Erkin Koray – 1974

Humor me for a bit more. I’m digging through rare grooves. Mostly of musicians who charted their own course, creating genres not from the ether but through their own push to modernize older traditions. Another great artist in this vein is Istanbul-born Turk, Erkin Koray and his song “Hele Yar” from 1974’s Elektronik Türküler (Electronic Ballads). Erkin was one of the main pioneers of Anatolian rock joining other notable artists like Selda, Mogollar, and Baris Manco helping shape a new Turkish rock sound. Its a sound that electrified Baglama (saz) taqsim melodies and mixed them with the modern sound of droning rock and sitar grooves as heard in psychedelia and hard rock. Erkin himself was a devoted student of older Turkish songs, going so far as to reimagine centuries-old songs dating from pre-Ataturk, Seljuk and Ottoman-era if not further behind. For him, as Turkey modernized into a Western modality, it was extremely important that the music of his ancestors found a way to blend into this new Turkish nationalism. Its with all this in mind that in 1974, after years of releasing singles, he finally completed his first album statement.

Elektronik Türküler album cover

“Hele Yar” (Let’s Go Girl!) itself, a 17th century Turkish romantic ballad from Karacaoglan, distills a sweet taste of a lovelier side of this new blend Erkin created. Over dueling baglamas and a heavy drum beat, Erkin tries to court a beautiful woman with some melismatic vocals as his Anatolian rhythm section dances around him in Arabesk fashion trying to entice the courted. Its such a unique sound, one that sounds psychedelic, but in all reality has existed ages. Its a sound that almost got Erkin killed numerous times as rigid members of society were taken aback by this long haired upstart who refused to completely westernize. However, the music as heard in Elektronik Türküler and 1976’s remain as vivid as ever as a living testament to someone who saw a different path to remaining timeless.

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Listen to Hele Yar at Grooveshark.
Listen to Hele Yar at Spotify.

Bonus track time, a very groovy performance of “Cemalim”, from the same album, on Turkish television…

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Listen to Cemalim at Grooveshark.