I regret not being born in the 50's/60's era and having danced to Anatolian Rock and Turkish Psychedelic Rock in the 70's as a teenager. Going out to shows and concerts must have been such a priceless experience when all of these musicians were young and performing all around town. These genres are two of the most unique and original type of Turkish music that came out of Anatolia. It is such a great hybrid of 60's and 70's Western rock music with Turkish pop/folk as well as Turkish Arabesque that resonates from the Middle East. Below, I shared 26 of my favorite songs from this era, which are extremely influenced by the psychedelic and progressive rock movement of their time.
Cem Karaca and Barış Manço, having Turkish Tea and smoking cigarettes.
After moving to San Francisco Bay Area for grad school, I immediately synced with the culture and Bay Area lifestyle, however, I also realized that home was becoming something more and more desirable every day. Feeling homesick resulted in everything Turkish becoming more prominent in my life. Things I started to miss were of course not readily available in the Bay Area. Istanbul, my hometown itself, its food, the Bosphorus, islands, friends, family... It was an unquenchable thirst for anything and everything Turkish. And of course, Anatolian Rock & Turkish Psychedelic Rock got a piece of that as well.
Jefferson Airplane, a local pyschedelic rock band of San Francisco (source: nypost)
Ironically, San Francisco was the capital of American Psychedelic Music starting in the 60's. Learning about Turkey's psychedelic music scene while living in San Francisco added another layer of nostalgia to it. I had heard some of the old Turkish rock songs while living back in Istanbul, though I wasn't aware of their unique style, and them being a part of a well-established genre. As I learned more about these musicians and their almost 50 years old songs, the excitement and happiness grew. I guess that's why I wanted to take the time to write about them in a detailed article. It only gets better when you share.
Moğollar & Cem Karaca | Photo: Oğuzhan Öçalan
ANATOLIAN ROCK & TURKISH PSYCHEDELIC ROCK
Turkish rock, funk and pop music of the 1960s and 1970s are very little known outside of Turkey, though their special aesthetic are worth to be considered. It is sung mainly in Turkish, using traditional musical structures but played with an electrified and electronic instrument setting that combines Western pop-rock instruments with old Turkish ones. [src]
Turkish folk music is a combination of distinct cultural values, taste of music and structures related to the people who have lived in Anatolia. It is an umbrella that covers Byzantine Music, Military Bands, Whirling Derwishes, Arabesk, et al. [src]
I would like to mention that arabesk a.k.a. arabesque music has a bad reputation in Turkey. It was made for the poor rural immigrants and workers, living in gecekondus (slums), informal settlements in the periphery of the big cities like Istanbul. Arabesk music was also called "minibüs" music (private minibuses providing public transportation) due to the social group it aims to. It was even regarded as impure, dirty, degenerated with its Arabic and therefore non-Turkish orientation, being so far away from the bourgeois urban center and its well-educated, Western-orientated population. [src]
Barış Manço, a pioneer of Turkish Rock Music
Anatolian Rock and Psychedelic Turkish Rock were highly affected by the local music like folk, pop and arabesk as well as western rock trends of its era. Influence was pretty much one of the key factors of this development process. While I was researching about the Anatolian and Psychedelic Turkish Rock origins, I realized that major musicians of this era worked with each other throughout the entire decade or even more. For instance, Barış Manço, perhaps the most succesful one of all, was a member of Kurtalan Ekspres, Kaygısızlar, Moğollar, and Harmoniler. Cem Karaca, on the other hand, was also a member of Moğollar, Apaşlar and Kardaşlar. He was also the band manager for Bunalımlar, one of the first funk bands in Turkey. Another example is Selda, who was a vocalist for both Moğollar and Kardaşlar. Ersen was a member of both Kardaşlar, Dadaşlar, 3 Hürel and Moğollar. They played together, managed each others' bands, (perhaps partied) and influenced each other dramatically.
Below, you will find my personal favorite songs from those years. Initially, I divided them into two categories, Anatolian Rock vs. Turkish Psychedelic Rock, however, I don't think there is a clear line between them. That's why all of them are under one list.
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[I made a playlist that pretty much has all the songs in it. ]
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Let's start with a great hybrid example of Turkish Pyschedelic Rock Music. "Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım" is a famous Turkish folk poem written and sang by one of the most legendary poets of Turkish folk literature, Aşık Veysel. Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu was an ashik, poet, songwriter, and a bağlama (a smaller bouzouki) virtuoso, a prominent representative of the Anatolian ashik tradition in the 20th century. [src] The name of the song literally translates to "I am on a long and narrow road". I'm sharing the original recording from Aşık Veysel, followed by its excellent psychedelic cover.
