From a dream to a future: Turkish all-women band Marla rocks to its own beat

From a dream to a future: Turkish all-women band Marla rocks to its own beat

Turkish rock group aims to open doors for more women musicians in an industry dominated by men

By Merve Berker

ANKARA (AA) – Through hardships and hurdles, the all-women Turkish band Marla has managed to turn its members’ childhood fancies “from a mere dream into a future plan” that has brought together five hard-rocking women.

The five women – all in their 20s – found each other online and eventually took the stage together after three years: Esra Hasandayioglu on bass, Ekin Gulmez and Burcu Ozbek on guitars, Busra Vanlioglu on drums, and Tugce Kaymaz on vocals.

The band’s name came from the iconic fictional character Marla Singer from the 1996 novel Fight Club by American novelist Chuck Palahniuk.

Both the novel and the character shot to global fame with director David Fincher’s 1999 cult hit of the same name, with British actor Helena Bonham Carter playing the role of Marla.

For Marla’s members, at a point, the band was a “fantasy.”

“It was a fantasy we rarely saw around us. Actually, all of us had dreamed of being in it since childhood,” the band said in an email interview with Anadolu ahead of National Girlfriends Day, celebrated annually on Aug. 1 in the US to appreciate the existence of true women friends.

Over time, this “transformed from a mere dream into a future plan and brought our paths together,” they added.

The musicians emphasized how all-women bands represent a “dedication to include women into the music industry.”

“This dedication requires us to constantly connect, support, work with, and seek and find female musicians, which is sometimes hard in a way, but very rewarding in the end,” the band said.

They said every all-women band is more than willing to work for the cause of women’s empowerment.

“We are trying to increase the visibility and uplift the talent of woman musicians in a male-dominated world,” the group said.

Asked to describe their own relationship as a band in a word, Kaymaz chose “non-toxic,” Hasandayioglu said “emotional,” Ozbek went for “sincerity,” Gulmez used “unity,” while Vanlioglu characterized it as “loving.”

- Changing perspectives

All of Marla’s members stressed that being an all-women band has its own share of challenges and upsides.

The dynamics of a male-dominated industry meant “there were times when we struggled to accept ourselves,” but “our unwavering determination helped us shift the focus away from the perception of being a gender-based group and placed it on a more positive ground.”

“We cannot say it was easy,” the band said, explaining how initially men at their concerts would be more interested in their looks rather their musical talents.

Yet, Marla’s performances have won over the strongest of skeptics.

The band members said their conversations with men, from organizers to music directors and concert-goers, were almost all the same in the early part of their journey, “more focused on meeting the visual satisfaction of the audience.”

“However, our current communication with the same individuals has shifted towards emphasizing our performance rather than our appearance,” the band said.

- Inspiration to others

Alongside the challenges, there have been many moments to make Marla’s struggles worth the effort.

“After a concert, a female audience member came up to us and expressed her pride in being a woman. In another city, a few female friends got inspired by us and formed their own band,” the band said.

“We find it incredibly precious to be able to touch someone's life, even in a small way, and make them feel good.”

The band members said they are “women with different personalities, appearances and skills,” who came “together … both on stage and in our social lives, finding a cohesive common ground.”

“This project has offered us a joyous opportunity for productive and sharing-based connections,” said the band.​​​​​​​

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