Against Berlin’s bleak grey palette, the sun is blazing through the windows of Beste Aydin’s top floor apartment. A heatwave has been sizzling in the city for days, but as the temperature drops slightly, Aydin invites us to meet indoors. “I can’t wait to see what you have for me,” she beams, perched cross-legged on a rattan vintage-style chair, with a sense of uncapped playfulness: “Let’s go for it!”
Aydin performs and makes music as Nene H. The persona is a shortened version of a previous alias, Nene Hatun; named after a female freedom fighter from her native Turkey. “It’s like I’ve been fighting for my musical freedom throughout this whole electronic music project,” she says. As Nene Hatun, she released EPs through labels like Seagrave, Bedouin Records and Eotrax, before making the switch over to Nene H; in 2018, she started her live project, which began to get her noticed in wider electronic music circles.
That year, she was approached by SHAPE, a European platform, who invited her to be part of their 2018 roster; every year, SHAPE curates a new line-up of innovative audio-visual artists. With their connections to 16 worldwide festivals and arts centres, including Terraforma and Unsound, Aydin’s residency with them meant one, important thing — the chance to perform internationally. “All these festivals started booking me all of a sudden,” she remembers.
Since then, Aydin has been constantly working and moving forward, DJing every weekend and developing her live shows midweek. She’s performed at noted experimental festivals Berlin Atonal and CTM: her 2019 performance for the latter, at Berghain, was staged with The National Choir of Georgia, Ensemble Basiani; it was a formative moment, as whiplash techno productions were veiled with Christian vocal chants. On her harder techno side, she’s released a string of EPs through imprints like SPFDJ’s Intrepid Skin, Kyiv-based Standard Deviation and Parisian outlet Possession.
Born into a Turkish Muslim family, Beste was surrounded by traditional forms of music from childhood: “Everybody played accordion and I grew up dancing a lot, listening and participating in traditional music.” It was through an elderly lady, a friend of her grandparents, that she discovered the piano, which led her into the world of classical music.
“I would go there and play by ear,” Aydin says, of her elderly friend and teacher. “She also gave me some notes and I would decode them a bit. She always said I was super talented and that I should do something with music. It became my only love.”
At just 11 years old, Aydin was accepted into the Izmir State Conservatory, to train as a classical pianist: “From there on, piano became a real passion. I was practising all the time, being very on it.” Her studies proved formative, too — with such an intense work ethic expected of her, she felt the pressure to be great. “They could basically throw you out every year, because it’s still early enough for you to go and do something else,” she remembers, of the school’s attitude towards their young students. “You have to be super on it!”
Throughout all of this, her father played a pivotal role in her young musical life. “Coming from a Turkish family, it’s not typical for a father to allow you to dream, and being from a Muslim family, the girls are usually very protected, but my father had such an open mind,” she says. “He never had much money, but when I got into the Conservatory, he would buy me these cheap, classical music CDs and books. He’d bring them to me to open my horizons and to show me that he was interested. He was super interested, always.”