Aşık Veysel - Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım:
You can find the lyrics here.
Özdemir Erdoğan & The Orchestra - Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım (1973)
Özdemir Erdoğan & The Orchestra gave this wonderful poem a psychedelic rock spin while keeping its original bağlama loops. The song has great organ improvizations in harmony with bağlama, electro guitar, the bass line, and Özdemir Erdoğan's incredible vocals. Back vocals may also surprise you a bit. Overall, this is an excellent piece of Turkish Psychedelic Rock Music.
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Fikret Kızılok is one of the fathers of Turkish Rock music, who is a multi-instrumentalist, an early experimentalist, and one of the best educated and sophisticated musicians of his era. He was also an innovative instrumentalist and album arranger, the first to incorporate sitar and Indian tabla into Turkish pop music [src]. Fikret is the first one that met with Aşık Veysel and got permission to cover his famous poem "Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayim". He made the first version of it in 1969, which claimed the first position on charts and became his first golden album. Then, the others followed his lead and made different versions of the same song. Above, I shared my personal favorite, Özdemir Erdoğan's version.
Now, we move to a non-folk rooted pyschedelic song from Fikret Kızılok. Here is an original song by Fikret Kızılok. This is a killer single from Fikret Kızılok and The Dangerous Chemical with great syncopations and cross-rhythms with hammond organ, and drum attacks.
Fikret Kızılok & Tehlikeli Madde - Aybattı (1974)
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Moğollar - Haliç'te Gün Batışı (1971)
Mogollar, a.k.a. The Mongols, is yet another internationally recognized Turkish Rock Band, who won the Grand Prix du Disque award with their album Anadolu Pop in 1971 (Les Danses et Rythmes de la Turquie d'hier á aujourd'hui). Haliç'te Gün Batışı (Sunset in Golden Horn), is one of the best songs from the same album. Taner Öngür's syncopated epic bass line and Murat Ses' delirious hammond organ improvisations are the most remarkable elements making this song an unforgettable one.
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When it comes to rock ’n’ roll innovators from Turkey, Erkin Koray is second to none. Indeed, his career stretches to the time of rock ’n’ roll’s very inception. On December 29th, 1957, he performed what has come to be accepted as Turkey’s first known rock ’n’ roll concert when he fronted his first amateur band at an Istanbul high school (Lycée de Galatasaray) playing covers of hits by Elvis Presley and Fats Domino. He was also one of Turkey’s very first electric guitarists, recording what is generally recognized as being the first significant rock ’n’ roll record ever released in Turkey -- his first single, "Bir Eylül Akşamı" ("A September Evening") / "It’s So Long" in 1963. Little wonder he is referred to in his homeland as "Baba" or ‘Father’ Erkin, for he truly is the father of Turkish rock ’n’ roll in every way. [src]
John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Erkin Koray during an interview (source: ozgurlesmek.blogspot.com)
Let's hear the father Erkin performing "I Don't Want" explaining his unreplaceable love with capturing lyrics.
What is the taste of hapiness without you?
I don't want to, I don't want to, I don't want to.
Your love everytime catches me
I don't want another spring.
The love inside me,
I heard love in your voice.
Except your breath,
I don't want another wind in my face. [src]
Erkin Koray - İstemem (1970)
"Elektronik Türküler" (Electronic Folk Songs) (1974) was the first real long-play of Erkin Koray, besides of the self-titled album his old record company published without his knowledge one year earlier, which was only a collection of singles. In his words, this album had "a great sentimental worth" and he "created some of the things he wanted to give, but never had the chance to in his singles". The album was made within a studio work of 150 hours, and was "the furthermost point one could go by bringing in electronic elements to our folk songs without loosing the beauty and 'natural taste'". "Cemalim" is an old folk song of the Cappadocian area which was first assembled by regional folk singer Refik Başaran. This folk-song was originally written from the view of Şerife, the wife of Cemal, a member of a renowned family from the village of Karlık, near Ürgüp in the Cappadocian region. Cemal who was well-known and loved was killed by an intrigue. The folk singer Refik Başaran made this song as Şerife's mourning. As to Koray, it "decribes the humility and masculanity of Cemal" and is a blend of "a whining but 'hard' guitar coming from time to time to the foreground, and a firmly played but soft tuned Spanish guitar". [src]
Erkin Koray - Cemalim (1974)
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Now, we are rewinding a little back in time to understand one of the most important factors of this era. In 1965, one of the largest Turkish newspapers, Hürriyet (Freedom), organized a music contest called Altın Mikrofon (Golden Microphone). They set their goal as "Redirecting Turkish music using technique and style of the western music as well as the instruments of the western music.", and they pretty much achieved it. The Golden Microphone contest led the musicians to face a simple fact: to win the praise of the masses, they had to do what the audience demanded. It was conducted on a tour of Anatolia, causing the people outside the big cities to be exposed to pop music, which in turn led many young musicians to get into action to create some sort of music. A kind of music that was highly original. The more Anatolian and folk tunes that were integrated into their music, the more they were loved. And this was enough to light a spark. [src]
Cem Karaca, one of the cult figures of Turkish Rock Music scene came out of contest. In 1967, Cem Karaca & Apaşlar got second place with their song Emrah, a folk poem called "Dedi ki yok yok" (S/he said nope) written by Erzurumlu Emrah, a Turkish Folk poet from Anatolia.
