What I’m listening to in lockdown: Bengi Unsal

Thursday, April 30, 2020 - 12:51

Lockdown is a strange and unprecedented time for all of us. For some it means more time in isolation than we’re perhaps used to; for others it may mean the opposite, with family or housemates now in constant close proximity. Wherever it has left you, one thing that may help you through is music; revisiting bands, albums and songs that you loved, or discovering new sounds. 

One person who has been doing just this is our Head of Contemporary Music, Bengi Unsal, and so we asked her to share what she’s been listening to in lockdown. And she did not disappoint.

Bengi Unsal, Head of Contemporary Music, Southbank Centre. Photo by Pete Woodhead

The current lockdown has taken me to a melancholic, nostalgic state, but it has also created space and time for my insatiable hunger for learning, completing projects and starting new ones. I won’t tell you about the Jane Fonda aerobics videos, the Bodycoach sessions, or Yoga with Adrienne that I am hoping will help me become the new ensemble member of Marvel film series; instead I will stick to recommending things related to contemporary music. After all that is my specialty.


Watching classic concerts

There is an abundance of online offerings from artists at the moment. I am thankful to Erykah Badu for her quarantine concert series The Apocalypse, and to Radiohead who are making a new concert available on their Radiohead Public Library each week. But this week’s stand out newbie for me is Nick Cave and his Bad Seed Teevee. It is a continuously running 24 hour stream, set to continue for the foreseeable future, and includes interviews and live videos. Perfect if you literally can’t get enough of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

BAD SEED TEEVEE – 24hr Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds #StayHome


Revisiting abandoned reads

Apparently lockdown has seen a big increase in the number of books sold. Not surprising, as it's a good way to pass the time and learn as you do. I have decided to go back to my library and have another look at the books I started but was not able to finish. The first I am aiming to finish this time round is How Music Works by our former Meltdown curator David Byrne. Next on the list is the newly released Ravi Shankar book Indian Sun written by Oliver Craske, and the Kraftwerk book, Kraftwerk:Future Music from Germany by Uwe Schutte. And for those of you who haven’t read it, I would also recommend I’ll Never Write my Memoirs by Grace Jones to get ready for next year’s Meltdown.

Grace Jones


Experiencing a Meltdown classic

Thinking of Meltdown and David Byrne also reminds me of a legendary concert available on our own YouTube channel; Atomic Bomb! The music of William Onyeabor. I sadly wasn’t there when this concert happened, but thank God it was recorded. People still talk about this concert fondly. Put it on on a Friday or Saturday night and imagine you are at Royal Festival Hall!

David Byrne's Meltdown | ATOMIC BOMB LIVE! Watch HD concert in FULL


Dancing ‘til dawn

If you are missing going out to a club and dancing till the morning, I have something for you too. Honey Dijon is my favourite DJ in the universe; the way she feels the music and makes others feel it too. Raise your hand if you were here at our Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer for her Concrete Lates set laid down especially for Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition! Well, if not, I’ll forgive you, so long as you take in this unforgettable set courtesy of Boiler Room.

Honey Dijon Boiler Room x Sugar Mountain 2018 DJ Set


Getting hooked on new sounds

The Covid-19 lockdown hasn’t seen a complete end to new releases. The Weeknd’s single ‘Blinding Lights’ (released in November 2019) have been exploding on TikTok for instance, but for me probably the most special is the long awaited Fiona Apple album Fetch the Bolt Cutters. The title track is very catchy and I am singing it as I write, but one of my new favourites is ‘Ladies’. An ode to all the ladies. Ladies, Ladies, Ladies, Ladies... Go listen to it. Men too please.


Perfecting the playlist

Lastly, one for all the playlist lovers out there. Back when I was in Istanbul I used to prepare a lot of playlists; every week a new one called Beng of the Week. In trying to get used to work and London, I forgot how I loved preparing playlists for myself. This may be a great time to bring those back, but in the meantime, here is a playlist I prepared for London In Stereo, that portrays the melancholic side of my mood with a pinch of nostalgia.


The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

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As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

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