How vintage grooves bring Turkish rock music to life

Musicians and music lovers unearth rare vinyl to breathe new life into a musical genre that rocked the world to its rhythm in the 90s.

It all started with a reissue of a record by living Anadolu rock legend, Selda Bagcan, which somehow fell into the hands of Jasper Verhulst, bassist and central figure of the revival band. Turkish psyche Altin Gun.

“It was the first Turkish music that I really discovered, reissued about ten years ago on Finders Keepers, a British label, says Verhulst.

Verhulst had come to Istanbul to play bass for Dutch band Jacco Gardner. While there, he did quite a bit of crate searching in Istanbul’s record stores.

Not only did the discovery of rare Turkish grooves lead to the creation of Verhulst’s new brainchild, Altin Gun, but the band’s distinctive ethno-rock sound, discovered by cult Seattle radio station KEXP – which propelled the band to dancefloor fame – also fueled a global craving for rare 70s Turkish vinyl.

Anadolu rock – or -pop, as it is sometimes called – is the name of a specific Turkish rock and folk hybrid sound that used psychedelic guitar effects, popular in the West in the early seventies.

He also incorporated Turkish instruments, like baglama and electro baglama mainly, as well as traditional percussion instruments. Some of its best and best known practitioners were Erkin Koray, Baris Manco, Cem Karaca and Selda Bagcan.

“What I liked about Anadolu rock,” says Verhulst, “is the combination of Turkish tradition with psychedelia and 70s synthesizers, spatial effects like flangers and tape delays, and stuff like that. It was just a really good mix and it worked really well. In many countries people started to combine folk music with the modern sounds of that time, but I think in Turkey, it worked very well, better than in some other modern countries I suppose.

The Turkish psychedelic sound, which flourished for a decade and was crushed by the Türkiye coup in 1980, appealed to a domestic audience that longed for something rock with local inflections. He also had an appeal to Westerners, who picked up his familiar guitar groove, which at the same time mixed in ethnic Turkish touches.

It was the time when many adventurous Western travelers followed the hippie trail from Istanbul to India, the Beatles played with Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and the Rolling Stones proclaimed their affinity with Moroccan gnawa stars Nass El Ghiwane.

The Latin wave

In the 1990s, Anadolu rock gradually began to make itself known to a new generation of listeners through Turkish and German-Turkish rap and hip-hop groups, such as Cartel and Islamic Force in Germany, which sampled riffs by Baris Manco or Erkin Koray.

However, Turkish hip-hop has mostly remained in the Turkish musical ghetto, and it will take another generation to resurrect the music in a way that appeals to the tastes of an international audience.

Koray, who prefers to be called Grup Ses, is an enigmatic crate-digger and beat-maker from Istanbul. He claims to have been collecting rare Turkish grooves since 1998.

“Not only do I collect tracks that are good for DJing,” says Grup Ses, “but I also seek out local stuff that I find interesting, like fairy tales, obscure recordings, etc. for sampling, mostly .”

“With the popularity of ‘Turkish psychedelic music’ abroad and the trend of collecting vinyl records, record prices have skyrocketed,” says Grup Ses. “It’s not easy to find rare things these days, and even if you find some, it’s too expensive. I’m not usually looking for something specific, I frequently visit record stores and check out what’s new. I’m not obsessed with specific genres.

Not only is the sound extremely exciting to ears weaned from the West, but the vinyls were produced in extremely limited editions, so today they fetch high prices in Turkey as well as Berlin and the cities. from Western Europe where Turkish immigrants settled, bringing with them their own musical predilections and record collections. This author unearthed in his wife’s cellar a disc by the Turkish folk artist Asik Mahzuni Serif worth 400 euros.

Today, many used record dealers in Berlin have become plugged into the high demand for Turkish vinyl and run their business on a two-tier pricing system, selling early classical music and “schlager” titles. (German pop) at reduced prices, while increasing prices. for ’70s Turkish Anadolu rock. In fact, many avid collectors of the genre have arranged with flea market stall owners to sift through offerings before they hit the streets.

Erbatur Cavusoglu is Berlin’s best-known Turkish vintage vinyl dealer. He runs a small basement record store in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, which is home to a large population of first-, second-, and third-generation Turkish immigrants.

Cavusoglu came to Berlin five years ago from Istanbul to pursue his dream of buying and selling Turkish vinyl abroad, initially with the idea in mind that most of his customers would be Turkish.

However, it turned out that its clientele was only twenty percent Turkish nationals, while the majority were curious tourists and international hipsters keen on Turkish and world music. Periodically, he would also have known artists who came to rummage through his coffers, such as members of Altin Gun or the gothic group Dead Can Dance.

“I think all Altin Gun members or half of the members were here, as well as other bands. Like, those people into Turkish music. Especially Jasper (Verhulst) who knows world music very well. Funk, soul and disco world music. And then he became interested in Turkish music and he learned a lot from it.

Interest in Turkish vinyl, says Cavusoglu, was largely stimulated by the realization among Western music lovers that the rest of the world had something to offer musically. It started with the Latino wave in the early 90s, continued through the Balkan music craze, and dovetailed with today’s interest in Turkish psychedelic Anadolu rock.

“I think the reason why Anadolu rock has become more popular is because the western world is also due to tourism,” says Cavusoglu. “People go to Turkey on holidays, then they listen to local music, then they meet local artists or whatever. So I think that was the reason. Another reason is second or third generation migrants from Türkiye who started doing – not folk music – but something more hybrid or European, like Altin Gun or Derya Yildirim (a Berlin artist and baglama player from Türkiye).

When asked if he had discovered any gems during his few years in the Turkish vinyl business, Cavusoglu said: “Once I ordered a cheap Turkish album online, it was only nothing super rare. But I got it because it was for a reasonable amount – twenty euros. But when it arrived in the post, there was a completely different album inside than the one advertised on the cover.

In fact, it was an album that I had been looking for for ages, a very rare vinyl from Nesrin Sipahi, his best album. I had been looking for this album for maybe 20 years. Needless to say, I didn’t complain to the guy that he sold me the wrong record.

Source: World TRT