recording became our main option. I improved my skills in recording and mixing, because I didn’t have any other choice. We didn’t build a professional studio at home, we didn’t have that budget, but we had the chance to test some simpler equipment at home. However, most of it was on the lo-fi side and we needed some studio recordings as well.

Of course, you have to get creative when you have less equipment. I was one of the online performing musical artists in the “No Musician’s Land” project at the Istanbul Sabancı Museum during the first lockdown. I had a good microphone but all my other equipment broke down at some point — my computer got messed up, I had background noise from my instruments, and I ended up singing only with a tambourine. Making a 1-hour improvisation performance in these circumstances was quite challenging, but I gradually got used to it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It was striking to see that musicians from all around the globe are in the same boat; and that musicians and theater actors could be seen as non-essential workers in many countries. All of us are facing the same challenges — wedding bands, cover bands, famous bands, all the concerts and everything is cancelled.

 Even when the pandemic is over, finding concerts for independent, alternative groups like us that aren’t backed up by major companies will be challenging. Indie labels are being pushed back and the priority is given to major music companies for next year’s concerts.

I also feel exhausted of trying to exist on social media. Social media has its own monopoly and one doesn’t have much chance to get out and make themselves heard. Being heard is a thing you can only do with an audience who listens to your music and supports you. I am trying to find ways to reach our target audience beyond social media’s well-known channels.


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