A golden era of Ana­to­lian rock en­joys a re­vival

The National - News - The Review - - Music - James McNair James McNair writes for Mojo mag­a­zine and The In­de­pen­dent.

In 1980, Tur­key was sub­ject to a coup d’état led by General Ke­nan Evren, supreme com­man­der of the Turk­ish Armed Forces. This led to three years of mil­i­tary rule, and a cli­mate of ex­treme re­pres­sion im­posed by mar­tial law.

The sweep­ing po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and re­li­gious re­forms in­sti­gated re­sulted in up to 650,000 peo­ple be­ing ar­rested and more than 500 sen­tenced to death.

Cul­tur­ally, too, much was cen­sored close to ex­tinc­tion, not least an in­dige­nous strain of mu­sic that melded tra­di­tional Turk­ish folk with more pop­ulist west­ern in­flu­ences. Ana­to­lian Rock, as it has come to be known, is the great pas­sion of Gökhan Yü­cel, founder of the Ana­to­lian Rock Re­vival Pro- ject. Via its ded­i­cated sites on YouTube, Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram, Yü­cel’s com­mend­able, cul­tur­ally im­por­tant ven­ture cel­e­brates and cu­rates prime ex­am­ples of the Ana­to­lian rock genre.

“In the 1990s, there was a sec­ond wave of the mu­sic which sucked big-time,” says Yü­cel.

“So the goal of our project is to help the masses learn about [the golden pe­riod of] Ana­to­lian rock, which was from 1964 to 1980. Al­most all of it was recorded on vinyl and it never re­ally made the tran­si­tion to cas­sette tape, never mind CD.”

Yü­cel says Is­tan­bul – and es­pe­cially the east­ern shore dis­trict of Kadıköy – was the epi­cen­tre of Ana­to­lian rock, but there were also groups from Izmir, Ankara and Bat­man.

“Dur­ing the coup the records were banned,” he says. “I heard sto­ries about mu­si­cians hid­ing their record­ings away or even bury­ing them un­der­ground. Artists such as Cem Karaca had to flee the coun­try, while oth­ers such as Edip Ak­bayram and Selda Bag­can were ar­rested.”

Garip Çoban ( Strange Shep­herd), a stir­ring, 1970 psych-folk song by the band Mo­gol­lar, is one of Yü­cel’s per­sonal favourites, and it demon­strates the ap­peal­ing oth­er­ness (to west­ern ears, at least) of the Ana­to­lian rock sound.

Ditto 1967’s dark, brood­ing Agıt (Lament) by Ya­ban­cilar, a song which some dis­cern­ing rap­per will surely sam­ple soon.

Nat­u­rally, both are fea­tured on the Ana­to­lian Rock Re­vival’s YouTube chan­nel, as is the afore­men­tioned Bag­can’s as­ton­ish­ing 1976 tour de force Ince Ince Bir Kar Ya­gar (A flaked snow falls on the poor). Bag­can, born in Mugla, west Tur­key in 1948, is still ac­tive via her pro­duc­tion com­pany Ma­jör Müzik Yapım, and she is also one of the few Ana­to­lian rock artists known to a dis­cern­ing few abroad. Mos Def and Dr Dre have both sam­pled her mu­sic, while St Vin­cent, US singer-song­writer An­nie Clark, is also a fan.

“In the be­gin­ning, we were hop­ing to post maybe 10 songs”, says Yü­cel of his project’s evo­lu­tion, “but now we’re up to over 70 with an­other 20 in the pipeline.

“We try to reach the song’s orig­i­nal com­poser[s] if they are still alive, and the pos­i­tive feed­back we’ve had from artists such as Mo­gol­lar is one of the rea­sons we’re still go­ing.” An­other rea­son the project works so well is that Yü­cel uses a gifted team of (mostly) vol­un­teer vis­ual artists, and they have cre­ated a stun­ning se­ries of il­lus­tra­tive posters which ap­pear on­line, one for each song.

Each poster also has its own Quick Re­sponse bar­code, so that, if an in­ter­ested party views it at a gallery (there has al­ready been an ex­hi­bi­tion in Cologne, and Yü­cel is in talks with some Lon­don-based venues), they can scan it to their smart­phone and hear its twinned piece of mu­sic on­line.

Asked why it’s im­por­tant to him that the Ana­to­lian Rock Re­vival Project gains an au­di­ence out­side of Tur­key, Yü­cel says: “I be­lieve that it’s the miss­ing piece in our cul­ture which con­nects us to the rest of the world, but more sim­ply, these are won­der­ful songs that need to be heard.

“We’d love for the posters il­lus­trat­ing these songs to hang on peo­ple’s walls all around the world. The mu­sic and the posters are de­serv­ing of that.”

Courtesy Ana­to­lian Rock Re­vival Project

Mu­rat Gürdal Akkoç’s poster for Al­pay’s song, Seni Dileniy­o­rum.

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