Cem Karaca & Apaşlar - Emrah (1967)
Neşet Ertaş - Kendim Ettim Kendim Buldum
This is another folk poem from bağlama virtuoso and halk ozanı, which literally means "folk bard", Neset Ertas. He is the latest Abdal, a type of saint in the Sufi tradition, who has refused Turkish Republic's "State Artist" title. In 2010, Neşet Ertaş was honoured with the UNESCO "National Living Human Treasure" award [src]. Here is the poem from Neşet Ertaş, "What goes around comes around" [lyrics here] and Cem Karaca's incredible psychedelic cover of it.
Cem Karaca - Kendim Ettim Kendim Buldum (1970)
Later, Cem Karaca joins Kardaşlar and releases an epic single with one excellent song on each side of the 7". I think they both deserve to be in this list. I couldn't stop myself from buying the record from a collector in Germany.
Cem Karaca - Demedim mi (1971)
Cem Karaca - Tatli Dillim (1971)
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Erol Büyükburç - Hop Dedik (1976)
Erol Büyükburç started his music career before the leading musicians in this article, however, he wasn't able to become one of the major Turkish Rock artists of the era. He was also the first musician who composed and sang Little Lucy in English in 1958. With Hop Dedik, he was placed in Love Peace & Poetry Turkish Psychedelic Music compilation in 2005.
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Barış Manco (barış means peace) is not only a internationally recognized musician but an important public figure in Turkey. His dedication for building a better world for everyone resonated in his lyrics, TV shows for children and through his personal ties with international figures. He ca be called the most successful musician considering his 200 songs, translated songs, world-wide concerts, and best-selling & most-awarded musician to date [src]. As a manifestation of his interest in foreign languages, he was fluent in Turkish, French, English and Japanese, and could comfortably carry a conversation in German, Arabic, Dutch, Spanish and Italian [src]. I collected four of his songs in this list. There are many more as you have already realized, however, this list can be only so long..
Barış Manço - İşte Hendek İşte Deve (1971)
(Here is the Ditch, Here is the Camel)
Barış Manço - Hal Hal (1982)
Barış Manço - Aynalı Kemer (1978)
Barış Manço - Derule (1970)
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Salute the queen of Turkish Rock Music. Selda Bağcan is a folk, pop and rock singer, song-writer, and a multi-instrumentalist, who started her career in the last year of her college degree Ankara University's physics engineering department [src]. Her music has been sampled by famous musicians including Mos Def and Oh No. She was also a strong political figure. By 1979, Turkey was having a very polarized situation in terms of politics, and with her album, Selda was sentenced to 500 years in prison.
Selda - Yaz Gazeteci Yaz (1976)
I first heard this song in Berkeley, CA while I was in the shower listening to U.C. Berkeley's student run radio station KALX. I was wondering who the hell this screaming lady was, then all of a sudden I realized that it was in fact Turkish, and had the A-HA moment!! I of course immediately shut the water and listened to the lyrics to be able to "google" it. This is a golden find!
Selda - Niye Çattın Kaşlarını (1976)
"Why did you frown?" is a Neşet Ertaş folk song covered by Selda in 1976.
Selda - İnce İnce Bir Kar Yağar (1976)
A politically heavy song from Selda. Originally, a Turkish folk song from Aşık Mahzuni Şerif, full of messages the ağa (agha), a word in Ottoman Turkish literally meaning landlord, the ruler of a land that villagers live and work on. It is asking ağa for roads, schools, food, fairness throughout the song. Mos Def sampled the "Flaked Snow Falls Upon" in his song Supermagic.
