About Around the Square January 19, 2010

Live Loud and audibly Turkish at Oberlin

By Sarp Yavuz ’13

I was convinced that I was alone in Wilder Hall, which is usually the case when it’s past midnight on Friday. I selected the next song and pressed play, closing my eyes as the opening beats of Television Rules The Nation by Daft Punk began to thump through the speakers. Then it happened. A security guard appeared. I turned around, startled, mostly because his appearance shattered my conviction but also because there is no reason why anyone should come to WOBC at that hour. Since my show, Night Vision, started at the end of September, I have found sanctuary on the third floor of Wilder, where every Friday night from midnight to 2 a.m., I am DJ Sky, the boy who plays European electronic music and talks about his experiences in Oberlin. None of this, I knew, really mattered at that point as the security guard cleared his throat:

 “We have got a noise complaint,” he said.

I looked at him, then to the sound board in front of me, then to him again, silently trying to tell him that which we both knew: It’s a radio station.

Apparently, there were people camping out in Wilder Bowl who could not sleep because of electronic music blasting through the open windows. We fixed the problem by closing them. The officer smiled at me apologetically as he left. Later that night, I laughed for five minutes.

When I applied to WOBC, I was not quite sure I would get a spot. I was told that prior experience was not necessary, something I was relieved to know because I had none. I had befriended junior Hilary Swiss , the program director for electronic music, over the summer on Facebook, after she opened a discussion group for music and DJing on the Oberlin 2013 group.

Hilary smiled at me in encouragement as I came to the informational meeting. She explained that all I had to do was to submit a two-hour play list and a mini-essay about why I want to DJ. A week later, she told me that I had gotten one of the best time slots possible for electronic music.

WOBC has given me an outlet to talk about my experiences adjusting to life in America, and life in Oberlin. I talk about my emotions as I got on a plane in Istanbul in August, leaving the city where I grew up in a leap of faith. I talk about my delight at discovering and joining OCircus. I talk about my frustration at the little things that no one talks about when discussing culture shock—like how the yogurt is never the same (my editors won’t even let me spell it the way I’m accustomed to: yoghurt); how I struggled for a couple of weeks to stop hugging and kissing my friends on both cheeks, the way I used to in Turkey; and how I’ve replaced that habit with handshakes that I eventually customized so that I have a different one for every friend. One of my biggest struggles has been adjusting to life in rural Ohio, which is a far cry from life in Istanbul. I am not used to being able to see the stars at night, because there is an incredible amount of light pollution back home. There is the constant hum of traffic somewhere in the distance at home, and the sea is only 10 minutes away from my house; I must confess, I miss it sometimes.

I am thrilled to be able to share my music and memories of home with everyone and anyone who happens to be tuned in to WOBC during my shift. Whenever I feel as though no one is listening, someone calls to tell me that they love my music, “even that funky Turkish electronica thing,” as a friend of mine put it two weeks ago.

When I am in the studio, part of my time is spent feeling homesick because I play songs I would hear back home in Istanbul. Part of it is spent dancing by myself in the lounge, surrounded by thousands of CDs and vinyls stacked neatly in piles that I am terrified to touch because they are arranged by artist and genre, and I do not know what goes where. And part of my time is spent devoting songs to my friends—songs that make me close my eyes and smile.

You can listen to my show every Friday night between midnight and 2 a.m., at 91.5 FM if you own a radio and live close enough to Oberlin, or at www.wobc.org by clicking the “listen” link.

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