Speaking the universal language

Maya Dengel uses music as a way to de-stress. Photo courtesy of Maya Dengel

When Maya Dengel was little, she had a drum set that came with drumsticks, a tambourine and maracas. The only time she would stop was when she would grab pots and pans from the kitchen and play those instead — much to the dismay of her mother.

In 2014, Nielsen’s 360 Music study found that 93 percent of Americans listen to music, spending more than 25 hours every week tuning in to their favorite songs. Dengel, a freshman communication studies major who has been singing and playing the guitar, ukulele and piano since middle school, said that music affects the way she interprets the world around her.

“I take inspiration from things that people do and things that people say to me,” Dengel said. “I think that people that create art are a lot more emotional, whether they show it on the outside or not. They feel so much of the world around them.”

Maya Dengel, a freshman communication studies, plays the guitar, ukulele and piano and writes her own music. These are some of the notes she took while writing a song. Photo courtesy of Maya Dengel

When Dengel lost her grandfather and was diagnosed with Crohn’s syndrome, an inflammatory bowel disease, she said she used music as a way to overcome these struggles.

“It was a place where I always felt comfortable being in,” Dengel said. “The best part is the feeling. Creating music, for me, is such a de-stressor.”

Hakeem Wakil, a freshman news and documentary major, Suleiman Karkoutli, a freshman computational and data analytics major, and Muhammad Karkoutli, a freshman political science major, formed Arflantiq, an aspiring record label, last semester. All three students have different musical backgrounds.

Wakil, who began working as a DJ at parties last semester, has been playing the piano since fourth grade.

“Music is a way you can express your thoughts
and your feelings, and that’s one of my favorite parts about music. When I’m fiddling with keys on the keyboard, a lot of the time it reflects what I’m feeling inside,” Wakil said.

The work of Arflantiq has garnered the social media attention of other producers. Suleiman Karkoutli was approached by one of Drake’s producers on Twitter wanting to collaborate.

For Muhammad Karkoutli, music is a creative medium for expression. It’s a way to communicate a feeling without using words.

“It’s a language that everyone can understand,” Muhammad Karkoutli said. “You just listen to it, and everyone — regardless if you speak Chinese, English, Spanish, Arabic, anything — understands it instantly. There are a lot of benefits from that. Everyone can communicate with one another in a world where there are a lot of communication problems.”

Alexey Bonca, a senior philosophy major, began to DJ professionally his freshman year at Chapman. In the four years he has been a DJ, Bonca said it has compelled him to stay up to date on what is going on, both musically and socially.

“It forces me to keep a very updated view of the world constantly,” Bonca said. “I always have to be gauging the temperature of whatever this genre is, or whatever this movement is, and understanding music from a historical perspective. Having that holistic perspective of all of music, instead of just how a certain genre is doing, gives you a bigger appreciation for music.”

Dengel said that her songwriting process is different for every song.

“Some songs are really easy to write, and they honestly write themselves,” she said. “I can remember a few instances where I just started singing over a few chords, and then it became a song, and I finished it within 30 minutes. Other songs could sit in my drafts for years, and then one day, I’ll find the perfect bridge or verse or be inspired by something that helps me write the rest of it.”
Dengel said that she is inspired by events in her own life.

“I write a lot about personal emotions and events, so if something happens to me or someone does something to me, I almost always end up incorporating it in my music,” Dengel said.

Dengel also said that when she goes to concerts, she returns with ideas for chords and lyrics.

“Seeing artists perform live always gets me inspired to create and continue pursuing music,” Dengel said.

While on the run, she keeps ideas for lyrics and harmonies in her phone’s notes, in a journal or in voice memos on her phone.

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