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Hardal - Bir Yağmur Masalı (1979)
This song is from the first album of HARDAL (Mustard) with the title "NASIL? NE ZAMAN?" (How? When?), which was recorded in Turkey (1979). The band had four members Şükrü Yüksel (guitar), Aydın Şencan (bass), Cahit Kukul (guitar) and Sedat Avcı (drums). The band was only known by a very small insider-group, but those fans just adored Hardal. The secret of Hardal's small popularity is that in 1979 the Turkish rock scene was comatose due to the political scene right before the coup d'état in 1980. Cem Karaca left for Germany, Erkin Koray moved to Canada, Edip Akbayram got stuck because of his political ambitions. Only Barış Manço was still on the road those days, when it was tough to start a new band in Turkey. The music is the best Turkish progressive underground you can think of. Filled with guitars, synth sounds, great eastern vibe vocals and harmonies, pumping rhythms, as good as the best Koray tracks for sure. [src]
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Alpay - Kirpiklerin Ok Ok Eyle (1967)
"Turn Your Eyebrows into an Arrow" is a folk song that has been covered by old and new band in Turkey including Cem Karaca & Kardaşlar (1971) and Barış Manço & Kaygısızlar (1967). As you can see, I'm definitely not going for big names here, trying to purely share my favorite styles. I like Alpay's version because it's more of a 60's sound rather than Turkish folk rock style, however, his vocals are definitely in Turkish Folk / Arabesk style. I appreciate the contrast.
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Mazhar ve Fuat - Sür Efem Atını (1973)
Mazhar Alanson and Fuat Güner were in the already established (1965) Kaygısızlar band where they were mostly playing The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young covers. Then, Barış Manço joined them for the 1967 - 1969 period and they together released 8 singles. In 1971, Mazhar and Fuat decided to go solo and release "Türküz Türkü Cağırırız" (We are Turks, We Sing Turkish Folk Songs). "Sür Efem Atını" (You Shall Ride Your Horse Dear Chief). Eventually, the duo joined forces with Özkan Uğur and formed MFÖ, the most famous Turkish ban in 1984. Today, MFÖ songs are known and sang by the entire country.
Bunalımlar - Başak Saçlım (1971)
This is Turkey's most notorious and dirty psychedelic underground band. They were formed in 1969 with the aim of having underground music reach wider audiences. They couldn't succeed well as their approach was very much wilder and uncompromising than any of their peers at the time; God, they were crazy! Running all nude down the Istiklal Street, psychedelic light shows, crazy paintings all over the stage wall and screaming of "LSD! LSD!" in their live shows." [source]
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Erkut Taçkın - Gitmek Düştü Bana (1975)
As a son of a navy colonel, Erkut started his music career at the Naval Academy in Turkey during his education. Like the other musicians of the era, he started with covers of famous American rock/pop songs, then switched to Anatolian & Psychedelic Rock Music. This is the only brass heavy song in this article. Glad to have it.
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As I mentioned earlier Ersen (Dinleten) is one of the most collaborative vocalists of this era. He has worked with many bands including Moğollar, Kardaşlar, Dadaşlar, 3-Hürel. Below, I wanted to share one of his solo singles as well as his performance with Dadaşlar.
Ersen - Kara Yazı (1972)
Ersen & Dadaşlar - Bir Ayrılık Bir Yoksulluk Bir Ölüm (1974)
It almost impossible not be entertained while watching these guys dance in this video. Golden!
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Kardaşlar - Deniz Üstü Köpürür (1973)
Kardaşlar is another famous band from the 70's era. They had members such as Cem Karaca, Ersen Dinleten, Selda Bağcan. This is a Turkish folk song from Muğla (Southeest of Turkey) region. Ersen was in the band when this song was recorded in 1973, however, the vocal is one of the guitarists Ünol Büyükgönenç instead of him.
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3 Hürel - Ağlarsa Anam Ağlar (1973)
3 Hürel, the Hürel brothers, was a band of 3 brothers, Feridun, Onur, and Haldun from the north shores for Turkey. Onur was born in Rize, Feridun and Haldun in Trabzon. In contrast to the other Anatolian Rock musicians from Turkey, these were a band of brothers that kept playing together for more than 50 years. The beginning of their story was no different though. They played Elvis covers and trendy rock 'n' roll songs in the early beginnings. 3 Hürels’ most distinctive feature of all Turkish groups, was that they played for others their own compositions and did not end up sounding like a session band, or the singers they played for [src]. Below, "If anyone cries, that would be my mom." is perhaps one of the best Anatolian Rock songs written for mothers. Happy mothers day!
Want to hear Turkish Rock Music on-the-go? Check out this playlist:
ps: Turn Spotify on first, then click on the link.
I also started adding some of the songs that are mentioned in the comments section: