Popular Music, Rock, and Being a Bard Singer

It is important to emphasize once again that the modern ‘aşık’ bard tradition in Turkey found footing in the 1970s. It is evident that songs of this genre came to being through coincidental experimentation. Writing the lyrics and music of these songs is not enough to be a Bard Singer or a Rock Bard. The singer-songwriter must have a noticeably clear reactive attitude and a relative affinity to protest. This does not necessarily mean a political stance. There are elements of poetry, literary and cultural accumulation and an unhappy, worried attitude towards daily life in the lyrics. So this is a process of accumulation. For example, it is an accurate observation that Bob Dylan used myths even from the Holy Bible in his work in addition to his affinity to modern poetry. For example, Erol Büyükburç, who has written a handful of lyrics and music in the 1960s Turkey, cannot be considered as a rock’n roll bard.

Arrangement music has a “copy-paste” characteristic in the 1960s, causing a group of youth to rebel against this situation and turn towards the folk music tradition. As we mentioned in the previous article, musicians start to re-arrange folk songs in the formats of pop, folk and rock. The new and nationalist political tendencies of the era play a big role in this. This situation changes in the 1970s and pop music sees an increase in composers and lyric writers while the number of singers, who write lyrics and music in addition to interpreting folk songs in the styles of Anatolian-pop and rock, also increase. However, this tendency is extremely limited. The same situation applies to the expansion of pop music.

The shift of attention from 45 rpm-disks to 33, meaning albums, undoubtedly played a vital role in the worldwide development of the modern ‘aşık’ tradition in the 60s. This is because the attitudes of these bards and their faculty in apprehending songs are more readily appreciated in the format of albums instead of 45 rpm-disks which play with long intervals. Bard Singers and Rock Bards can emphasize their attitude of protest while it becomes possible to connect narratives in the songs and regard the critique of their internal and external worlds, embellished with irony, metaphors and humor, as a “single song”.

Feridun Hürel

It is important to discuss whether a real Rock Bard exists in Turkey in the process that starts with the Anatolian Rock movement during the limited exposure of the 1970s. Üç Hürel’s guitarist and singer Feridun Hürel is the only musician who possibly closely resembles a rock bard in character in this period’s folk rock and band music. At least, he is a real singer-songwriter. However, his closeness to the “modern aşık” identity is questionable. His songs are dominated by the cliché themes of love, loneliness, and homesickness. They don’t touch upon the feeling of internal reckoning or primitive feelings alongside the lyrical and musical expansion condensed with allegories. He has many songs that approach narration too much while agreeing with the pop music discourse of his era. The musician himself and the band are interesting with their unique rock sound and melodic colorfulness. However, despite all the above-mentioned points, Hürel’s role in the formation of the rock bard type cannot be denied. 

Üç Hürel


Three other musicians who came close to the rock bard identity in limited degrees in the same period should be mentioned: Cem Karaca, Barış Manço and Erkin Koray. We are talking about an “affinity” here. This is because they emphasized their identities as band soloists and musicians more so than as bards. The songs they wrote and sang were relatively less in number. They interpreted folk songs within the Anatolian-rock aura of the era and chose to write music on other people’s poems or lyrics. They came closer to being rock bards in the 1980s. This does not mean that we are ignoring the unique aspects of the music these singers developed in the 70s. Even though they adapted vastly different rock attitudes compared to one another, they had yet to evolve in their discourses as they related to each other.

Cem Karaca

Cem Karaca could be considered an exception. His music in this period, especially during his transition to join Moğollar band, had a sharp leftist-socialist attitude. More importantly, after founding Dervişan following his short experience with Moğollar, the musician picked up the pace in emphasizing his identity as a singer-songwriter. For example, he was giving hints about his talent as a bard when he wrote and sang rock songs like “İhtarname”, “Parka” and “Beni Siz Delirttiniz”. In addition to his powerful voice, the radical socialist attitude in his poetic lyrics and his theatrical stage shows allowed his music to grow in a unique direction. However, it was in the albums after 1987 that his identity as a rock bard solidified as he moved away from band music and turned to his own songs. Despite this, the fact that he always abided by the Anatolian-rock format until his death carried risks in his song production and identity as a bard.

Moğollar
Barış Manço

Barış Manço was the exact opposite of Karaca and chose the path of rightist-nationalist ideologies. However, he also stood close to the motif of a rocker “folk bard” that transcended the identity of being a Rock Bard. He had tendencies towards maqam music as much as folk music. However, many of his songs emphasized his own identity, philanthropy, especially his ironic and as his identity of a bard evolved just like Karaca, meaning a combination of Rock Bard and folk bard in sound. Nevertheless, Manço drew a portrait of himself as a musician who felt closer to the consumerist spirit of entertainment culture in his rock music and ballads rather than a singer like Karaca who had many issues that he wanted to address. At least, he didn’t utilize a cliché language or discourse. His songs found body in his different but just as theatrical expression supported the lyrics and music he wrote. It would be more correct to call him a modern “folk bard” since his songs mostly didn’t have a coherence of ideas. But was he an ‘aşık’? I cannot reach a conclusion.

Erkin Koray

The main issue with both these musicians was that even though they had issues to sing about but instead of digging these up in depth, they distanced themselves from their personal paradoxes and conflicts for different reasons, approaching the bard identity on occasion as diverging from it in different situations as well. The same situation applies to Erkin Koray, who wrote beautiful lyrics and songs by himself after the 1970s. Koray produced music mostly as a singer-songwriter instead of a perpetual rock bard even though he had vast musical knowledge and was able to integrate his interesting lyricism to his songs. 

Musicians, mostly guitarist-singers, released 45 and 33 rpm-disks with their bands centered around folk music instead of rock in the period. They attracted attention with their interpretations and music they have written for traditional folk songs or poetry-lyrics. Fikret Kızılok, Hümeyra, Selda are among those who immediately come to mind. Only Kızılok became a Bard Singer with his strong ironic-critical songs he wrote especially in the 1980s. The number of folk songs and singers increased exponentially in the 1980s. Maqam music became popular as well. That’s why the Rock Bard model, aside from some exceptions, would have to wait until the 1990s to find its true meaning. 

Fikret Kızılok wrote songs that made fun of the static and timid intelligentsia in the oppressing atmosphere of the post-coup city; these songs were very sincere while also questioning the individuals who had tendencies to follow the popularization of the era. He also wrote love songs embellished with a Mediterranean lyricism. This was a decisive era for his Bard Singer identity. But his songs and music didn’t follow this line for long and became different.

Fikret Kızılok

The winds of Anatolian pop started to die down in the 1980s. It was a tense period. There were still bands who made rock music in the background. However, Nejat Yavaşoğulları was the only bard to be mentioned in this period with his music and unique story. He seems to question the extent of possibility of writing Turkish rock songs with his band Bulutsuzluk Özlemi. Protest and opposition are emphasized in his songs. He draws scenes from the city with his amicable humor and tells love stories. On the other hand, he also writes political songs like “Acil Demokrasi”. His songs embody countless details of being a rock bard. He was one of the rare personalities who had something to say as a modern urban ‘aşık’.

Bulutsuzluk Özlemi

It must be emphasized that rock bards didn’t experience a steep incline in these twenty years despite these stirrings. However, the progress in pop music will show that the bard singer model was somewhat more evolved, even though not by much. We will discuss this in our next article.