As well as compiling superb Turkish tracks from 1964-1980, Anatolian Rock Revival Project has commissioned Turkey’s top illustrators to create new art for each song.
Rock music fanatics are often accused of living in the past – whether they worship the birth of rock in the ‘50s, the psychedelic heyday of the ‘60s, or the punk rebellion of the ‘70s. In terms of Turkish rock history, it is rather the opposite. In a country where common words such as “life” and “freedom” were banned on the radio after 1980, the earlier era of popular music was forgotten, with many of its artists lost in the transition from vinyl to cassette and CD.
But the Internet now offers a fresh opportunity to share the gems of Turkish rock, which is precisely the aim of Anatolian Rock Revival Project. As well as compiling superb Turkish tracks from 1964-1980 and promoting them on its YouTube and Facebook accounts, the project has commissioned Turkey’s top illustrators to create new art for each song.
“We can say that this period was our musical renaissance – everyone influenced each other and the general quality of music increased greatly,” says Gökhan Yücel from Anatolian Rock Revival Project. “The first reason for this was the liberal constitution of 1961. The second reason was the idea of returning to our cultural roots and accepting that we should express ourselves in our own way. We stopped trying to imitate foreign culture, and from that came a brand new sound.”
While the popular bands of this era used the typical instruments of Western rock, there are also appearances from traditional Turkish instruments such as saz, zurna, and darbuka. The rhythms and melodies of these songs drew heavily on Anatolian music, and the lyrics reflected the themes of Turkish folk music. A classic album of the era is Erkan Koray’s Elektronik Türküler, whose title means “electronic Turkish folk songs”. This synthesis of rock and roll with Eastern sounds was the mirror image of American music in the same period – when psychedelic bands took the blues and added the kind of modal improvisation associated with Eastern music.
According to Yücel, the project chooses its songs from two categories. Tülay German’s “Burçak Tarlası” or Moğollar’s “Dağ ve Çocuk” for example are indispensable songs of the era, while bands such as TPAO Batman Orkestrası or Yabancılar have little-known tracks that deserve rediscovery. Despite Barış Manço’s status as a household name in Turkey, the project has dug up some rarely heard songs from his early catalogue.
As Anatolian Rock Revival Project’s choice of an English name suggests, its founders aim to promote this forgotten music internationally as well as in Turkey. The fresh illustrations by artists such as Mert Tugen, Murat Kalkavan, Zeynep Başay, Kaan Bağcı, Ethem Onur Bilgiç, and Sedat Girgin – who is also the cover artist for The Guide Istanbul magazine – will be exhibited together in Cologne and London.
“Illustration is one of the most advanced creative arts in Turkey, because it’s an utterly personal area,” Yücel told The Guide Istanbul. “For this reason, I think illustration provides the quality these songs deserve. You really can’t beat the flavor of visual arts produced with the inspiration of music. Our upcoming exhibitions are a good starting point, and I’m sure more will come from this.”