For many musicians who have been part of a band, embarking upon a solo career isn’t easy. It can be a risky business. Especially if the band is successful, and has released groundbreaking albums. This makes embarking upon a solo career a big decision.

Often, band members have invested much of their career in getting the group to where it is. For some musicians, it’s all they’ve know. They grew up in the band, and have enjoyed various adventures and shared experiences. However, for some musicians, the band has become a musical comfort blanket. Other musicians simply outgrow a band; while some decide the time is right to embark upon a solo career. That was the case with Elektro Hafiz.

He’s been a musician for twenty years, and for the majority of that time, was a member of Fairuz Derin Bulut. They were founded in Istanbul in 1996, the city where Elektro Hafiz was born and grew up. It was also where Elektro Hafiz met the other members of psychedelic rockers Fairuz Derin Bulut.

Originally, their music was a fusion of arabesque, funk,  oriental, pavilion music, psychedelia and rock. These genres were the foundations for Fairuz Derin Bulut’s music. It evolved over the next nineteen years, when they released a trio of innovative albums between 2003 and 2015. 

Fairuz Derin Bulut released their debut album Kundante. It was hailed a landmark album from one of the second generation of Anatolian psychedelic rock bands. However, it was another five years before Fairuz Derin Bulut released their sophomore album in 2008. Arabesk was a collaboration with Ali Tekintüre. Just like their debut album Arabesk was regarded as an influential and innovative album. So was Fairuz Derin Bulut’s third album Patlantis, which was released in 2015. Patlantis proved to the final Fairuz Derin Bulut album featuring Elektro Hafiz.

After nineteen years with Fairuz Derin Bulut, Elektro Hafiz decided the time was right to embark upon a solo career. So he moved to Cologne, in Germany where Elektro Hafiz began the next chapter in his career. This began with the recording of debut album Elektro Hafiz, which will be released by Pharaway Sounds on 10th June 2016. It’s a genre-melting album which is full of contrasting sounds.

For his eponymous debut album, Elektro Hafiz wrote seven of the nine new tracks. Elektro wrote the music to John Dere whole Stephen Ouma wrote the lyrics. Ozan Ata Canani wrote Deutsche Freunde, and like Steven Ouma joined Elektro in the studio in Cologne.

When the recording of Elektro Hafiz began, Elektro had assembled a band that featured musicians from Austria, France, Germany, Kenya, Switzerland and Turkey. This included a rhythm section of drummer Christoph Guschlbauer and bassist Famer Ozsevim. They were augmented by vocalists Dennis Matto and Steven Ouma; Ismail Darıcı who added talking drum and Ozan Ata Canani who played electric saz. Playing most of the instruments, was Elektro Hafiz who also acted as recordist.

Elektro Hafiz seamlessly switched between bass, guitar and synths, to programming drums, adding vocals and playing Eastern instruments, including the electric saz, darbuka and finger cymbals. During the recording sessions, Elektro used his guitar primarily as a rock instrument, but used the Anatolian scale. This was part of Elektro’s determination to innovate and fuse contrasting instruments and sounds on his debut album. Once the album was recorded, Yasin Bayrak mixed and mastered Elektro Hafiz.

The finished album, Elektro Hafiz was album full of contrasts and surprises. Anatolian psychedelia was a starting point for Elektro Hafiza. From there, he and his band experimented and innovated, adding Eastern sounds and elements of electronica, funk, rock and even dub. This resulted in an innovative,  genre-melting album of new, progressive music, Elektro Hafiz.

Hayat Bu Malum opens Elektro Hafiz. Straight away East meets West, as musical influences unite. A searing, glistening guitar is panned quickly, and assails the listener. That’s sure to grab their attention, before Eastern percussion is added. Anchoring the arrangement, is the rhythm section, while the vocal is understated, whispery and dramatic. Soon, washes of synths join the arrangement, and later they buzz and beep. Along with the crystalline guitar, and rhythm section they play leading roles in a genre-melting arrangement that’s mesmeric, moderne and full of clever hooks.

Contrasts abound on Günahkar Helvasi. A buzzy synth is joined by a talking drum before a chiming, chirping, funky guitar enters. It’s soon joined by the rhythm section and crystalline guitar. It adds an Eastern influence as the arrangement is powered along by the rhythm section. Meanwhile, synths punctuate the arrangement before a tender, heartfelt vocal enters. When it drops out, the searing, bristling, guitar takes centre-stage, and proves a fitting replacement. From there, the vocal and guitar, swap places, each enjoying their moment in the sun. Both play their part in a joyous, Eastern sounding psychedelic anthem.

There’s an almost futuristic sound to Belki Son Kez as the arrangement unfolds. This comes courtesy of clunky, robotic synths. They’re soon joined by the rhythm section, who spring into action and propel the arrangement along. Washes and vortexes of synths whoosh and whirl, before a searing guitar solo cuts through the arrangement. It’s replaced by the clunky, robotic and sci-fi synths. Then it’s all change. A brief burst of vocal gives way to DJ Steel. He adds a myriad of urgent scratches and dubby sounds, before the band kick loose one more time. They continue to fuse rock, psychedelia and electronica to create an innovative musical marriage of genres and sounds.

