Standout Sounds of 2022: Turkish Releases Of The Year

Rock : Psych : Alternative : Electronic Turkish Music Scene

As the year 2022 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the standout albums that have graced our ears. I tried to list the most enigmatic releases of the year in the Turkish psychedelic, alternative and underground music scene. There’s a higher demand, anticipation and interest for Anatolian music in the recent years.

I tried to list only a few albums that stand out for their innovative and unique approaches to these genres. But on the other hand, many new bands and good albums emerge, especially created in home studios with electronic and synth based structures.

Lalalar – Bi Cinnete Bakar

Anatolian Rock, Turkish Psych, Electronic

“Bi Cinnete Bakar” is Istanbul based trio Lalalar’s first long play composed of many singles they released in the recent years by the record label Les Disques Bongo Joe, hand in hand with Dunganga Records

With the contribution of three experienced musicians, Ali Güçlü Şimşek, Barlas Tan Özemek and Kaan Düzarat, the album is a thrilling mix of punk energy, dark electronics and Turkish instrumentation. Ali Güçlü Şimşek took place in bands like Bubituzak and Çilekeş, we know Barlas Tan Özemek from the jazz collective Konstrukt and Kaan Düzarat is a well known DJ and producer in the electronic music scene in Istanbul.

Lalalar’s music is influenced by 70s Anatolian rock, but it comes with loads of surprises as Lalalar are much more than just a traditional Turkish band. They successfully blend exquisite samples of timeless Turkish folk music into their electro-fueled songs enriched with guitars and moving lyrics. It’s also possible to sense the dark wave and dance sounds within their music from 80s music trends.


While listening to Lalalar’s music, it’s inevitable that you have the feeling of watching a Turkish cult film where Cuneyt Arkin is jumping around the castles and beating everyone, or a Turkish copycat version of Star Trek, that is infused into Anatolian funk, with loads of sampling and hazy sounds.

Listen to the album on Spotify

Gaye Su Akyol – Anadolu Ejderi

Anatolian Folk/Rock, Turkish Psych, Avant Garde

Amongst the many talented artists set to release exciting new music, one stands out as a true innovator – the successful singer, modern poet and illustrative artist, Gaye Su Akyol.

With her impressive voice, Gaye weaves together a tapestry of touching and intoxicating soundscapes. Her music is imbued with a sense of enigmatic rebellion, evoking a state of consciousness that is at once captivating and thought-provoking.

In addition to her singing prowess, Gaye is also a highly skilled lyricist and songwriter. Having her inspiration from the multi-faceted, chaotic, cosmopolitan Istanbul and the struggles that her country and city is facing in recent years, she exposes her feelings and criticism in an emotional but sarcastic way.

‘Anadolu Ejderi’ apparently proves the maturity of her musical style and the album cover and accompanying artwork are a feast for the senses, depicting traditional motifs in a fantastical manner that perfectly complement her sonic creations. The artistry is haunting, drawing the viewer into a realm of imagination and wonder into her own world. The dragons and fire on the cover symbolizes the awakening of hidden powers and a craving for freedom.

Gaye has truly solidified herself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of Turkish psychedelic music. With the release of her highly anticipated album, Anadolu Ejderi, Gaye is sure to continue captivating audiences with her appealing sound.

Gaye Su Akyol (illustration from the final album)

From the haunting vocals of Gaye to the intricate guitar work of Ali Güçlü Şimşek and Barlas Tan Özemek, this album is a feast.  Whether you are a fan of Anatolian psychedelic rock, Turkish Pop, arabesque and a bit of modern poetry, this album should be on top of your list which can surely satisfy your musical cravings.

My favorite songs on the album are; ‘Biz Ne Zaman Düşman Olduk’ (When Did We Become Enemies?), ‘Bu Izdırabın Panzehiri’ (The Antidote of This Suffering) and ‘Sen Benim Mağaramsın’ (You Are My Cave).

Gaye Su Akyol – Sen Benim Mağaramsın (Official Video)

A final side note about Gaye Su Akyol is that she was nominated for the Songlines Music Awards in 2019 and took the stage in London, where she was highly praised by BBC presenters.

