Two Musicians One Colour: Blues, A Canticle for Music

“There is no such thing as being misunderstood, it is enough to understand yourself. Somebody else could also understand you. It doesn’t matter if they don’t. You exist as a cluster of energy. Understood, misunderstood, you won’t cease to exist; same as music…” – Erkan Oğur

Emerging as a new genre in the 1950s, rock music successfully took the whole world by storm in a short time. The world of Rock’n Roll revolved around politic as much as it focused on sex, drugs and love with its rough guitar rhythms, solos and aggressive drum partitions. It was the rebellion of the youth against the world and rules during a period of economical and political crises following World War II.

Rock’n Roll invited itself in without even knocking the door in Turkey, just like it did elsewhere. The societal formation and music scene at the time viewed Rock negatively due to reasons easily guessed. A loud music genre, “sex, drugs and Rock’n roll” themed lyrics and men growing their hair out weren’t easily accepted in the Turkey of the period as expected. On the other hand, musicians were also confused. How to perform a musical form that does not belong to you or your culture; one that is directly imported from the West? Young people who were occupied with music in the 1960s, those who turned their gaze towards the West yet kept their distance to cultural imperialism within the political atmosphere of the era, played with the well-known musical form of rock and added local musical motifs to the pieces. They wanted to create a synthesis of the East and the West, which gave birth to the Anatolian Rock genre. Anatolian Rock borrowed the Rock forms and added in Anatolian melodies and lyrics and re-interpreted Folk Songs in the style of Rock using basses and electric guitars as well as the traditional stringed instruments. Barış Manço, Cem Karaca, Moğollar, Erkin Koray were some of the forefathers of Anatolian Rock, which made it to one of the most beloved genres of mainstream popular music.

Barış Manço, Cem Karaca, Erkin Koray

Musicians who had a different relationship with rock music emerged in the 1990s when pop music was having its golden days, causing the attention on Anatolian Pop to diminish during this period of global changes. Bands such as Bulutsuzluk Özlemi, Mavi Sakal, Kesmeşeker, Whiskey and Dr. Skull performed rock in a more “urban” manner without changing its form. The youth was trying to find their own voices after freeing themselves from the repressive atmosphere that followed the military coup of 12 September 1980 and rock became an important means of expression for them. These young people were also social outcasts due to living outside the boundaries of social norms. This made the members of a community that was eager to welcome new and like-minded people. They got together at venues such as Kemancı Rock Bar not only to listen to music but also to share this culture, friendship and comradeship.

Bulutsuzluk Özlemi, Mavi Sakal, Whisky, Kesmeşeker
Hendrix, Eageles, Beatles, Cream and Deep Purple etc..

There was another band that had close connections to blues at the time: Blue Blues Band, which consisted of band members Batu Mutlugil, Kerim Çaplı, Yavuz Çetin and Sunay Özgür. They became a beacon of light for the light movement with their music in their 1990s and became a legend by embracing their own music with a romantic perspective. What set Blue Blues Band from the other rock bands was being a cover band. The performed well-known pieces of the 1960s and 1970s by Hendrix, Eagles, Beatles, Cream and Deep Purple on the stage. The fact that they embraced the music they played despite being cover songs and made them a part of their identity without giving much thought on the economic or political situations made Blue Blues Band a legend in Turkish music history. Their music wasn’t dictated by the market but a romanticism that was also defiant. The band never faltered from their stance and was thus much respected by their audience. Even though Blue Blues Band was a part of recent history, little is known about their history and musicians due to the lack of musical writings and archives in Turkey. Sertan Ünver’s 2017 documentary titled “Blue” fills a very important gap in this aspect, especially about Kerim Çaplı and Yavuz Çetin who passed away at an early age.

Yavuz Çetin and Kerim Çaplı

Director Sertan Ünver built this documentary in two paralleling narratives. The first revolves around the history of the band, the cultural and social atmospheres of the 1990s, venues, bands, musicians and the people who witnessed the period, while we witness the stories of Kerim Çaplı and Yavuz Çetin in the second narrative. Sertan Ünver maintained a balance in his storytelling by using archival footage and the narrations of the witnesses of the era. He built the story not only through the words of those who know the band but also through the projections of experts in various disciplines such as psychologists and academicians. It should be mentioned that the limited visual and audio material available contributes to the general feeling of the film.

