"There is this kind of struggle in Turkey's identity, in its ideologies, in its culture, between those who are embracing modernity and the West, and those who feel more embedded in the East and in antiquity.
Hybrid is the key word here ... I think that the musicians were very explicitly trying to take these new rock and psychedelic sounds and make them their own by infusing them with these more ancient Turkish sounds."
The 60s and 70s were a tumultuous period in Turkish history, marked by opening up, closing down, coups, violence and plenty of political unrest. But the period also birthed a music which saw Turkish musicians put their country's folk styles into bed with the psychedelic sounds of Western Europe and America – the results were quite incredible.
Moustachioed, socialist, Turkish troubadours who styled themselves on ancient ashiks (wandering poets) developed a scene and style of music that disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Anadolu psych (Anadolu is the Turkish word for Anatolian) musicians like Barış Manço, Erkin Koray, Selda Bağcan and Cem Karaca – characters whose stories are too rich and eventful to tell in full here – produced music with
Murat Ertel of Baba Zula
all the complexity of early Genesis and the dirging grooves of Cream, but with a political force that is quite beyond compare. And the harmony and instrumentation they used means it sounds like little else, before or after.
That is, until recently. Turkish psychedelic music is now experiencing something of a renaissance. There are now bands, from Istanbul to Berlin, the UK, Netherlands and France who are bringing the sound back in earnest, looking to these forgotten sounds of the 60s and 70s to make music that is vibrant, new and unmistakably Turkish.
In this extended feature, I spoke to Daniel Spicer, author of the seminal book on the subject, Anadolu Psych, to learn more about the music's history: how these two seemingly antithetical styles came together, and the political reasons why it disappeared as quickly as it came about.
I also interviewed Murat Ertel, frontman of veteran Anadolu psych group Baba Zula, to hear about his youth in a febrile Istanbul, surrounded by the biggest names of the mid-20th century psych scene. He also told me about how the appreciation for the music has grown since the 90s, and Baba Zula's new record, Derin Derin.
And to get a taste of the new faces on the Anadolu psych scene, I chatted with Derya Yıldırım, the Berlin based singer and saz virtuoso of Turkish descent who, along with her band Grup Şimşek, have been at the forefront of the music's modern renaissance. Derya, a true disciple of the Turkish ashiks, spoke to me about her home's folk traditions and how they have shaped her sound, and the new home that the music is finding in Germany's vast, diasporic communities of Turks. We also hear plenty of amazing music from her 2019 album, Kar Yagar.
"As a child I was noticing and witnessing so many things: burning books, hiding them, burning letters, hiding people. My uncles were coming home from prison, beaten, with broken bones after torture.
I sent records to them in prison. For instance, I have Selda's 45's that I sent to my uncles and they have the control stamp on them. They received them, they listened to them and brought them back to me. So these are very precious."
Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek
Cem Karaca & Kardaşlar – Dadaloğlu (Dadaloğlu / Kalender // Türkofon)
Erkin Koray – Türkü (Elektronik Türküler // Doğan Plakcılık)
Buba Zula – Kosmogoni (Derin Derin // Glitterbeat)
Altin Gün – Yolcu (Gece // Glitterbeat)
Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek – Cocuklar Part 1 (Kar Yağar // Bongo Joe)
Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek – Kar Yağar (Kar Yağar // Bongo Joe)
Ersen – Beni Hor Görme Kardeşim (Dertli Kaval / Beni Hor Görme Kardeşim // Diskotür)
Barış Manço – Çıt Çıt Twist (Çıt Çıt Twist / Dream Girl // Grafson)
Moğollar – Lorke (Anadolu Pop // Yavuz Plak)
Selda – Yaylalar (Selda // Türküola)
Cem Karaca ve Dervişan – Kerem Gibi (Yoksulluk Kader Olamaz // Yavuz Plak)
Baba Zula – Spring (Üç Oyundan Onyedi Müzik // Doublemoon)
Baba Zula – Transcendence (Derin Derin // Glitterbeat)
Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek – Kürk (Kar Yağar // Bongo Joe)
Barış Manço – 2023 (2023 // Yavuz Plak)