The music you are about to hear defies categorisation. But for all intents and multi-purposes, this record is a folk album. Embodying all the aesthetic watermarks of a private press country LP, Selda’s debut long player from 1976 has masqueraded as lamb dressed as mutton, throwing many a discerning wolf from the gourmet scent. Behold! Space age, Anatolian, electronic, progressive-protest, psych-folk-funk-rock from the Middle East. All of the above ingredients are presented immaculately with up-most authenticity and conviction to create a delectable hybrid concoction which has never been replicated or equalled in the 3 mutant decades since its recording.
When Selda Bagcan first released her long-awaited LP (the first of two confusingly eponymous titles in the same year), she was enduring/enjoying her hiatus as one of the most politically outspoken popular folk singers to hail from Turkey. In the previous decade she had made a household name for herself as a traditional Anadolu protest singer with a spectacular emotive vocal capacity (for idle argument’s sake, begging comparison to a Turkish Joan Baez). A figurehead and poetic driving force for a radical generation of politically motivated creative revolutionaries, her raw, stripped-down folk songs yearned for political change with heart-wrenching earnest, embodying a unifying traditional sound which mainlined the veins of a free-thinking, united Turkey. Selda had, and still has, a reputation as an individual, omnipresent strength who was willing to brave grave consequences in the name of change and humanity which would later see her serve time in prison on account of her vociferous attitudes on behalf of her like-minded but seldom spoken peers. Until now, Selda played the role of musical martyr in a lonely void, but by early 1975 – when Ms. Bagcan was given an unexpected opportunity to commit a collection of ten new songs to an LP for the forward thinking Turkuola label – the silent free-thinking cognoscenti of musical Istanbul came to her aid in droves, thus creating one of the most extraordinary hybrid folk albums you are ever likely to hear.
Fusing Selda’s radical prose with equally radical musical gestures from some of the most lauded musical mavericks was a match made in psychedelic heaven. Artists such as Anadolu beat combo Mogollar (also known to a growing French audience as ‘Les Mogol’) had previously recorded a run of singles with the singer in a traditional folk style but in recent years had enjoyed critical acclaim after releasing two progressive albums fusing jazz, funk and electronically treated instruments with typical Anatolian styles. Selda would also utilise the talents of popular backing band Dadaslar under the guidence of Anatolian rock stalwart Arif Sag and master electronic producer and pioneer Zafer Dilek who would later gain critical acclaim amongst collectors of Turkish library music such as the TRT releases which he recorded alongside Okay Temiz. The bands were assembled at multiple sessions at both Yeni Studios and the uber-legendary Studio Elektronik where the record was finally completed and mastered.
Released in 1976 to huge critical acclaim and scepticism in equal parts, the album smashed new boundaries both lyrically and musically. Sonically, the LP begs comparison to the second LP by post-folk, sibling three-piece Uc Hurel who used a balance of electronically treated saz and proto polyphonic synthesisers to similar effect (exemplified here on tracks such as ‘Gitme’ and ‘Yaz Gazeteci Yaz’). But the fact that Selda was one of the few female voices to adopt the use of such cutting edge techniques put the LP in a league of its very own. Frowned on by the paranoid Turkish authorities, songs like Meydan Sizindir and Ince Ince were viewed as calls to revolt by the working classes – little did Selda know that now her songwriting was available to a wider market (and soon to be available to an unlimited audience via the introduction of the compact cassette) she would face the threat of imprisonment due to her unwaning desire for freedom of speech and a demand for a quality of human life. Selda would face future jail sentences and travel restrictions as her popularity spread amongst Turkish communities in Europe and America. Luckily Turkuola arranged the immediate release of a second which was released in late 1976 (some songs recorded in the same sessions are presented on this release as bonus tracks). Selda’s second LP retained some of the psychedelic touches found on her debut, but the passing phase of Turkish electronica – which began to manifest in popular music such as disco and pop – was less prevalent.
Selda still performs songs from her extensive repertoire all over the world with many cassettes and CDs released under her singular name. Each of the artists involved in the recording of this LP continued to record radical and experimental music and are considered the cream-of-the-crop among Eastern psych afficionados. In recent years the legacy of Anatolian progressive rock has gone from strength to strength, gaining popularity amongst DJs, producers and record collectors as an unrivalled source for unique sounds rarely found in other genres of international music and, until now, rarely heard outside their native environment.
Thirty years down the line, the Anatolian Invasion is on its way to a record store near you.
Andy Votel. June 2006.