Listen to the album on Spotify

Pentagram – Makina Elektrika

Heavy Metal, Hard Rock

It’s been thirty five years since Pentagram started making music in Turkey, so it’s fair to say that they have built the fundamentals of Turkish heavy metal starting in the late 80s and still producing and performing with adequate passion and anger since then. Pentagram has been playing with a full team of musicians since they released the Acoustic album in 2017 and has been in concerts all together playing their famous songs in the acoustic form. Probably, Pentagram is one of the rare heavy metal bands with three vocals; Ogün Sanlısoy, Murat İlkan and Gökalp Ergen, three guitarists; Demir Demirkan, Metin Türkcan and Hakan Utangaç (also on back vocals), Tarkan Gözübüyük on bass guitar and finally Cenk Ünnü on drums.

Later on, during the pandemic everything came to a halt and the energy accumulated within Pentagram turned into a musical burst and resulted in a quite heavy sounding album ‘Makina Elektrika’. We had the signals of the album with the opening track ‘Bu Düzen Yıkılsın’ (Let This Order Be Destroyed) towards the end of 2020 which was an expression of rebellion to the failing system. Following songs ‘Sur’ and ‘Pride’ maintain the familiar Pentagram sound with profound lyrics and strong melodies.

Pentagram – Sur

‘Revenant’  is like a flashback to the early days of the band, with a swift pace, keeping the momentum. ‘Dünya’ is an ode to one of the most talented rock guitarists of Turkey, Yavuz Çetin, who passed away at a very young age. There are also two significant guest musicians who contributed to the album, Erkan Ogur played the fretless guitar in ‘Ödenmez’ (Not Be Paid), and Cahit Berkay played his bowed long-neck lute in ‘Damn The War’. The final song is the cover of well known Metallica song ‘Sad But True’ which is played in the Pentagram way.


In my opinion, Pentagram has pushed the boundaries of rock music with the Makina Elektrika album. Featuring heavy riffs and thundering drums, “Maymunlar Gezegeni” (Planet of the Apes) is a cathartic and intense listening experience. With tracks like “Sur” and “Odenmez” this album is sure to leave a lasting impression on fans of Pentagram’s music.

Listen to the album on Spotify

KANA KANA – Ölüler Hariç

Darkwave, synthpop, post-punk

Kana Kana, a one-man music project brought to life by musician and producer Övünç Dan, released his dark sounding synth pop album “Ölüler Hariç” after releasing a couple of beautiful singles. ​ ​

The album was home-made in June 2015, and Kana Kana, who stated his style as “Turkish Spoken Light Gothic Music”, wrote, composed, played, sang, recorded and edited all the songs, and in addition mixed and mastered the album. The album is a haunting collection of dark and brooding tracks that showcase Dan’s talent as both a musician and a producer. Recorded entirely in his home studio, the album features a rich and complex soundscape of minor notes and somber melodies.

The main subject of the album, which describes the trio of life, death and time, is “Her Gün Bir Doz”, adapted from the short film “La Città Dei Morti” shot by Italian director and photographer Pierluigi De Rubertis at the “Cimitero Monumentale Di Milano” cemetery in Milan.

Kana Kana – Her Gün Bir Doz [Official Music Video]

The poem in Eve Veda, the closing song of the album, was written in memory of Çağlan Tekil and was sung in Italian by Pierluigi De Rubertis.

Kana Kana – Övünç Dan

The track, ‘Düğüm’ sets the mood for the rest of the album with its pessimistic mood and eerie vocals. Dan’s emotional and introspective lyrics give the track a haunting quality that is both captivating and unsettling.

Kana Kana – Düğüm [Official Music Video]

Other standout tracks include ‘Berlin’de Kış’ (Winter in Berlin), a moody song that showcases Dan’s creativity of powerful melodies, and ‘Karakura’ a driving synth pop track that takes us back to 80s synth sounds, similar to the dark side of Depeche Mode or Sisters of Mercy.

Overall, ‘Ölüler Hariç’ is a haunting and evocative album that showcases Övünç Dan’s talent as a musician and producer. Fans of dark and moody synth pop will definitely want to give this album a listen.