As Dubb-i Akbar begins, synths whirl. They’re reminiscent of a helicopter taking off. That’s until the melancholy sound of a guitar enters. Meanwhile, synths sound as if they’re replicating the gunfire of an eighties computer game. Soon, the melancholy sound grows and builds, as Eastern percussion, including a darbuka, which plays slowly, adding a moody backdrop. Elektro plays an electric saz. It adds to the cinematic sound. So do a myriad sounds that encircle the arrangement. Later, a squelchy acidic synth adds a contrast to the authentic Eastern sounds. The bass synth drifts in and out, while distant vocals drums and percussion combine. Mostly, though, the track is cinematic, evocative  and atmospheric. Then Elektro throws as a curveball, and the squelchy synth takes centre-stage as the track meanders to a close, adding complete contrast to the earlier cinematic, evocative  and atmospheric sound.

John Dere sees Elektro Hafiz change direction again. Straight away, dub and electronica seem to have influenced him. Synths join the rhythm section, who anchor the arrangement. The bass sits atop the beats, while the synths further fatten the sound. Eletro’s brisling guitar rings out, as the arrangement meanders along. All the time, effects are add to the dubby sound. Then Steven Ouma adds a reggae vocal. Still, there’s a dubby sound. Later, a brief scratch ushers in a rocky guitar as the drama builds at 2.40. Suddenly, the reggae has given way to rock, as a blistering guitar cuts through the arrangement. Elektro adds a guitar masterclass as scratches augment his playing. The result is four magical minutes where dub, electronica, reggae, rock and hip hop create a captivating, genre-melting track.

Synths are panned left to right, and buzz, bubble and squeak on Destur III. They add a myriad of sci-fi sounds, before an electric saz rings out, and joins a darbuka. From there, the arrangement meanders along. That’s until DJ Steel adds scratches, and the arrangement flows melodically along. By then, contrasts are everywhere. The synths and darbuka prove to be polar opposites. Despite this, both play an important role in the sound and success of the track. So do the rhythm section, guitar and weeping gypsy violins. They’re played against a backdrop of static, while a darbuka plays. Later, Elektro adds a brief moody vocal, as the rhythm section add a degree of drama. After that,  the arrangement meanders melodically along and Elektro Hafiz’s musical adventure continues.

Alas, Nossa Bowa Gitara closes Elektro Hafiz’s eponymous debut album. Birds cheep and chirp; water flows; and stabs of keyboards are joined by the rhythm section and percussion. Soon, a guitar with reverb added plays, and provides the finishing touch as the arrangement as it breezes along. Stabs and washes of keyboards punctuate the arrangement, as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. However, it’s the guitar that plays the starring role in  Nossa Bowa Gitara’s summery sound. It’s a beautiful way to close Elektro Hafiz.

After nineteen years with Fairuz Derin Bulut, Elektro Hafiz decided it was time to leave the band he had cofounded. This was 2015, and Elektro Hafiz decided that he wanted to embark upon a solo career. For even members of the most successful groups, a successful solo career doesn’t always follow. However, Elektro Hafiz should enjoy a successful solo career. He’s a talented and innovative musician, whose eponymous debut album oozes quality.

Elektro Hafiz will be released by Pharaway Sounds on 10th June 2016. Two versions of the album will be available. There’s the Dub version, which features dub and remixes of the nine songs; and then there’s the original version of Elektro Hafiz which I’ve reviewed. It finds Elektro Hafiz as he experiments and innovates. 

As a starting point, Elektro Hafiz used Anatolian psychedelia. To this he and his band added elements of dub, funk, jazz, reggae and rock. The result was an album new, progressive, genre-melting music full of subtleties, surprises and contrasts.

These contrasts come from the instruments used on Elektro Hafiz. He experimented with a myriad of traditional Eastern and Western instruments and scales. When Elektro Hafiz was laying down the rock guitar parts, he stayed true to his Anatolian roots, and used the Anatolian scale. This transformed the rock guitar. So did the other instruments Elektro Hafiz deployed, 

Alongside his bass, drumbeats and synths, he added traditional Eastern instruments like an electric saz, darbuka and finger cymbals. Each of these instruments added contrasting sounds, and became part of the bigger musical picture that became Elektro Hafiz. It’s the equivalent to a magical mystery tour.

During this magical mystery tour, Elektro Hafiz combines musical instruments, genres and influences. The result are nine tracks that are variously anthemic, beautiful, joyous and melodic. Other times, the music is dramatic, mesmeric and moody. Occasionally, Elektro Hafiz is tinged with humour. Sometimes, the music on Elektro Hafiz is cinematic and paints pictures. Always, though, the music on Elektro Hafiz is captivating, inventive and innovative, as Elektro Hafiz continues to pushed musical boundaries, and experiment. 

That’s what Elektro Hafiz spent nineteen years doing with Fairuz Derin Bulut. Now that he’s embarked upon a solo career, Elektro Hafiz continues to experiment, innovate and create genre-melting music on his eponymous debut album. It features Anatolian psychedelic pioneer Elektro Hafiz, as he embarks upon what’s a new and exciting musical adventure.




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