Cover Art: Raddar
Beginning with the second half of the 1990s, İstanbul witnessed a new wave of Turkish rock music that included many native aspects in its aura. After the speedy years in construction of a native Turkish rock during 1960s and 1970s, Turkish rock had a flat era where the memory of the past has dramatically diminished. A discussion on the language of performing rock music was in use, even performing rock in Turkish language was questioned after a heritage of masters like Erkin Koray, Cem Karaca, Barış Manço etc.
On the other hand, 1990s was the scene of an awakening where the heritage was re-processed by young groups and musicians. The underground scene in İstanbul rooted from neo punk and garage groups supported with the fanzines was the main actor in this reprocess.
In 1990s Zen (later on transformed to Baba Zula) and 2/5 BZ were the first inheritors of the golden age, by the end of 1990s İstanbul Blues Kumpanyası (later on Kırıka) and Replikas became the new figures that proved their position in this inherence.
At the beginning of the 2000s, we saw a demo of Fairuz Derin Bulut in places like Dip Sahaf in Anabala Arcade where the heart beats of underground culture of İstanbul could be heard. At first we focused on the name of the group, later on learned that Fairuz hailed from the legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz and Derin Bulut had a meaning of “deep cloud” which had many evocations from psychedelic trips to a fictive stereotype Turkish Night Club Female Singer.
The demo was the raw expression of psychedelic rock, Dadaism, arabesque and Turkish Night Club sounds and vocals mostly in Turkish but also in a fictive language reminding English, Arabic and some type of Slavic languages. Keyboardist Okan Yılmaz had a style imitating solo keyboardist entertainers which is quite integrated with psychedelic Farfisa or Hammond sounds. Yılmaz, along with Demir Kerem Atay (electric guitar and electric bağlama), Taha Rıza Özmen (bass), Ömür Güray Gürman (percussion) and Güçlü Başarır (drums) created a happy psychedelic eclectic sound with a great sense of humor. The tracks were the compositions and the improvisations of the group, but there were also covers like Erkin Koray’s Krallar (The Kings) and Gershon Kingsley’s Popcorn. Group also recorded some unreleased Dada tracks like “Yahbül”.
In 2003, the first official album Kundante was released by Ada Müzik. The songs were mainly from the demo and they used a statement like “maniak music”. The producers were Murat Ertel and Levent Akman from Baba Zula. In the next few years, Murat Ertel would join the group with electric bağlama and theremin for some live gigs. In 2004, percussionist Ömür Güray Gürman has left the group.In 2005, the guitarist Demir Kerem Atay had left the group for his obligatory military service, but before the service he joined Baba Zula with Okan Yılmaz and in Fatih Akın’s Crossing the Bridge, they appear as members of Baba Zula.
As Atay returns from military service, they start a project on the behalf of Double Moon. This would be a cover project of arabesque songs that the lyrics belong to Ali Tekintüre. The group hosted two singers as guest musicians one of them was Serkan Döver who was a friend of Kerem Atay from the military service and was an authentic Turkish Night Club singer, the other singer was Gonca Öncel who was known with her composition and singing in Zeki Demirkubuz’s movie Kader (Fate). Umut Üşen (violin) was the fifth member of the group if we exclude the guest vocalists of the album. The album’s sound was flattened by the production interruption of Double Moon Records that is known with its orientalist approach. The group was supported with strings, percussions of the mainstream arabesque studio musicians, therefore it was the most mainstream album of the group or in other words, it was not quite a project that the group participated. On the other hand this album caused their exclusion from psychedelic and underground audience.
The last album of Fairuz Derin Bulut was released as an online album in 2013. The album named Patlantis took a long time to be released on CD after its official digital release as it could only be released 2 years later by Ada Müzik in 2015. Finally the vinyl version of the album was released in June 2016. It was a “back to the roots” album for the group. An eclectic arabesque psychedelic rock and a raw sound were again available. Güçlü Başarır was no more a member of the group in the recording sessions of the album, new drummer was Onur Öztürk instead.
Before the release of CD version Demir Kerem Atay was on his way to Germany for a new life and a solo musical career. Taha Rıza Özmen continued in another group named Kuytu and began a new career as a lawyer.
This time instead of using his real name Demir Kerem Atay designed a new musical personality for himself as a vintage electric bağlama playing Gastarbeiter (guest worker used as a term in Germany for workers from Turkey, Poland etc.). The new pseudonym was Elektro Hafız. Elektro Hafız began to perform in various clubs in Germany and in 2014 he released his first 45 RPM single from his independent label “süperdisko records”. One of the songs in the single was a cover of Ata Canani’s “Deutsche Freunde” which was a folk rock song he performed in German in Alfred Biolek’s TV programme in 1982. The second track was Destur 2, an instrumental track of Elektro Hafız.
The new arrangement style of Elektro Hafız was more loop based despite still using acoustic elements like electric bağlama and bass and had guest musicians playing drums, bass and percussion. He also used both electronic and real life effects in his tracks. In live performances he had contributions of bass, drums, percussion and guitar; but the recordings were not representing a group music as he did in Fairuz Derin Bulut.
