Replikas, who are the best rock band in Turkey and one of the top half-dozen rock bands in the world, have just released “Biz Burada Yok İken” (When We Were Not Here), and it is fantastic!
Once upon a time -- from the mid 1960s until the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup d’état, which effectively killed ALL forms of Turkish popular culture -- Turkey had one of the best rock music scenes and the longest-lasting psychedelic music scene anywhere in the world. The coup ended all that, and many of the great musicians fled the country; Cem Karaca had his citizenship taken away while in Germany, Erkin Koray moved to Canada, etc. Rock music here has never recovered, save for a handful of bands, such as Replikas, Rashit, Hayvanlar Alemi and ZeN.
The type of music that flourished in that approximately 17-year-long pre-coup period is called Anadolu Rock; and over the past 15 years it has slowly but surely been gaining in popularity and respect around the world due to a number of compilations and single-artist reissues released around the world -- but not in the country that gave birth to this truly exciting music that synthesized traditional Turkish instruments and folk songs with Western instrumentation -- electric guitar and electric saz, drums and darbuka, zurna and yaylı tambur, etc. -- to create a hybrid that has been influencing musicians and producers around the world in recent years.
This latest album by Replikas pays tribute to the great bands of the past, featuring covers of ‘60s/’70s Anadolu Rock. I picked it up last week and have been playing it constantly ever since. It has songs originally done by Mavi Işıklar (who themselves will have a new album released shortly since returning to prominence last year due to a hit TV show that used their old songs), two songs associated with Erkin Koray (“Erkin Baba” -- the father of Turkish rock, who started his first band in 1957, while a student at Galatasaray Lisesi), two songs by Cem Karaca and Apaşlar, Bariş Manço and Kurtalan Express, Moğollar, Ersen and Dadaşlar, Siluetler, Haramiler, Timur Selçuk and Mazhar and Fuat (later joined by “Ö” to become perennial pop stars MFÖ)…
Replikas’ interpretations of these songs remain true to the originals without being slavish, all the while being identifiably Replikas; and in a number of cases their interpretations are vastly superior to the originals, which are great to begin with. My favorites are “Hudey Hudey,” “Kaşık Havası” (Spoon Dance, originally a folk dance tune that Siluetler transformed into a blazing Ventures-styled Surf guitar instrumental in 1965, in which Replikas outdoes the original), the rollicking “Bir Ayrılık Bir Yoksulluk Bir Ölüm” (Separation, Poverty and Death), the scintillating folk instrumental “Çiçek Dağı,” (Flower Mountain, which beats Erkin Koray at his own game) and “Sür Efem Atını,” which blows away the original by Mazhar and Fuat.
If you like Anadolu Rock, you need to get this album. BTW: The CD includes excellent liner notes in English concerning each song and an overview: “…Their [Replikas] tribute is much more than a debt of honor; instead, a stand to attention, paying respects to the roots of the movement [Anadolu Rock]. It is this homage that has included on this album some forgotten gems, alongside the better known names…”
The members of Replikas are Gökçe Akçelik (vocals, guitar), Barkın Engin (lead guitar), Selçuk Artut (bass), Orçun Baştürk (percussion) and Burak Tamer (electronics).
Wikipedia describes the band as avant-rock, experimental rock, psychedelic rock, and I concur completely. Get their new album “Biz Burada Yok İken” (released by ADA Müzik), check out their back catalogue (particularly “Avaz” on Double Moon Records, which is a psychedelic masterpiece and includes a bonus track -- an extended freak out on a cover of Grup Bunalım’s late ‘60s “Taş Var Köpek Yok,” featuring Sonic Youth producer Wharton Tiers on bass, which would fit in nicely on the new album); then go to hear the band in concert. I have seen them play live many times over the past 16 years and they never give a bad performance. But you can check them out for yourself at Salon İKSV, Şişhane, İstanbul this Saturday, April 21, at 10:30 p.m.