Cultural Fusion Strikes Back: The Rise Of Anatolian Rock

Today it is widely known that the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, Atatürk, had deeply favoured a fusion between Turkish traditional music and Western music. He believed that this fusion would both improve Turkish musicianship and introduce folk melodies to the world. The effort to incorporate the Turkish folk into the Western classical music was manifested when five budding Turkish composers (Ahmed Adnan Saygun, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Cemal Reşit Rey, Hasan Ferit Alnar, Necil Kazım Akses) also known as “the Turkish Five” were sent to Europe to study music during the first decade of the new Republic. They have composed and arranged dozens of classical pieces that successfully combined the folk and the Western.

The development of this fusion kept up to date with Western musical trends: jazz, twist, and eventually, rock’n roll… Tülay German’s 1964 “Burçak Tarlası” was a jazzy rendition of a Turkish folk song, while Adnan Varveren’s 1965 “Abudik Gubudik Twist” mimicked the twist trend that had taken off all over the world. The fusion kept updating itself in accordance with the recent waves in Western music. Eventually, the rock’n roll era would begin: All over the world, as well as in Turkey.

Between late 60s and the 70s, individual artists such as Cem Karaca, Barış Manço, Erkin Koray; and bands such as Moğollar, Üç Hürel, Ersen ve Dadaşlar, have actively produced psychedelic rock music with a strong Turkish feel. They both played anonymous folk songs with guitars, bass, and drums, like Cem Karaca’s powerful “Deniz Üstü Köpürür,” and composed original tunes, like Barış Manço’s legendary “Dönence.” The genre began to be known as “Anatolian rock” in 1970, named after the land that modern Turkey was found on. Most Anatolian rock musicians tended to be vocal about political matters in their music, and left-wing idols like Selda Bağcan and Edip Akbayram brought revolutionary anthems into life.

Unfortunately, due to the political nature of the music, many Anatolian rock musicians faced oppression, and even imprisonment after the 1980 coup d’etat in Turkey, and the genre majorly lost its popularity during the 80s. However, while the genre is not widely produced in Turkey today, it does not mean that the Anatolian rock stars are forgotten. Anatolian rock idols are still a part of the Turkish popular culture, and their once-hits are still a catch for any Turkish audience from any age group.

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