Listen to the album on Spotify

Hedonutopia – 7

Synth, Indie, Alternative

7 is the brand new album from Hedonutopia. I had the chance to listen to the album while I was writing these words and decided to add the album into this article based on the performance of the band on their previous albums. In fact I can admit, the band preserve their unique sound on the new album as well.

Hedonutopia, taking their name from the ‘Utopia & Desire’, released their final album ‘7’ recently. Since 2016, the Hedonutopia duo Kerem Feyzi (on keyboards & synths) and Fırat Külçek (on guitars & vocals) have been keeping their promise of ‘7 albums in 7 years’ and released ‘Ucube Dizayn’ in 2016, ‘Yarı Cennet’ in 2017, ‘Yakamoz Sandalı’ in 2018, ‘Arzu Ütopyası’ in 2019, ‘Beyaz Durak’ in 2020 under the DokuzSekiz Music label, followed by ‘Nergist’ in 2021.

Think of yourself sitting alone on a deserted beach, a gentle breeze blowing in your face on a hazy day, eyes lost in the distance, looking at the horizon and Hedonutopia playing on your headphones. The sound and music of Hedonutopia can be described as peaceful, calm and inspiring.

The duo is using their home studio to produce and record their music. They place great emphasis on live performances which are enriched with visual shows as well. The calming melodies are in the frontline compared to the lyrics, while Fırat’s reverberated soothing vocals are perfectly coherent with the music, shaping the ambience and filling the music with its core character.

Music of Hedonutopia captivates with different emotions in each song, fascinates you by their metaphors. You’ll be immersed in the flow of music, melodies and characteristic rhythms with excitement and joy.

Listen to the album on Spotify

Ah! Kosmos – Bluets

Ambient, Electronic, Piano

Başak Günak, also internationally known as AH! KOSMOS, is a sound artist and composer of electronic music based in Berlin. She released two solo LPs Bastards & Beautiful Swamp from Compost Records & Denovali Records and numerous EPs with artists such as Melike Şahin, Mabel Matiz and Elif Çağlar. Her unique sound blends elements of ambient, electronic, and experimental music, creating a timeless and otherworldly quality to her works.

Günak pursues her sound experimentations as a sound artist, composing soundscapes for theater, contemporary dance, film and visual art projects and performances. Her works have been featured worldwide in art institutions, such as The Barbican, Gropius Bau, Berlin State Museums, Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Kunstmuseum Basel, Prague Quadrennial and Istanbul International Theatre Festival.

She has performed at numerous venues and festivals including The Barbican (UK), Sónar Barcelona, Berlin CTM Festival, Venice Electro Festival, Tokyo Electronic Music of Arts Festival, ZKM Karlsruhe and ARENA Theater Festival Nuremberg, performing solo or accompanied by other musicians. She most notably performed alongside Jonny Greenwood’s Junun project, Sigur Rós, DARKSIDE, Kiasmos, James Holden.

On the ‘Bluets’ album, Ah! Kosmos is accompanied by a talented pianist Büşra Kayıkçı who studied interior architecture and environmental design. After four years of working on design projects, she discovered another form of design made by musical elements while studying works of composers like John Cage and Nils Frahm, resulting in works on minimalist and neoclassical compositions for piano.

She describes her musical adventure in her own words ;

“I believe one travels from space to space, time to time while listening to a song. You can experience a place with your mind and soul when a melody deeply touches you. So it is not only the architects or engineers who can do construction. Composers are designing an atmosphere with their musical instruments, carrying you to cities, gardens, landscapes.

Başak Günak & Büşra Kayıkçı

Bluets album has 10 tracks, with arrangements of “urban sounds” and “poetic piano” scores established with continuous repetitions and passages. Sound collages created from serene and industrial sounds, along with soundscapes of melting glaciers and waterfalls, have been transformed into layers within the music. In addition, analog sounds such as the crackling of records are blended with the modern tunes which creates an interesting contrast.

Listen to the album on Spotify

Islandman – Bahar EP

Ambient, Electronic, Electro-Acoustic

Turkish trio Islandman released ‘Bahar (Spring)’ EP in May ’22 right after the pandemic restrictions were lifted, symbolizing a fresh start of a new era.

