UZELLI PSYCHEDELIC ANADOLU.

Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu.

By the early seventies, many Turkish people had moved to other parts of Europe in search of a better life. Some headed to Britain and France, settling in large cities like London and Paris. Others headed to Germany, and in particular Frankfurt. Soon, Frankfurt, like many other European cities, had a burgeoning Turkish community. While they found the better life that they were looking for, many of the Turkish community missed things that reminded them of home. That was until two brothers decided to open a shop in the early seventies.

This was the Uzelli brothers, who decided to open a shop that would sell reminders of home to the Turkish community. At first, they sold carpets, tea glasses and works of art that would proudly adorn the walls of the exiled Turks’ homes. This all proved popular within the Turkish community. So did the music that the Uzelli brothers sold from their shop.

When the Uzelli brothers first started selling music in their shop, it proved hugely popular. Soon, members of the Turkish community were regularly making their way to the Uzelli brothers shop, seeking the music that reminded them of home. This proved to be one of their most popular products. So much so, that the Uzelli brothers decided to dip their toes into the Turkish music industry.

Rather than just selling LPs and cassettes, the Uzelli brothers decided to found their own label in 1975. That was when Uzelli label was born. Little did the Uzelli brothers know that their nascent label would eventually become an international company. 

Eventually, the Uzelli label would release 1,300 albums. At first, Uzelli’s albums were released on vinyl. This was the case until the late-nineties. However, by the mid-eighties, vinyl was no longer as popular so Uzelli started to also release albums on cassette. This changed in the late-eighties, when here was a decline in popularity of cassettes. While this affected many Turkish record companies, Uzelli had realised that CDs were the future, and opened  a chain of record shops in Turkey. They were the latest addition to the Uzelli musical empire.

After a period of expansion, Uzelli owned warehouses and manufacturing plants in Turkey. The company had come a long way from the small shop in Frankfurt. What helped was that Uzelli weren’t resistant to change. That was the case when the digital revolution arrived. They were early adopters and nowadays, much of Uzelli’s back-catalogue is available digitally. Eventually, all of its Uzelli’s 1,300 album back-catalogue will be available digitally.  Despite that, Uzellia also continue to release albums and compilations on CD.

The latest Uzelli CD release is Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu, which features ten tracks released between 1975 and 1984. This period encompasses the heyday of vinyl and the beginning of cassette culture. Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu also documents a period when Turkish music was changing, in more ways than one.

The story began in Turkey in the late sixties, when musicians started to combine traditional folk music with rock music. This became known as Anatolian rock. One of its founding fathers was Barış Manço who helped popularise this hybrid of Turkish folk and rock. Soon, other artists were following in the footsteps of Barış Manço, and Anatolian rock’s popularity was growing.

Gradually, the music began to evolve and head in different directions, including in the direction of psychedelia. However, Turkish psychedelia was very different from its American and British counterparts. Especially with the inclusion of electrified version of traditional Turkish instruments were introduced. This included the electrified bağlama, which became a favourite of many Turkish musicians during the psychedelic era. So would synths, including the Moog,  which can be heard in many Anatolian psychedelic tracks, including some on Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu.

The period that Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu covers, proved a turbulent one of Turkey. During much of the seventies, there was conflict between right-wing and left-wing factions. Sometimes, this lead to violence, bloodshed and sadly, death. A total of 500,000 were arrested between the 1971 Coup by Memorandum and the coup d’état in 1980. It was lead by the Chief of the Turkish General Staff General Kenan Evren, and for the next three years, the Turkish Army ruled the country via the National Security Council. After that three year period, democracy was restored.

It was a traumatic time for the Turkish people. However, the political problems in Turkey provided inspiration for many Turkish musicians. This includes some of the ten tracks that feature on Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu.

The ten tracks on Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu feature  songs from familiar faces and new names. They rub shoulders on Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu. There’s contributions from Zor Beyler, Erkin Koray, Kerem Güney, Aşık Emrah and Elvan Sevil. That is not forgetting Akbaba İkilisi, Ünol Büyükgönenç, Neşe Alkan and Ali Ayhan. These artists play their part in a compilation that’s a perfect introduction to Turkish psychedelia… Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu.

Opening Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu is Intro the first of two tracks from Zor Beyler. They’re regarded as something of a mystery band. However, they released at least one album, Gozumdeki Yaslar in 1985. It doesn’t feature, the funky, driving, psych of Intro. Although less than two minutes long, this is something of a hidden gem that’s a reminder of Turkish music in the mid-eighties. 