Kerim Çaplı and Yavuz Çetin

Documentaries on music, or more generally speaking, on musicians are known to emphasise the epic nature of their stories in which human aspect of the subject matter is overshadowed. However, this humanness aspect has been put in the limelight in the more recent works. Documentary “Amy” is a good example to this. Sertan Ünver follows a similar method; he didn’t only re-construct the story of Blue Blues Band through the words of the witnesses in a chronological order but by also focusing on the tragic stories of Kerim Çaplı and Yavuz Çetin. The sincerity of these parts can be seen when Erkan Oğur, who worked with Yavuz Çetin in his first album, covers his face with his guitar in an honesty that can barely be seen in real life, and Kerim Çaplı’s son Ahmet Çaplı talks about their relationship and how losing his father affected his life as he plays his recently released album “Kayıp” (Lost) to his musician friends.

Sertan Ünver

Tragic stories of musicians have been a favourite of the cinema history. There is a sensitive scale at work in these; they can easily turn into narratives of emotional manipulation. Sertan Ünvar shaped his story with a full awareness on this possibility. His version of the sad story of Çaplı and Çetin, which ends with a farewell, is neither too tragic nor too inquisitive and he managed to keep his distance with the past. The director introduced two extraordinary musicians, Kerim Çaplı and Yavuz Çetin, to the newer generations by portraying them both as the members of Blue Blues Band and as important figures of Turkey’s recent history. Yavuz Çetin’s love for animals and nature, his childish passion towards music, and his loving approach to his wife and child is easy to see in the film. On the other hand, the hardships caused by making a living through music, the misaligned romanticism of his dreams, and living with the bipolar disorder darkens the atmosphere of the film. Kerim Çaplı’s story is similarly tough. He was a musician who tried to make music without any social guarantee, trying to run away from himself and his responsibilities to his family and four children; a perpetually angry man with rainclouds over his head. He had to go back to where he started from often. The story of a father and sun who only met during the funeral of Kerim Çaplı… Still, the documentary portrays Kerim Çaplı as a world-class talented musician who will be remembered through his gentle jokes and elegance when he was in a good mood.

“Blue” draws a successful picture of idealism, responsibilities, music and dead end streets. We witness the struggles of two extremely talented musicians as they try to provide a living for their families, declare war upon their own existence, as Batu Mutlugil becomes a father figure who watches out for Kerim Çaplı’s rough character and their comradeship as well as the peaceful character of Sunay Özgür.

The Bluest Blues

Erdoğan Çaplı

Kerim Çaplı came from a family of musicians; his father Erdoğan Çaplı was a well-known musician and his mother Azra Gün was an opera artist. They moved to the United States when Kerim Çaplı was 6 years old, which marked the start of his musical adventure. He accompanied his father during his concerts as they made music together. Kerim Çaplı was then introduced to Rock’n roll and wrote short compositions. His talent for vocals and playing various instruments such as the drums and the guitar allowed him to join bands. Using the pseudonym Kim, he performed and wrote compositions with popular bands of the 1960s such as The Sundowners and The Monkees. His career progressed so well that he met and performed with Jimi Hendrix during a tour he was a part of in 1967. He attended Woodstock, one of the most legendary concerts in the history of music, in 1969 and got the opportunity to perform with Hendrix once again. His music career, which started out with a bang, surprisingly came to a standstill at this time and Kerim Çaplı disappeared from America only to return to Turkey. Hendrix didn’t understand why and told musicians who knew him to let him know if they see Çaplı. Even today nobody really knows why he suddenly returned to Turkey, and Kerim Çaplı was greeted with a cloud of disappointment upon his return, because rock music was misunderstood in Turkey where the economic infrastructure of the music industry was shaky. He played with musicians and bands such as Orhan Atasoy and MFÖ for a short while. He then joined Blue Blues Band with Batu Mutlugil’s invitation. They worked together for as long as he was able to. Kerim Çaplı was a musician of unlimited potential with his talent for various instruments, especially the drums. Çaplı’s incredible musical ability and his genius are evident in his album Kayıp which was released post-humorously. This album is an incredible work that is mainly funk and classical rock in spirit and Çaplı played most of the instruments in it. The melancholic smiles of musicians who listen to the album in the documentary seem to confirm this observation.

