Soulstar Rec.V.A. : Made in Turkey -the World of Turkish grooves- (TÜ,2004)**°°
I understand, from other releases, that the Soulstar label compiler for Turkish music who was living in Germany, was especially interested in club house influences. So with some caution, but renewed curiosity when I saw the track list, I was interested to hear this double CD, with one CD of more “relaxed tracks” (called “Mondo Ala Turca”) and one dance orientated CD (called “Bosporus Express”). The press notes say that there lives a wide variety of people in Turkey (like Kurds, Arabs, Cherkessian, Georgians, Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Bosnians, Albanians, Laz people, Chechens, Bulgarians, Tartars, etc) or many different cultures which all bring their share to the Turkish identity. The selection, according to the label, contains “smooth R’n’B, Drum’n’Bass, traditional folk, Mediterranean rhythms, Sufi sounds, party grooves & club-beats, fusions like Arabesque, Turkish fado, evergreens, jazzy moments, oriental hiphop, folk-revival in a pop outfit and so on.” It includes some hits from so called established stars (Sezen Aksu, Adja Pekkan, Erkin Koray, ..), plus a few new groups, but also an authentic Turkish tango from Ibrahim Özgür, and a folk-tune from Asik Veysel.
The first CD is a very good, well mixed, compilation of various examples that show different approaches to Turkish music, especially interesting for a mainstream audience. It shows a variety of mixes of Turkish folk with Pop, fusion or with modern beats, within a Folk, Pop and Fusion context.
Burhan Öçal with his Istanbul Orient Ensemble is a very good introduction to more traditional Turkish music. This is mixed perfectly into a more modern approach of this tradition by Ilhan Ersahin (with guest singer Dilara Sakipinar). Omar Faruk Tekbilek & Steve Shehan is a nice example of the Arabesque way of singing, accompanied by a modern groovy and smooth bass with traditional percussion and orchestra, and with some modern keyboards in the mixing. Gate Eight in the same mode, is more like fusion jazz, mixed with some club beats, first starting with an Arabesque voice, then evolving to a more club groove track with some spoken word, using at that moment all earlier elements only as samples to benefit the smooth dance structure. It becomes western pop but, fits with common European tastes. Sertab Erener after that is a beautiful folkpop voice. At first she's accompanied by guitar, then by a whole Pop group, in a more mainstream approach which is pretty enjoyable. (-I still wonder whether her voice wouldn't come out even better or at least differently with more minimal acoustic accompaniment or a very different musical approach ?). This is followed by a filmic more ethnofolk inspired modern pop, which is a technically attractively mixed track by Nil Karaibrahimgil. After that we hear Sezen Aksu, a voice who seems to have been in the business since the 70’s. Her track is mainstream Turkish pop, and has, technically, a very interesting mix, making it once more very attractive popmusic (with varied mixed rhythms, and through funky elements, with elements of flute and bass). Also Nilüfer Akbal is another similar example of Arabesque Pop using at least some element of oud with the modern pop mix, a combination which works well, but which is still used specifically to serve the pop song. Porque Son Turkos probably is I think the example of the Turkish Fado ; it is mixed with modern popbeats. The only track which I find very different from the rest comes from Arto Tunçboyan & Ara Dinkjian. I have no idea where they get their ethnic inspirations or elements because for me it sounds more like African or Caribbean pop or so ??, a track which for me breaks the middle eastern mood which was commonly present. This is compensated by the track of Sümeyra, a beautiful more traditional Turkish song, not sure in which specific style, and accompanied by saz. Also Mercan Dede, the famous Sufi DJ, is listed with a track, played with ney, saz, spacey modern rhythms, with guest female singer Sabahat Akkiraz. This is followed by the famous jazz drummer Okay Temiz with his Magnetic Band. It’s one of his more traditional features, and a nice calm moment of reflection. After that we hear Ali Ekber Cicek, with voice and amplified baglama. He’s an interpreter of traditional Sufi music, and performs this with his specific voice in a rather bluesy folk way. Orient Expressions by singer Aynur Dogan is another example of the oriental trance groove side, not with too many ideas over the length of the track, but very atmospheric on the background for a chill-out mode. Asik Veysel is again a bit different. His track has elements of 80’s pop (like sequenced electronic bass). It does not have much of that Ottoman flavour, making me wonder why this specific mainstream electronicapop is listed here as another example. Ottoman jazz pioneer Kudsi Erguner (-I believe he made a crossover between Arab Sufi music mixed with jazz-) with singer Halil Necipoglu starts with an electric guitar improvisation in Middle eastern tuning, and then continues in a perfect Middle Eastern crossover Fusion. Here the basically Turkish Music sounds as much like jazz to me, which surely is original. (I'll check him out later). Multicultural band Sarband’s “Rondo alla Turca” gives an interpretation of this Mozart tune, a more convincing than ever interpretation, because it shows the Turkish origin of its inspiration very well. A good closer of the first CD is an old Turkish tango, -which is the first Western style to be adapted back in the 30’s-, here with a typical “old times” singing (is this the "evergreen" ?), by the earlier mentioned Ibrahim Özgur.
