Turkey. A country that divides two continents, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is localized at the Bosphorus Strait, the legendary bridge that divides the European continent of Asia. This geographical division ended up influencing the Turkish customs and its diverse and rich ancient culture. By owning the shortest route in intercontinental passages, historically the only way between the civilizations of East and West, the country became an important center of trade and constant migration transit. With several occupations throughout his history, such as Hittites, Assyrians, Hellenization, and Byzantine Empire, Mongols, and lastly, the Ottoman Empire, Turkey mainly thanks to its rebirth to one single individual: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey, after defeating the Ottoman Empire in WWI, Atatürk embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the underdeveloped country into a modern, secular and democratic nation-state. Under his leadership, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, while the taxation on peasants was reduced. The constant economic growth continued until WWII, based upon a blend between liberalism and state interventions.
He died in 1938, and the so-called single-party period ended with the war, then, a multiparty democracy emerged and so the development from the post-war period began to fade. The usual tensions from the period strengthened in 1960 with the first of four military coup d’états, that lasted more than 35 years. (!)
Let’s go to our history:
Anatolian Rock (Anadolu Rock) arises on the mid-’60s, as in many other countries, with the definitive entrance of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and many other bands. That western invasion would influence the basis of the movement along with Turkish folk traditions, instruments, and tunes.
From 1968 to 1975 multiple artists/bands popped through the radio airwaves and television to became nationally acclaimed, during this time Turkey saw the golden age of psychedelic, prog, folk and pop acts (sung in Turkish) such as Cem Karaca, Edip Akbayram, Baris Manço, Erkin Koray, Mogollar, Apaslar, and Kardaslar.
With dozens of records and singles, this movement had some tolerance with the military governments, though, after 1975, the situation changed and repression tightened. Not that this period did not leave death and repression in their wake, quite the contrary, as seen in the invasion of Cyprus and the strifes between ultra-nationalists and communists. A lot of artists were arrested, banned or boycotted, until the ’80s more than 5000 Turkish were killed in many different conflicts!
But none of these artists had women on the front, that’s why we’ll have a dedicated post to some of these bands later (including the legendary Selda Bagcan), with deeper biography and info; today we focus on an unusual side of Anatolian Rock, with some other influences, like disco, synth-pop, jazz and sugar ballads.
Let’s go to our mixtape:
The Turkish pop scene always has kept its exotic character mixing influences from the Ottoman, Anatolian, and Arabesque culture. Combined with western pop it makes music that, for western ears, is build on the atonal orchestral melodies and western sounding blues and pop. On the other hand, you had the Turkish folk music (Türk Halk Müziği) has combined the distinct cultural values of all those civilizations which have lived in Anatolia and the Ottoman territories in Europe and Asia.
Now, this is an umbrella genre since there are many forms of folk like Türkü (folksongs), Destan (epic) or instrumental dance music like Halay, Bengi, Karşılama or Zeybek. And lastly was the traditional music of the Middle East and the Raqs Sharqi (belly dance) influence to the forming of Turkish pop music!
Here is our Kadin!
Bal Gibi Olur (1977 single) /// Yollar (homonym 1980 Lp)
With Armenian blood in the lineage, Silva Bursalıoğlu, began his musical studies on piano and chant at the age of 5. The youngest daughter of three, his mother was an opera singer and helped her to debut on musical stages alongside with his sister on the early ’60s. Performing, in the beginning, on weddings, university festivals and later as the main singer in a professional orchestra. After his first marriage, in 1968, she changed her name to Asu Maralman. Its first single came out in 1971 and her career was characterized by the release of several singles throughout the ’70s.
Toured across Germany, USA, and Canada on the ’80s, after this period the pace of its career slowly wane. Recently the Eski 45’likler (Best of) re-release and some blogs revival made it known again. With a synth-pop and disco tinges!
Ikimiz Bir Fidaniz (1974 single) /// Dogrumu Dogrumu (1977 Lp)
This beautiful blonde may be considered one of the first foxy-romantic singers, in Turkey. With incandescent as a surname, alongside with his sister Gonul Akkor, the two were in the minds of many, thanks to their bodies and latent sexuality. With few Lp’s released domestically, once again, the 45′ singles are the majority of its career.
Debuting in 1969, these AMAZING electric grooves, unfortunately, can only be seen here, his romantic shift taken from the ’80s made her a very popular corny diva. But here, she flirts with some soul, fuzzy guitars and heavy synths. Currently, she still performs live shows and TV appearances, her last album was released in 2010.
Asik Olamiyorum (1972 single) /// Bahcenizde Gul Var Mi (1979 Lp)
From a very early age, she displayed his vocal and theatrical qualities, debuting on live stages and theaters with only three years old. (!) With scholar music formation, the brilliant soprano sang opera until their teens, to finally start on vinyl in 1965. Probably the most famous of all, Neşe is internationally known and has an extensive career with more than 8 Lp’s and numerous singles. Starring as an actress too, she takes part (leading or not) on more than 10 films throughout a noted biography!
She’s the best selling female artist in Turkey, with more than 6 million records and multiples prizes! Leaning on a folk romantic source, some Latin colors and synths are heard from our selections, the sound quality may vary, but his vocal techniques and instrument tones worth the trip. She continues to record and recently released a book and an exhibition of his personal paintings and thoughts.
Kim Arar Seni (1978 Lp) /// Ayrilik Hasreti (1974 Lp)
A consolidated career, this phrase defines well this singer. With more than 20 albums and a myriad of singles, Nilüfer is one of the few to achieve success in all decades, changing its sound and aesthetics once in a while. Singer, the songwriter, and producer, discovered in the late ’60s after winning a Golden Voice student contest, in Istanbul, she debuted at musical charts on 1972 and participated in 1978 at the Eurovision Song Contest. The mid 90’s (pinnacle of its career) saw his nomination as a Turkish ambassador of UNICEF and also honored with the State Artist title.
Recently she adopted a rock posture, releasing its last album in 2013. Deeps synths, nice percussion and a disco-pop overall. The other one it’s a mellow cover from the world hit ‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’, check it!
Mecnunum Leylami Gordum (1964 single) /// Kizilciklar Oldu Mu (1965 single)
The oldest and experienced all, the founder of Turkish pop music, Tülay studied music and graduated in 1956 at the Uskudar American Academy. Even forbidden by his father to sing at night, her stage debut in 1960 starts a new role in Turkish pop music, singing at many radio programs, she was awarded best singer prize in 1964 at Balkan Music Festival, held in Yugoslavia.
From then on, she went to France in 1966 and played along with names like Charles Aznavour and The Moody Blues, releasing successful singles by Phillips. She also made many TV shows and toured around the World in late ’60s, early ’70s!
Her folk ballads overstepped the boundaries of any Turkish singer, turning it into a legend in his country. Retired since the mid-’80s, living in France, Tülay’s music has a distinguishing mark, passing through jazz and deep folklore traditions.