Boiler Room recently took a trip to the Bosphorus, and did a show in Istanbul with psych legends Baba Zula and acid-folk group Insanlar. While there, they did us all the pleasure of making a short documentary about Baba Zula, one of the most creative and illuminating bands that are carrying the Turkish psych torch.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, there is no country that has cultivated as vibrant a psychedelic scene as Turkey; in fact, it stands out globally. Since psychedelic rock swept from the west in the '60s and '70s, Turks wasted no time in growing out their hair (and mustaches), and merging the psych sound and instrumentation with their own folk instruments and songs. The result was Anatolian Rock, an amalgamation of electric guitar and organ with reverb soaked saz and darbuka- an energetic, sexy and beautiful sound that felt like such a natural marriage between East and West that it could only come from Istanbul, itself defined by said union.
Baba Zula is a band that, since '96, has been forging their own sound, aptly dubbed "Istanbul Psychedelia." Armed with electric saz, oud, darbuka and other percussion, oscillators, theremin, wooden spoons, and a vast sense of humour, Baba Zula tempt the sounds of Turkey's musical traditions out of the smoke to playfully coalesce with electronics and synthesizers. They live in the spirit of this playfulness, and their live shows - full of belly dancers, extravagant costumes and live painting - highlight this devotion to impregnating life with sound and color, all while communicating politically radical lyrics.
Consisting of Murat Ertel (electric saz, vocals), Levent Akman (electronics, percussion), Ümit Akdele (darbuka) and Periklis Tsoukalas (electric oud, vocals), Baba Zula have fearlessly pushed Turkish psych rock and become the preeminent figures in the contemporary scene, establishing a remarkable career - they just celebrated their 20 year anniversary. Their collaborations extend far and wide, as do their performances and achievements. When it comes down to it, it's simply comforting to know that bands like Baba Zula are out there, piercing the veil and making cosmic music while doing it.