From the atmospheres crafted behind closed doors to the rituals practiced within, the home series invites members of our community to reflect on the meaning of home, in their own words. We hope this series offers our readers a sense of inspiration and groundedness as we bundle up during this wintertime season.
In our latest edition of this series, we have invited Galya Bisengalieva to dive into the topic. A Kazakh-British composer and violinist, the music of Galya Bisengalieva is dark and atmospheric. Galya centres unyielding drones as she weaves across genres like folk, ambient, classical, and electronic music. An internationally-recognised performer, Galya has played at venues including the Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, Brooklyn Academy of Arts and more.
How do you describe the work you do?
I am a composer and a violinist. I write and record music and perform live shows. My latest album “Aralkum” highlights the story of the Aral Sea, a closed endorheic lake on the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan borderlands that has been called one of the world’s worst environmental disasters. In my early compositions I was exploring my roots through Kazakh mythology, musically creating figures such as Tulpar, a winged horse corresponding to the Pegasus of the Greeks and Umay, the goddess of the earth. My music can be quite layered. I tend to weave across genres like folk, ambient, classical and electronic.
Tell us about a cherished item of clothing you’ve kept and repaired over the years. Where did it come from? How has it lasted this long? What do you enjoy about wearing and owning this particular garment?
I have a beautiful pair of wool socks that were handmade by my late grandmother. Having really basic knitting skills have helped me to patch small tears here and there so they evolve slightly with each repair. I use them most during the autumn and winter seasons as they are a perfect comfort. This garment carries a deep meaning as she made them for me when I was a young teenager leaving home to study abroad, such a practical object that always transports me to family and home.
What kinds of considerations do you factor in when you’re choosing a special piece of clothing or homeware to invest in?
I like my clothes or homeware to be durable, last as long as possible and only be replaced when is needed. I tend to invest locally if I can, preferably with smaller businesses in mind that I can visit in person so what I am about to choose can be physically touched and collected if possible. Sustainability is a big factor in my purchasing decisions. My mother instilled in me a need to look after objects and not to be wasteful, I was born into the Soviet Union where many things were not as readily available. This played a big part in the mentality of my mothers generation and has been passed on to me.
I limit the things that I buy, last year I downsized. It makes choices clearer being minimal and keeping only the really precious and practical objects. Giving away unneeded items to friends and family during the move felt liberating. We live in a fast replaceable commodity society, it’s hard to break out of that circle.
Tell us about a time in which you felt close to nature.
Growing up in Kazakhstan. Travelling for days by train through the steppes of Central Asia feels expansive and vast. I spent most of my childhood living in a city, Almaty, but growing up there didn’t feel urban. With clear spring water running through Aryks (small aqueducts) from the mountains, canals, fountains, gardens, trams and parks everywhere it did feel green and luscious.
I also lived in the Peak District, I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the UK to explore on foot. Right now I am based in London, it’s really essential for me that I find somewhere green to take a walk, which having a dog companion really encourages me to do.
Where do you turn to find inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere, the people around me, loved ones and fellow artists, I have been incredibly lucky to collaborate with some very special musicians. Being in nature, listening, watching and recording found sounds. I make a lot of my own field recordings when going for walks. I am an avid reader, books are an endless resource of inspiration as is art.
More recently my heritage and its culture have been very much on my mind, especially as I haven’t been able to travel there as much.