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By Orhan KahyaoğluRead In 9 minutes – 39 views – 20/09/2021

Did Sameness In Pop Music Produce Rock Bards – Bard Singers?

If we were to define the modern ‘aşık’ as a “city bard”, thirty years that started with 1990 gained a great momentum, despite never fully becoming a tradition. We were unable to attribute the terms ‘Bard Singer-Rock Bard’ to most singers-song writers in the previous articles while the past thirty years witnessed many names who could be clearly identified with such characteristics. The uniqueness of the songs, the capability of the writers and performers in performing and interpretation and the delicate nuances of the stories they create with their linguistic-literary properties distinguish them greatly from their predecessors. Keeping also in mind the differences in the music genres created in this time, it becomes evident that an interesting range was emerging. It is important the make note of a particular subject again; the number of singers who write and sing their own songs increases to a great degree with the coming of 1990 during the process in which the previous popular music genres become ‘pop’ music. However, it is important to emphasize that not every song and its singer can be categorized as Bard Singer/Rock bard.

There are many reasons as to why pop music and culture took a giant leap. One of the most important reasons is the advancements in the Turkish music sector and recording technologies caused by the acceleration produced by new liberalism. Doors were opening to young musicians who were struggling to write, sing and interpret songs limited by the boundaries of their houses or other situations. Another reason was that infrastructures of the music industry were forming in the 1990s, more so when compared to the previous two decades, as relating to a new pop culture and life rhythm.

There are many reasons as to why pop music and culture took a giant leap. One of the most important reasons is the advancements in the Turkish music sector and recording technologies caused by the acceleration produced by new liberalism. Doors were opening to young musicians who were struggling to write, sing and interpret songs limited by the boundaries of their houses or other situations. Another reason was that infrastructures of the music industry were forming in the 1990s, more so when compared to the previous two decades, as relating to a new pop culture and life rhythm.

Due to these and similar countless parameters, it could be said that the real consumerist culture was reshaped in this period within the city life. However, even this momentum is merely a fraction of the volume of serial production that could be observed in the USA and England, solidified at least half a century ago. Yes, pop’s standardization process had started in Turkey. As Adorno emphasized eighty years ago, “pseudo individuality” was now a building block of popular music. This process, which would continue for thirty more years, did not allow the music in question to be integrated to the global situation. In this sense, limited expansions took place not through pop but by ethnic and folkloric sources finding contemporary bodies while staying loyal to their original soul. It wouldn’t be exaggeration to claim Bard Singers-Rock Bards were the ones who were trying to find alternatives to this musical mechanization. Most were struggling to exist as this related to their resistance to the consumerist market. Love songs that didn’t correspond to sexist ideologies find body in the songs of these bards with all their antinomy. Their uniqueness is up for debate though. Following Ortaçgil, singers who combine irony with self-deprecating poetry that revolves around the conflicts between the outer world and the inner world in their songs can be seen. Such an attitude can even be observed in some pop and rock “stars”. The loneliness, alienation and radical protest that we often imply can sometimes even represent a political stance.

This is when modern aşık tradition blossoms in Turkey. Some bards were able to, even though rarely, to elevate their songs through their pre-existing literary accumulation. However, their numbers are low. Therefore, it becomes problematic to pick names who can be defined as Bard Singer – Rock Bard. Another important detail to emphasize is that the young talents of the last decade always include a couple of cover songs in their albums. Meaning, instead of a complete structure like Ortaçgil, it isn’t a rather positive attitude for them to touch upon the pop concept of the period. Home studies have now become important centres of production with the advancements in new technologies and the internet being the sole emergence point of music in the past ten-fifteen years, and singular songs easily replaced the dreams and expectations of releasing albums. This situation allowed the Bard Singer – Rock Bards to promote themselves a little bit easier.

I believe that Nazan Öncel is the first name who elevated her singer-songwriter identity to Bard Singer in the pop music and culture environment of the 1990s. The protest against the male expression that dominated the theme of love in songs, a door that was opened by Sezen Aksu, finds a new and stable attitude for the first time in Nazan Öncel’s songs. Even though her first album “Bir Hadise Var” carries traces of Aksu’s expression style, Öncel managed to create a unique storytelling style in her later albums. She transformed into a singer-songwriter model who always took an attitude against the easily-consumed pop “love” songs with her irony and humour that can be seen in her own dramatic stories. Sometimes she withdraws, the locks herself up; sometimes she takes on the image of a woman who questions the opposite sex with a cynical attitude. Her first works are dominated by a tendency towards techno-pop while she builds up her bard singer identity as she shapes her protest through a meaning shouldered both by the melody and the rhythm. Maqam music seems to be the echoes of the dramas she experienced.