This first CD compilation is done very well, and it gives various ideas and well chosen examples of the Turkish scene in the media of today. Even in mainstream pop it chose attractive examples. The compilation surely is perfect in its intentions. Personally only Arto Tunçboyan & Ara Dinkjian and Kudsi Erguner weren't for me that much necessary, because the first group confuses me and the last one misses enough typical Turkish elements to me to give it the typical charm which in general much of the Turkish music has here, even there where it goes already towards mainstream directions.
The second CD contains of course the more rhythmically driven music.
“These rhythms in Turkish popmusic”, Okay Temiz once complained to me, “are only there to serve the song." He also complained there wasn't too much real singing or musical ideas. He told me people are so used in focusing on vocalized leads in music, that one day, when he had delivered a tape to a radiostation of one of his best releases, the guy came back to him and said : “I think there’s something wrong with your tape because the vocals seems to be left out ?”. On this CD we can hear when new focusses really work, and how it can convince and give a rewarding and satisfying result. The production elements which are used for modern Turkish pop and even in Fusion pop could be Arab-like orchestrations or various, rather complex-in-energy rhythms, as a combination of Turkish percussion mixed with drumcomputers. Most of these elements are indeed only there to serve the song, or elsewhere, -or often at the same time-, to create a dance-like rhythm for the song.
On the second track by Göksel (featuring Omega Vibes), I can imagine why this focus on the singing became so attractive for the mainstream listener. Just imagine a gypsy or even any traditional or religious or Sufi dance with an increasing energy evolution, as a foundation for a carpet ride search for inspiration, resulting in sometimes trance-like visions, when one person began to speak or sing ar the right moment of increased energy, speaking or singing about what he had seen or had peak-experienced, as the highlight of a ritual event. In a popularized culture like ours, where words began to become the final decisions on everything, I guess people in some way still remember this kind of magic or highlighting moments. In a popularized and lowered down version to a daily life vision, this focus is still imaginable in a different, normalized version. It’s just a singer who became the spokesman for the people, just like the earlier occasional shaman-of-the-moment. But now this singer often just tells whatever people wants to hear. It became a confirmation of what is known in daily culture. There the orchestration elements, and the rhythms are just there to celebrate the best moments of this daily life. Most Turkish people, I think, prefer to have a good business, and to have nice conversations in a warm contact with friends. Not many other things matter. Music that reflects this aspect must have some joy in it.
The third track of Rebel Moves has these kind of complex rhythms that one can hardly neglect, in considering as being joyful. They’re enriched with brass and orchestrations and a gathered singing together, in a pretty fast rhythmic surrounding, giving the listener the feeling as if a lot (of joy) is expressed.
Harem IV’s “La Passion Turca” has a more simple 4/4 electronic beat, mixed with Turkish percussion. All the groovy elements for it are typical Turkish, including the use of saz. Again a good example of how attractive the Turkish music essence can be.
