Derin Caglar: From Neuroscience to Music Collective

Anam-Cara Akashnie O'Brien
Founded by Derin Caglar, Sofra is a collective for student musicians to create and explore their passion for inventive artistry.

Sofra – Turkish for dinner table – is a new Philadelphia-based collective that speaks to the communal endeavor of music. Founded by CAS sophomore Derin Caglar, the collective is a space for musicians to create and explore their passion for inventive artistry.

Under the collective, Caglar just released his debut EP, “Not so Not Familiar.” WSN sat down with the pianist, composer, arranger and now-director to talk more about Sofra and “Not so Not Familiar.”

“I wanted to create a collective where people could contribute to a project and actually feel that they contributed,” Caglar told WSN. “It wouldn’t go under my name. It would exist in space as its own thing.”

This is the freedom that the music collective brings to Caglar. While Caglar is not the title artist, he is incredibly instrumental in bringing together the talents of vocalists, rappers, musicians and sound engineers.

As for his own work, “Not so Not Familiar” was recorded almost entirely in his friend Noah Silverstry’s bedroom. The EP manages to pull together genres ranging from hip-hop to spoken word and funk that culminates in a promising piece of musicianship.

The tracklist is comprised of six records, which range from clean pianos and percussion in “Summer Hymn” to passionate poetry in “Bloom” to the feel-good funk with old school anthem “Lighter Than a Feather.” Caglar’s favorite track is the EP’s story-laden title track, “Not so Not Familiar” – a song he expects to return to the most as his career moves forward.

While the EP is not something you’d expect from a neural science major, the composition and care behind each track is a testament to a technical mind at work. In fact, Caglar hails from an entire family of engineers, and his love for music came from video games.

“I actually started to want to play music because of video games,” Caglar said. “I definitely consider myself an extrovert, but when you’re a kid you don’t know what that really means and when you’re an only child, you need somewhere to put that energy. I found that outlet in video games.”

He continued, “When I was four, I got a GameCube and it came with discs for a collectors edition of various Zelda games. I remember the themes that would correspond to the different environments always made me feel closer to being in that environment. The music for the forest really sounded like music for a forest. It really struck me.”

For Sofra, the sense of community in his art doesn’t end with the creative and recording process. He hopes listeners will bring their own stories to the table.

“I write the songs from my perspective, [but] we record the songs from everybody’s perspective,” he said. “I just tell them where I’m coming from. At the end of the day, if someone listens to a song I felt was very dark and feels very bright at the end, then that means they had a different emotive response, and that’s kind of the point. I’d rather people go into it with a blank slate. I want them to have their own experience with it.”

And when the delicate and moving piano opening of “Summer Hymn” rolls out, Derin will sweep you off into a world of your own making.

Check out more from Caglar and Sofron here.

A version of this article appeared in the March 26 print edition. Email Anam-Cara Akashnie O’Brien at [email protected]

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