26 Turkish Beat, Psych & Garage Delights

 Ultrararities from Beyond the Sea of Marmara Liner notes by Gokhan Aya, mastering by Marcel Siegmund  Grey Past Records, PO Box 1074 4801 BB  Breda, the Netherlands, 2001




26 Turkish Beat, Psych & Garage Delights: rarities from beyond the Sea of Mamara (also called Turkish Delights) is a compilation of Turkish rock groups from the 1960s and 70s. The album highlights the early and classic 1966-77 rock periods in Turkey, including giants such as Mavi Işiklar, Erkin Koray, and Moğollar.  Informed by the music coming out of Britain and the United  States, the fourteen bands in this collection run the gamut from early beat sounds of garage bands to mid-seventies psychedelic explorations, simultaniously infusing the music with a distinctively Turkish sound. 

In the mid-1960s, the British invasion—led by generals John, Paul, George, and Ringo and supported by units such as the Who, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds—swept across the United States and Europe, forever altering the static-dusted sounds coming from the radio.  It wasn’t long before young people all over the world were plugging in amps, setting up drums, cracking cases of beer and crunching out imitations of their favorite rock 45s.  Most of these groups were, perhaps fortunately, lost to time, never amounting to anything more than a handful of misspent afternoons and adolescent laughs.  Even so, there are countless examples of recordings available to the scholarly, curious, or just plain demented.  The United States and Europe boast an impressive number of specialty stores, magazines, and conventions devoted to the quest for finding that one obscure gem, the recording that time forgot.  Over the last decade the seemingly bottomless well of obscure U.S. and British bands began to dry up, forcing the now junkie-like record collectors to turn elsewhere for their fix.

If it were mapped on a globe, the widely accepted history of rock and roll would appear to bounce back and forth between Britain and the U.S.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, varieties of rock spilled over into any region that had transistor radios and sullen youth with too much time on their hands.  Starting with the release of the now infamous Cambodian Rocks album over a decade ago, European and American collectors have plumbed the relatively uncharted depths of garage and psychedelic rock from around the world.  The curious can listen, among countless others, to rave-ups by Japanese, Greek, Indian, Korean, Italian, French, Peruvian, or Brazilian bands.  Turkish Delights is just one installment in a long line of 1960s re-releases from around the globe.

One of the greatest impediments to the total global domination of rock and roll was language.  The young and curious in non-anglophone regions were often put off by their inability to decipher the frequently slurred and confusing lyrics of rock and roll.  Such was the case in Turkey, which, although it had a small rock contingent in the 1950s, did not truly jump on the bandwagon until a decade later.  Early on, the interest in Euro-American popular music was fuelled in Turkey primarily by instrumental bands such as the Ventures or the Shadows.  Then the Beatles broke and, as happened in many popular music scenes around the world, everything changed.

No matter the era, most novice rock bands (and some more experienced groups) have participated in the time-honored tradition of copying hit songs, and the garage, beat and psych bands in Turkey were no exception.  Turkish Delights includes several covers of early rock songs, ranging from Selçuk Alagöz’s Turkish reworking of a tune by the Israeli group The Cedars (Track 18) to renditions of tunes by more well-known European acts such as the Atwoods or Shocking Blue (Istanbul Erkek Lisesi’s “In the Deepings,” Track 4, and Mavi Işiklar’s “Ask Çiçeği,” track 11), to songs by large top-forty and super-groups like the Yardbirds (İzmar Özel Karşiyaka Lisesi’s “Over Under Sideways Down,” track 8) or Paul Revere and the Raiders (Mavi Işiklar’s “The Great Airplane Strike of 1967.” 

The Great Airplane Strike of 1967 (mp3 file) by Mavi Işiklar

While the covers are intriguing, what is truly fascinating are the ways in which Turkish musicians in the 1960s fused rock with more traditional Turkish elements.


Turkish youth were in a unique position relative to many of their international peers, placed as they are at the geographical and social crossroads of Europe and Asia.  The social and cultural reforms of Ataturk made the young people of that time particularly sensitive to European aesthetics and ideology.  Turkish musicians in the 1960s, unlike their counterparts in other regions, were better able to fuse traditional Turkish music with rock and roll, leading to several recordings that are breathtaking in their beauty and audacity.  This fusion of Turkish and European musical styles was encouraged by several musical competitions, particularly the Altin Mikrofon contest.

The Altin Mikrofon (or Golden Microphone) contest was organized by Hürriyet, the largest national newspaper in Turkey at that time.  Founded in 1965, the goal of the contest was to encourage the development of contemporary Turkish music.  The finalists were awarded studio time, funds to press a single and a national tour.  While the Altin Mikrofon contest emphasized innovation, it also encouraged the maintenance of traditional Turkish culture.  To that end, it was required that every participant’s song be derived from a traditional tune or composed in Turkish.   The bulk of the recordings on Turkish Delights incorporate elements of Turkish music, borrowing either lyrics (such as Cem Karaca & Apaşlar’s setting of the Anatolian troubadour Karacaoğlan’s words to music, track 13) or folk melodies (such as Bariş Manço’s reworking of the Black Sea region tune “Derule,”).  The highlights of the album are not the selections in which the Turkish musicians perfectly ape their European contemporaries, but rather in those radiant moments, like Moğollar’s “Eastern Love”, where the currents—Turkish and Euro-American, folk and rock, past and present—fuse together so completely that the question of a distinction becomes irrelevant, it sounds so good.

  Derule (mp3 file) by Bariş Manço

Eastern Love  (mp3 file) by Moğollar


In today’s “World Music” context, issues of authenticity, ownership, tradition, innovation and appropriation have come aggressively to the fore.  An idle glance at any of this month's World Music magazines will find innumerable examples of musical fusions.  What is charming and noteworthy about this album is that the recordings were made in an age when globalization was not yet the name of the day, and when Euro-Americans were not yet fascinated by the popular music of the “other,” and when musicians did not create world fusion groups in hopes of making it to the European and American Festival circuits.  Instead, the music was made because, like other teenagers around the world, the kids didn’t just want to consume rock and roll—they wanted to be rock and roll.     


             Gabriel Skoog

University of Washington


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