The cover of his first single was an adaptation of Neşet Ertaş’s album cover; as he re-identified his music as a project of the heritage of Gastarbeiter music.
In April 2016, Elektro Hafız made a double vinyl album (one consists of dub versions of the same songs) for the Catalan Record Company Guerssen’s sub level Pharaway Sounds. As I have told about the company in one of my former articles, Guerssen and Pharaway are well known with their vinyl reissues and compilations based on Turkish Psychedelic Rock like Cem Karaca, Barış Manço, Bunalım, Erkin Koray, Edip Akbayram, Kamuran Akkor etc. This time Pharaway Sounds releases a contemporary artist’s work in addition to these reissues. Being the first contemporary artist with the founding fathers and mothers of Turkish Rock gives a great starting point in Elektro Hafız’s solo career. Elektro Hafız, as the main project man and recording artist plays electric saz, electric guitar, bass guitar, finger cymbals, vocals, drum programming and synthesizer in the album.
The first track named Hayat Bu Malum (This is Life You Know) is a self-performed composition. Hafız uses an oriental reggae rhythmic basic track and a psychedelic reverbed electric bağlama in this track. The superb synthesizer sound also attracts the attention of the listener in the track. Christoph Guschlbauer contributes the piece with his drums.
In Günahkar Helvası (Desert of Sinners),Tamer Özsevim (bass guitar), Christoph Guschlbauer (drums) and İsmail Darıcı (def ,talking drum) contribute the song. The song reminds us of his works in Fairuz Derin Bulut. Backing vocals gives reference to Sufi music. Hafız makes a tribute to his group days.
In “Belki Son Kez” (Maybe For The Last Time) is an experimental instrumental track where Hafız hosts two guest musicians; Christoph Guschlbauer plays drums and DjSteel makes the scratches.
“Ne Diyeyim” (What Should I Say) begins with a synthesizer arpeggio and then an analogue rhythm box drums join. The electric bağlama is played in an eclectic Turkish blues form. Denis Mallo’s vocals contribute this dreamy sequence.
In Dubb-i Akbar (The Great Syrian Bear), after an opening with a space effect combined with a bluesy electric bağlama, it concludes to a Turkish percussion loop main track giving way to electric bağlama.
In John Dere (a humorous way of expressing the tractor company John Deere, which was a very common brand in Turkey; Deere turns into Dere that means river in Turkish) Tamer Özsevim (bass), DjSteel (scratch) and Steven Ouma (vocals) joins the song along with Elektro Hafız. Steven Ouma sings in his country’s (Kenya) native language. Elektro Hafız brings his rocking bağlama into the heart of African rhythms.
The version of Deutsche Freunde (German Friend) on the LP is an alternative version of the cover as it was done before on Hafız’s first single. In this version, Ata Canani plays electric bağlama in his own composition while Christoph Guschlbauer plays drums. We should also note that this version is less experimental than the 45 RPM single version.
Destur III is also released on Hafız’s first single as “Destur II” with an alternative version. Reggae beat with experimental breaks and various samples including violin give the color of the piece.
The last track, Nossa Bowa Gitara gives reference to the tradition of Cengiz Coşkuner, Yurdaer Doğulu, Kurtuluş which is very much related to the ambience of Turkish Night Clubs crystalized with smoke and alcohol. In fact this type of guitar playing is a variance of Hank Marvin’s surf guitar, which then transformed to Turkish music with the musicians who were capable of shifting guitar to the scales of Turkish music. In this last track Christoph Guschlbauer also takes part as the drummer.
In the second LP that contains dub versions of the tracks of the first LP, you can hear mixes from Grup Ses, Fedayi Pacha, Komadub, Onofon, Alpadub, F.D.U. and Hey Douglas.
Elektro Hafız’s debut LP has an importance for different aspects. First of all, he uses the name “elektro” refering to electric or electro bağlama he plays in an eclectic psychedelic way.
His pioneers in the former generation were Fehiman Uğurdemir (widely used electric bağlama in his Ersen Dadaşlar and Selda era, although he is originally a rock guitarist), Arif Sağ (integrated electric bağlama with wah wah and fuzz pedals and did some psychedelic stuff although he was originally a folk music artist), Özer Şenay and Orhan Gencebay (making experiments in his eclectic arabesque compositions and arrangements), Erkin Koray (one of the first inventors of electric bağlama although played it very rare, but played his guitar in an oriental mood).
In 1990s’ Murat Ertel of Zen and Baba Zula and Serhat Köksal of Zen and 2/5 BZ used bağlama with a fully amplified and modified to be an electro-experimental music instrument such as Theremin, Moog or oscillators. Elektro Hafız with his open perception uses a right path to experiment by covering the whole heritage consisting of these two generations and taking the heritage to a further position.
Last but not least, Elektro Hafız reconstructs a post modern Gastarbeiter persona in musical aspects; which reflects a far more self confident attitude as the new postmodern Gastarbeiter has nothing to prove or accepted by the native Germans. Therefore Elektro Hafız plays his music as an eastern guy who naturally plays west or a western guy who can easily be eastern and his music has nothing to do with an east and west synthesis; because it’s east and west itself.