Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984.

Label: Uzelli.

By the early seventies, many Turkish people decided to move to other parts of Europe in search of a better life. Some headed to England 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 exiled Turks found the better life that they had been 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 in 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 reminder 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 form 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. By the mid-eighties, vinyl was no longer as popular so Uzelli started to release albums on cassette. This changed in the late-eighties, when there was a decline in popularity of cassettes. While this affected many Turkish record companies,  Uzelli had realised 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 the Uzelli company wasn’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.  Uzellia have continued to release albums and compilations to this day.

Their latest Uzelli release is a new compilation Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984. It was curated by Murat Ertel, who is  the lead singer and saz player of psych band BaBa Zula and his wife, Esma Ertel. They’ve chosen thirteen tracks from the  Uzelli archives which features one of the most important instruments in Anatolian culture, the electric saz or bağlama.

Originally, the saz was an acoustic instrument and was one of the most significant  instruments used in traditional Turkish folk music. It’s been around since 1400BC, when it was first used in the Anatolia region. It was named the saz by the Seljuks around the ‘11th’ Century, and the bağlama in the ‘18th’ Century and became a core instrument in Turkish folk music.

Just like in Britain and America, as folk music evolved, the instruments that musicians used started to change. In Britain and America, the electric guitar was used by the first wave of folk rockers. A similar thing happened in Turkey when musicians started using the electric saz.

It was essentially an updated and electrified version of what was by then Turkey’s most-used traditional string instrument, the saz.  It plays an important part in Anatolian culture and previously, has been described as the “people’s instrument” and “the  mouthpiece to rebellion.”  Proof of this is the music on  Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984.

The compilation features an eclectic and exotic selection of tracks from the Uzelli archives. There’s something for on  Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984. This  included psychedelic rock, popular music from the period and updated covers of traditional Turkish folk songs. The music veers between trippy, lysergic, spacey, otherworldly and dreamy to catchy, and irresistible to ruminative and wistful. Many of the tracks are the equivalent to time travel and take the listener back to Turkey between 1976 and 1984. It’s a captivating, intriguing and intoxicating  collection of songs where the emphasis is on quality.

Choosing just a few of the highlight on a compilation as good as Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984 isn’t easy. This includes Akbaba İkilisi’s rocky ballad Darildim Darildim, the exotic and cinematic Anatolian rock of Kina Gecesi Ensemble’s Misket and Sari Zeki’s beautiful, thoughtful sounding Topal. 

While the emphasis is on the electric saz on the compilation,  Sultan Sümbül’s Mercanlar and Gülcan Opel’s Yaz Dostum both feature impassioned and powerful vocals. 

Sarı Zeki’s psych-folk jam Dom Dom Kursun is one of the standout tracks. So is Kina Gecesi Ensemble’s second contribution Ari Yildiz which features  a peerless blistering and fleet fingered electric saz solo. However, it would be remiss not to include Asik Emrah’s lysergic, rocky and truly memorable sounding 20 Asrin Bozuk Duzeni which closes Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984. It’s the perfect way to close this latest lovingly curated compilation from the Uzelli archives. 

Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984 features thirteen tracks released from a period that encompasses the heyday of vinyl and the beginning of cassette culture. Cassettes were something that Uzelli embraced during this period. For many Turkish music lovers was how they discovered and grew to love and appreciate the music that Uzelli released between 1976 and 1984.  

The music on Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984 still sounds as good in 2020, and has an timeless quality. Unlike a lot of music released during this period, the eclectic selection of music on Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984 doesn’t sound dated. It’s stood the test of time and Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984 is also a tantalising taste of the delights awaiting the newcomer to the Uzelli label. A musical feast awaits them, and Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984 is the perfect amuse bouche. 

Uzelli Elektro Saz 1976-1984.

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