Yavuz Çetin was among those who are enchanted by the sound of the electric guitar after taking an interest in music at an early age. He became a familiar face in the music scene due to his extraordinary mastery over the guitar, unique musical genius and his extensive knowledge about 1970s rock music (possibly more than its musicians). He recorded and gave concerts with Turgut Berkes, Kıraç and MFÖ. His time with Blue Blues Band started when he met Batu Mutlugil with whom he shared comradeship and brotherhood. They performed many pieces from The Beatles to Hendrix on the stage as well as if they wrote the songs themselves. After a while, Yavuz Çetin wanted to release his own compositions and succeeded in releasing two solo albums while he was also performing with Blue Blues Band; İlk and Satılık.  “İlk” (First) is a timeless album way ahead of its time. The 1990s marked the beginning of the stabilisation of the music industry just before rock music took off. Therefore, an album with beautiful blues solos that had the 1970s sound as played by a musician who was extremely talented in playing his instrument did not immediately receive the attention of the listeners. There was a risk of the album not being published if it wasn’t for his high school friend Ercan Saatçi’s help. Çetin is accompanied by Erkan Oğurin the instrumental piece called “Dünya” which sets the silent rebellious attitude of the album. The lack of attention on the album made Yavuz Çetin rather sad but he didn’t give up and released his second album “Satılık” (For Sale). This album has a more political and harsher attitude compared to his first album. This is another timeless album which features blues pieces in the styles of Hendrix and Gary Moore in which the musician criticises the system and society without holding back in the tracks such as , Benimle Uçmak İster Misin?, Köle and Her Şey Biter. This is a world-class album that is perfect in every single way and Yavuz Çetin succeeded in blatantly expressing his feelings and emotional state. However, Satılık similarly suffered from an early introduction to the audiences who were not yet ready. Now legendary, the piece “Yaşamak İstemem Aranızda” is almost like a national anthem of protest.

We need to mention Batu Mutlugil here; in addition to being an incredibly talented blues musician, I believe he was the heart of Blue Blues Band. He was a true “Father” or “Older Brother” figure with his ability to keep a band that consisted of challenging characters together. He was the “Godfather” of blues music in Turkey. It is commendable that he supported young musicians in “Mojo”, a bar he managed, and that he stubbornly stuck with blues. Batu Mutlugil is someone who stood like a rock against life with his love and loyalty for his music; someone who didn’t hesitate to share this love with those around him. We can see his fatherly aspects in all their sincerity in the film. I asked him about the secret of Blue Blues Band when I interviewed him 10 years ago. He replied:

“I think what made Blue Blues Band appreciated was that all of the band members have internalised 1968 and the 70s in general, even though these were different periods. BBB only has two works during the long period of its existence. We focused more on food, drinks, cigarettes and conversation more than the pieces while working on those. Ultimately, we practiced while we were on the stage and that’s how the BBB versions came about without losing their original sound. It was a rather bizarre yet beautiful thing to experience!”

The existence, story and success of Blue Blues Band in achieving timelessness through playing only covers are not things another band can succeed in. Their hearts belonged to music as got on the stage without the limitations of boundaries or flags; they just performed and owned the music they loved. Their attitude could be seen as a rather archaic or even stale romanticism in today’s world, but nothing can survive in life without passion. Blue Blues Band warred against windmills, knowing well that they would lose, and pursued the path they believed in with passion and stubbornness. This might be what makes their story epic… They achieved this through performing other people’s music and without making any recordings. In the documentary, Batu Mutlugil looks like he is aware of the unique moment he has been a part of and that is why he tried to keep the band together despite the hardships they faced. Talent, music, economy generally doesn’t mix in with politics and it is hard to be understood.  Ultimately, not everything can be heard all at once and things have to bide and wait for their time to come… The clash between romanticism and the reality is the most evident in the story of Blue Blues Band. We all make our steps on this world, and some make a mark, like them, and are never forgotten. The documentary “Blue” presents scenes from the magnificent lives of true musicians; it is a not-to-miss opportunity for those who haven’t met them yet.

Bir gün gelir herkes kendi yoluna gider
Her şey nasıl başladıysa öyle biter
Bir gün gelir herkes kendi yoluna gider
Her şey nasıl başladıysa öyle biter
Her şey biter

Some day everyone will go their own way

All things end the way they start

Some day everyone will go their own way

All things end the way they startAll things end

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