For example, the same attitude applies to the albums and songs of Yıldız Tilbe, who emerged in the same years. However, Tilbe’s songs, dramatic stories and ironic discourse never was as strong as Öncel’s. The musical and poetic protest in her songs are subject to repetition due to the amount of attention paid to lyrics, stanzas, languages and how they are worked into music. Göksel is another musician who experienced a different kind of dilemma in the end of the 90s. Her tunes and melodies are rather strong. She expresses the individual struggles of a Woman in her songs with an emotional aspect. However, the main problem in this case is the weakness of the lyrics and the lack of creating a poetic expression. This means a unique protest attitude is hard to observe in her work. The last two singers are important possibly because they were in the front lines of the pop frontier. It is hard to define themselves as Bard Singers of pop.

Şebnem Ferah is another female singer who produced her own songs in this period with a touch of Sezen Aksu. She is different in a sense that she has always felt affinity to the Rock Bard. She differs from her peers with her playful-theatrical attitude while addressing the problems of being a woman and the disconnection with the opposite sex, especially in her album “Artık Kısa Cümleler Kuruyorum”. The evolution of her protest attitude with the identity of a woman can be seen in many of her songs. She did not get  stuck to the magic of the melody while paying diligence. The only problem is that she followed the pop-rock standards of the era easily in some situations.

It needs to be remembered that singers such as Gökhan Kırdar and Mirkelam were also in similar pursuits similar to the female singers we touched upon, even though they didn’t adopt the identity of the Bard Singer. However, it is clear that they didn’t sway too far from the common preferences of the era and the pop genre in general. Feridun Düzağaç started to gain popularity near the end of the 1990s and has been called a Bard Singer by some after the millennium due to his lyric-writing and interpretation. This has some truth to it. The real problem is the inclination of the singer-songwriter to produce songs excessively. He wrote so many songs until his 2013 album “Flu” that it is easy to come across songs that use cliché music and sounds as well as abiding by the limitations of the pop standards of the era. His interpretation style has also undergone dedifferentiation. However, he is one of the most successful singers who has achieved to express his unstable and depressive moods as well as the feelings of loneliness and desperation in his songs. We would be able to emphasize that he was one of the most important Bard Singers of the era if only he was more selective.

The most influential name in this momentum that was shaping and testing the bard singers in the 1990s is Bülent Ortaçgil, who influenced the new-generation song writers the most. The ironic attitude in his singing style and his attention to the poetry and word choice in his lyrics allow the emergence of Bard Singers who succeed in stepping outside the boundaries of commonplace standards of pop. This is similar to the pursuit of alternative pop-rock. For example, a talented youth called Hüseyin was soon forgotten despite the selection of songs in his album. The really striking two names are the members of the duo band called Düş Sokağı Sakinleri. The band, which consisted of Murat Çelik and Murat Yılmazyıldırım, featured two Bard Singers in their albums. They write songs that question love, daily life and relationships while also making fun of them with their melodically-powerful approach. Especially two of their albums titled “Düş Sokağı” (1993) and “Yaşadıkça” (1997) are emotionally dominated while also illustrating their unique imagery universe or their inclination for irony.

This band’s existence was short-lived. Murat Çelik released his solo “Su Düşleri” (1999) while also working on the band project, testing his bard singer identity. He released “Seyyah” (2002) following the band’s break-up, and proved how he developed as a songwriter. Çelik, who withdrew after this album, released a poetry book and a novel as a man of literature, which wasn’t surprising. There was a period when the duo reunited and tested their music with the album called “Üç” (1999) and a long series of concerts. However, even though Çelik released a solo album years later, showing that he never strayed far from the spirit of his first era. Murat Yılmazyıldırım, on the other hand, never gave up making music, constantly writing songs. He shaped and developed his talents as a songwriter.

We barely mentioned Rock Bards in this article as you probably noticed. As the final word of this article series, we will mention the names we find important among these musicians. We will also focus on the expansion facilitated by many female songwriters who could be identified as Bard Singers until 2020. We will explain how the tension of the city life shapes love songs differently. Because now life and standardised ways of living are being questioned with new images, metaphors, melodies and rhythms.