The Unknown World Of Psychedelic Turkish Music
Turkish psychedelic music is getting more and more attention globally thanks to its oriental rhythms, out-of-world tones, and fantastic melodies and harmonies that blend western and Turkish instruments. During the 1960s and ’70s, Turkish artists and bands created a style of rock & roll which was called Anatolian Rock. The genre had influences from Turkish folk and pop music, Arabesque music, and western rock and roll, which offered a fantastic east-west synthesis.
If you haven’t heard any pieces from the genre, I assure you that you are missing so much. So let’s dive deep into this fantastic genre to know more about its characteristics, history, and some famous bands and artists.
Turkish Psychedelic Music History
While the origins of Turkish Psychedelic Music date back to the mid-20th century, it was mainly forgotten until the 2010s, when it was rediscovered by many Turkish and international artists and bands. Back in the 1960s, Turkish artists like Erkin Koray, Cem Karaca, Selda Bağcan, and Barış Manço created and pioneered a genre combining the classic rock and roll from Euro-American roots with Turkish musical instruments.
They were heavily influenced by the dominant rock and roll and classic rock of the era, but they were also huge fans of Turkish folk music. So, they created a synthesis called Anatolian rock music.
It was played both with western instruments like an electric guitar, bass, and synthesizer and Turkish instruments like saz and baglama, which are Turkish guitar-like string instruments, as well as darbuka, and bendir, which are Turkish goblet drum and frame drum, respectively.
This genre was so rich that it used many elements from psychedelia, progressive rock, funk, and folk with distant echoes of Indian raga and weird non-Western tunings.
The genre revived in the 2000s again in Turkey and later in the world as artists and bands like Baba Zula, Gaye Su Akyol, Altın Gün, and Elektro Hafız were creating a new wave of Turkish Psychedelic Music. Many international DJs, artists, and bands also started using Turkish Psychedelic Music elements in their compositions and projects.
Turkish Psychedelic Music Characteristics
As explained before, Turkish Psychedelic Music is a fantastic mix of western and eastern music. It uses oriental rhythms, eastern and western instruments, and odd non-Western scales called maqams like his, rast, ussak, kurdi, and many more, along with typical Turkish folk style vocal phrasings.
Each Turkish Psychedelic piece is unique in combining Turkish and rock and roll music. They combine Turkish and Western elements in the language, instrumentation, rhythm, melody, and harmonies.
The main instruments used were electric guitars with many effects, saz or baglama, and the Turkish plucked string instruments with unique sounds in eastern maqams, darbuka, and bendir, which are Turkish goblet and frame drums, as well as bass guitars, drum sets, and synthesizers. Sometimes wind instruments like Zurna, Clarinet, and Ney were also used in melody sections.
The songs followed a western structure similar to classic rock tunes with riffs, verses, choruses, and extended guitar solos. However, the tones and harmonies were quite different, making the genre unique.
The lyrics often talk about politics, love, or the homeland. As most Turkish, Psychedelic Music artists had left-wing, hippie, and bohemian tendencies, their ideologies, frustration with governments, love for their homeland and nature, and partners are reflected in the songs. Many songs also have lyrics about reflections on life, existential pain, and death.
Famous Turkish Psychedelic Music Artists And Songs
Let’s come to the fun part and listen to some of the magnificent Turkish Psychedelic Music tunes from different artists and bands from different eras.
Older Generations (1960 – 1980)
Fesupanallah – Erkin Koray
Erkin Koray is considered one of the fathers of Anatolian Rock music. He combined Turkish Folk music riffs and lyrics with western instruments creating a great synthesis. Although the main instruments are traditional rock instruments, he occasionally uses frame drums, darbuka, and zurna in his songs. In the video, you can find many of his songs.
Dönence – Barış Manço
Another father of Turkish Psychedelic Music is Barış Manço, who has more than 200 songs and is among the best-selling and most awarded Turkish artists. He was a rock icon with his visual image, characterized by his long hair, mustache, and big rings. His style was progressive rock-influenced Anatolian rock and experimented with many different instruments, significantly shaping modern Turkish music.
Namus Belası – Cem Karaca
Cem Karaca is another important figure in Anatolian Rock music and the political scene. He often used Turkish instruments in his compositions along with heavily political lyrics. That was why he had to leave the country after the coup in 1980.
Katip Arzuhalim Yaz Yare Böyle – Selda Bagcan
Selda Bagcan is one of the rare female figures in the Anatolian Rock scene at the time. She has an outstanding voice, along with her fantastic composition skills. Her songs are mainly vocal-driven, with soft music in the background either with western or Turkish instruments.
New Wave (2005 – 2010)
İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir – Gaye Su Akyol
One of the most prominent figures of the new wave of Turkish Psychedelic Music is Gaye Su Akyol, often celebrated by many internationally famous artists like Iggy Pop. She amazingly mixes western and eastern instruments while singing like Turkish Folk Music.
Bir Sana Bir De Bana – Baba Zula
Baba Zula is a fantastic band that experiments with different instruments and arrangements in their compositions. Their songs are saz-heavy, and they are known for their unique costumes and sound.
Goca Dünya – Altın Gün
Altn Gün is a Turkish-Dutch band who were nominated for a Grammy back in 2019. They use western instruments with Turkish folk music tones and harmonies, covering old Turkish Anatolian Rock songs and creating their compositions.
Sleep Drifter – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Well, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is not precisely from the Turkish Psychedelic Rock scene but is one of the many bands and artists heavily influenced by the genre. The Australian band creates great compositions following the footsteps of Anatolian Rock with their traditional rock instruments.
Turkish Psychedelic Music is a vibrant and fantastic world that finds the sweet spot between traditional western rock and Turkish folk music. With the out-of-world tones, oriental rhythm and scales, fantastic riffs and authentic instruments, as well as great lyrics, it is a genre that deserves much more attention. Fortunately, it is getting more popular these days, with more people getting awestruck by this amazing music.