Also Erkin Koray’s “Fesupanallah” fits well with this whole new Turkish rhythmically flavoured scene. It has complex acoustic rhythms, bass, electric fuzz guitar, orchestrations and arrangements. Of course it’s different from his earlier work, but I still like this very much.
Funda Arar’s track with a rather rock backing band with orchestrations and Turkish percussion is a more “tough” Arabesque poprock track.
This is followed by a weird Turkish mix of Turkish reggae (!) with Latin hiphop pop by Ayhan Sicimoglu & Istanbul Latin Ensemble, a unique mix I never heard before, and probably will not hear again. I seriously think it’s a perfect commercial idea for MTV or so. They should go for that international appeal, because it could be a different entry for people to become open to Turkish elements.
Burak Aziz's pop track with complex rhythms and orchestrations also has the earlier mentioned “attractive” form. I knew there was going to be at least one rap/hiphop track on it too (-I usually keep myself as far as I can away for various reasons from hiphop-). But I must say also this somewhat varied spoken-but-almost-sung track by Ragga Oktay has the same kind of attractiveness in rhythms and arrangements, quickly changing and very dynamic, and with the use of traditional elements amongst electronic beats. This is mixed in into a track by Fuat Saka, called “rapatma4” using the Turkish mode almost as a rap, making it almost psychedelic or ritualistic or something like that. It has really nothing of the mach arrogant kind of rap, and sounds even more like Indian psychedelic pop or something, with bass, percussion, and violin.
Altay’s contribution is more like Turkish techno with all the traditional elements still in it.
This is followed by Ümit Sayin with some techno remix. It is a much more mainstream pop song than anything from before ; -I think it does not have the same level of international focusing, so I can’t imagine a similar interest for this one for outside of Turkey-.
The track by Kiraç after this, has a more hardrock-and-metal fundament, mixed with the Turkish orchestrated folk sound, with a poprock voice lead for the song. It’s nice to see that even here, no Turkish elements are neglected because they make the music interesting.
The track after that, by the Brooklyn Funk, starting as funky reggae-pop, has nice Turkish arrangements by Laco Tayfa, which makes this track again unusual.
Ciguli’s track after that, is joyful electronica-pop. It is in fact completely based upon traditional elements in rhythm, singing, and for the instrumental passages.
Turkish Delight brings on their track traditional Turkish music with additional modern beats, well mix
ed. I also understand why the track by Nilgül is submitted, because it’s a modern pop version of a popular traditional song, using the elements of Turkish music instruments, but also guitars, drums and Turkish percussion instruments. Never the less for me, it is Erkin's, Edip’s and Selda’s versions in the 70’s, hard folkrock versions which still are my own favourites of this song. The last two tracks appeal less to me.
On Özlem Yilmaz’s track, a somewhat child-like voice, with accompaniment by saz, Turkish percussion, drum computer, the Turkish instrumental part is a bit too minimal, loop-like, that for me it doesn't show anything more interesting than a typical mainstream Arabesque Pop song.
Also last track, by Makale, a more childish traditional, I don’t find becoming much more interesting with the extra modern beats, but it's a good try.
The compilation of both CD's of this double set is done very well. It is enjoyable both for daily listening and fordance occaisions. It gives some clues of what music is made and is popular in Turkey. In general the right tracks have been chosen for a public outside Turkey... What is not listed here is the very small psychedelic and progressive scene, or some of the very small left-over jazz scene, but perhaps this realy is a different chapter and a very different kind of angle. These groups have the hardest time to survive because there is little interest inside Turkey. Hopefully one day there also is room left for them.
Dutch review I made for Ruis magazine :
"Dit Duits label bracht het voor elkaar om niet alleen in de Turkse jazzfusie heel wat aantrekkelijke voorbeelden te vinden van moderne beats met traditionele elementen, maar zelfs in de mainstream pop, en daarbuiten. Psychedelica is er niet bij, wordt waarschijnlijk argwanend bekekenen, maar toch is deze dubbel-CD (1 luister en 1 dance cd) een goede compilatie."