The EP consists of four tracks including ‘Sattava’, ‘Sad Walk’ and ‘Self-Hypnosis’. These three tracks were released on the band’s critically acclaimed third album ‘Godless Ceremony’s physical formats. ‘Bahar’ is the new entry – a beautiful downtempo track with the signature islandman hook.

The overall tone and feeling of the EP is quite warm, with cheerful but calming soundscapes. Islandman managed to create a sound that is unique to themselves by adding various gadgets and instruments on top of their electronic beats. The trio had a sold-out concert at London’s Jazz Cafe in May this year and later performed within the Air Anatolia project in November at the Royal Festival Hall as a part of the EFG Jazz Festival alongside other musicians.

Islandman at London Jazz Cafe – May 2022 (Photo : Barış Mumcu)

Islandman’s latest release is ‘Yorgunum Kaptan’, which is a rework of Cem Karaca’s composition recorded in ’84 and the lyrics were taken from the poem written by Nazım Hikmet in 1957. They will be playing at Earth Hackney, London on the 27th of January 2023. Okay Temiz and Muhlis Berberoglu will be on the stage with the trio as well.

Listen to the EP on Spotify

Kalaha & Hilal Kaya With Aarhus Jazz Ochestra – Tutku

Electro, Jazz, Anatolian Rock

Kalaha is a Danish band consisting of the drummer Emil de Waal, electronic musician Rumpistol, guitarist Niclas Knudsen (Ibrahim Electric) and bass player Anders Stig Møller, Kalaha’s music stands somewhere between jazz, psychedelic rock and funky electronic music, with the inclusion of Turkish singer Hilal Kaya on vocals, they’ve also stepped into the world of Anatolian Folk & Funk and attracted the attention of Turkish audience. Their albums not only gather constant acclaim among vinyl collectors, but have also brought a Danish Music Award and a Carl Prize as well as several other nominations.

In 2021 Kalaha released ‘Mystafa’ which included genres such as Brazilian samba, Turkish 70s music, African highlife and desert blues, as well as Nordic vibes on songs with guest features from local psych-rock king Uffe Lorenzen and folk singer Hjalte Ross.

The band’s 5th album “Tutku”, released in August 2022, is a collaboration with Aarhus Jazz Orchestra which pays tribute to Anatolian Rock. Aarhus Jazz Orchestra, a big band committed to continually embracing innovative perspectives on contemporary jazz have cooperated in perfect harmony with Kalaha. ‘Tutku’ is a fine example of Anatolian Rock mainly performed by non-Turkish musicians, but the main touch by vocalist Hilal Kaya brings a pleasant psych-folk aesthetic to the album.

Danish band Kalaha & Hilal Kaya

Kalaha received international recognition from DJ & BBC programmer Gilles Peterson as well. Their immersive sound with melodic synth solos and explosive dub-tinged sound effects transform Tutku into a large ensemble record.

Listen to the album on Spotify

Oceanvs Orientalis & İlhan Erşahin – Revenge of the Wankers (Single)

Ambient, Electronic, Jazz

Oceanvs Orientalis mixes traditional eastern instruments and chants with House and Techno, creating wonders on the dancefloor. By melting oriental history into modern beats, he creates a whole new sonic universe.

İlhan Erşahin & Oceanvs Orientalis

The collaboration between Oceanvs Orientalis and Ilhan Ersahin started with the Cappadox Festival, in Cappadocia has become a recurring one throughout the years. Erşahin, a celebrated jazz musician, and Şafak (Oceanvs Orientalis), an up-and-coming figure in the global electronic underground scene, have united to create memorable pieces of music. In 2021, their single “Pire” paid homage to the neglected musicians who suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this earlier collaboration is just as poignant.

Commencing with steamy saxophone melodies, a leisurely deep house rhythm gradually emerges and perpetually transforms over nine enchanting minutes. The percussive elements scattered throughout are organic and delicate, the mystic saxophone lines entice and imply mischievousness during the late night hours, while intoxicating vocal coos further enhance the sensual atmosphere.

Listen to the track on Spotify

The incubation period during the pandemic was quite a productive one for many producers and musicians. Hopefully a good deal of albums and performance recordings will be coming out next year. Have a wonderful Christmas, New Year and a happy 2023.

You can listen to my public playlists by following me on Spotify and stay informed with music news by following on Twitter.

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