Zor Beyler’s second contribtion is Gözündeki Yaslarina, a track their 1985 album Gozumdeki Yaslar. Nowadays, it’s a real rarity, with copies changing hands for upwards of £100. Given the quality of  Gözündeki Yaslarina, that comes as no surprise. It’s a genre-melting track where a myriad of musical influences and instruments are combined by Zor Beyler. This includes Anatolian folk, Arabian music, pop and psych. To this, they add futuristic, sci-fi synths, a myriad of subtle percussion and an electric bağlama. The result is a lysergic sounding, genre-melting song that’s a tantalising taste of Zor Beyler’s one and only album Gozumdeki Yaslar.

Erkin Koray is without doubt, one of the greatest Turkish guitarists. His career began in 1973, when he released his eponymous debut album. By the time of the 1980 coup, Erkin Koray was regarded as Turkey’s finest progressive rock guitarists. After the coup, Erkin Koray lived in exile in Germany, where he recorded his 1981 album Silinmeyen Hatıralar. It was one of Erkin Koray’s most psychedelic albums, and featured Öksürük (Cough). It’s a powerful poem full of social comment and funky guitar licks that is punctuated by coughs as Erkin Koray complains and protests about the recent events in Turkey.

In 1979, Kerem Güney was one of the leading lights of the Turkis music scene. He was a songwriter, arranger and owned his own record company. However, in 1970, Kerem Güney and Günesin Sofrasi decided to release an album together, Yetmez Mi Gönül. It’s an extremely rare album, with copies changing hands for in excess of £130. The songs on Yetmez Mi Gönül were based on the poems of revolutionary poet Sabahattin Ali. This included Sicak Bir Sevda (Isn’t Enough Heart), a powerful and lysergic fusion of psychedelic rock and progressive folk. 

Very little is known about Aşık Emrah who contributes Bu Ellerden Göçüp to Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu. That is a great shame, considering the quality of the song. Similarly, nothing is know about the musicians that accompanied Aşık Emrah on Bu Ellerden Göçüp. They’re certainly talented, and help Aşık Emrah seamlessly combine disparate musical genres and instruments.  The result is a mesmeric and haunting backdrop for Aşık Emrah’s impassioned vocal on this hidden gem.

Elvan Sevil is best known as a film star in Turkey, but occasionally found time to dabble in music. Given her busy career, she released just two singles and a cassette album. Another song Elvan Sevil recorded was Yar Senin Için, which featured on the Uzelli compilation Pop Folk which was released in 1975. It’s the perfect showcase for the crystalline vocal of Elvan Sevil.

Brothers Müslüm and Hamza Akbaba were born in Turkey, but were living in Frankfurt when they formed Akbaba İkilisi. Initially, they played at weddings, christenings and bar mitzvahs. This was akin to a musical apprenticeship, and allowed them to hone their music. By the time their recording career began, their music was a fusion of Arabian music, funk and folk.  That is the case on Seker Oglan, a track from their 1983 album Darıldım Darıldım, which is a tradition folk song given a psychedelic twist by kbaba İkilisi.

When Uzelli were compiling their Pop Folk compilation in 1975, one of the tracks the chose was Kaçma Güzel, which was the B-Side to Neşe Alkan’s single Dilo Dilo Yaylalar.  Both songs were arranged and orchestrated by Zafer Dilek. Why Kaçma Güzel was consigned to the B-Side seems strange, given the quality of this beautiful song for a truly talented vocalist.

Closing Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu is Bana Göre Kizlar Çok which Ali Ayhan recorded for his 1984 album Leylo. This was one of trio of albums Ali Ayhan recorded during the time he spent at Uzelli. Two of these albums were successful, which was a good strike rate for the one time Uzelli backing vocalist. However, he was always destined for greater things. Proof of that is Bana Göre Kizlar Wok. Ali Ayhan deliver a vocal masterclass while swathes of dancing strings, a wah-wah guitar and a Hendrix-esque bağlama solo accompany him. It seems that one of the finest moments on Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu has been kept until last.

Having said that, the quality of music on Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu is of the highest standard. It’s a case of all killer, no filler. This makes Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu the perfect introduction not just to the Uzelli back-catalogue, but to Anatolian psychedelia. 

Just like other genres of Turkish music, Anatolian psychedelia has been growing in popularity over the last few years. This is all part of the recent resurgence in interest in Turkish music. Still though, the majority of record and CD buyers are still unaware of Anatolian psychedelia, which sadly, is still one of music’s best kept secrets. Not any more, though.

Uzelli’s recent release of Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu is the perfect introduction to Anatolian psychedelia. It’s an oft-overlooked genre, which has a myriad of musical delights awaiting discovery. The music on Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu is just a tantalising taste of delights awaiting the newcomer to Anatolian psychedelia. A musical feast awaits them, and Uzeli Psychedelic Anadolu is the perfect amuse-bouche.

Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu.

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