In the article An Electricity in Outer Space, I tried to give the clues of Anatolian Rock which formed an important basis for the native, unique and experimental musical movements in Turkey. As I tried to display, the long story of Anatolian Rock has never been in a uniform, but contained great variations during its still continuing life.
In this context we can consider Selda Bağcan as a figure in Anatolian Rock, both as a songwritersongwriter, guitarist and a protest singer who uses different genres to express her message.
Selda began her musical career in Ankara with the support of Alpay (who can be considered as the Tom Jones of Turkey) and her brothers who were also active both as musicians and club managers. In an interview with Alpay made in February 1964, he stated that there was no other singer like the 13 year old girl (Selda was born in 1948) called Selda. Alpay also stated that she sang in Spanish in the most beautiful way although she doesn’t know how to speak it. On November 18, 1964 her voice was first heard in a radio broadcast of Ankara Province radio. In 1965, she was the 8th most popular singer in Turkey although she had not released any records yet according to Milliyet Newspaper. Despite this relative fame, she was just a student of high school and her grades were collapsing. Therefore she had to wait several years to return to music.
At the time she decided to make a comeback as an adult, she recorded 4 songs in Ankara only accompanied with a guitar and tried to make them accepted by the record producers, but the result was a failure. Then she took the tapes and submitted them to the state’s radio institution. She once again gained popularity with the folk songs she arranged for guitar and vocals. This time her records began to be requested by the audience and her first record pressings were made by a pirate record company named Sel Records which was strictly inspired by the singer’s name. After the post negotiations she succeeded to have her royalties paid.
She made lots of singles with only a guitar and sometimes with an additional instruments. In 1972, she collaborated with the legendary Anatolian Rock band, Moğollar and made a single in which contained songs Yalan Dünya and Kalenin Dibinde. Although she tried some rock material with Moğollar, the general trend of her recordings were simpler folk song arrangements that were implemented by Selim Atakan. Selim Atakan later on would be the pioneer of the Nuevo Cancion movement in Turkey with his group Yeni Türkü.
She made a single with Dün Bugün Yarın Orchestra (Orchestra of Yesterday, Today Tomorrow) which was a popular studio band of that era called “Gesi Bağları-Altın Kafes”. In 1974, she united with the band Kardaşlar (Brothers), the group that accompanied Cem Karaca between 1969-1972 and Ersen between 1972-1974. She made a fabulous record with Kardaşlar called Anayasso (The Constitution) which was one of most significant declarations of her left wing tendency. At the end of 1974, she did her first collaboration with Dadaşlar who were backing Ersen at that period. At that time they recorded “Nem Kaldı-Rabbbim” to be used as a single, and also recorded İnce İnce Bir Kar Yağar, Yaylalar, Gitme, Mehmet Emmi, Yaz Gazeteci, Niye Çattın Kaşlarını. Dadaşlar at that period was formed of three musicians who were the bricks of a real super group. Fehiman Uğurdemir was the front man of Dadaşlar with his unique sound of guitar and eclectic arrangements. His guitar playing was ecclectic when in the role of a rhythm guitarist; but became a melodic, oriental, weeping guitar when he played solo. In addition to his guitar he also played saz with a custom made body with a guitar magnet embedded. He also played an analog synthesizer of that era called Syntheorchestra.
The bass player was Özkan Uğur who later on became famous with the powerful vocal group called MFÖ (Mazhar Fuat Özkan). He was a well known Anatolian pop bass player who contributedcontributed to the music of Kaygısızlar, Barış Manço & Kurtalan Ekspres, Edip Akbayram & Dostlar and Ersen & Dadaşlar. In the recording sessions he played bass with a unique tone by the aid of Fehiman’s phaser. Mehmet Gözüpek, the drummer, was from Bunalımlar (The Depressions), a psychedelic rock band of the late ’60s and early ’70s and he also had a minimalist approach in his playing during Ersen and Dadaşlar.
The recordings were released in separate volumes. The single “Nem Kaldı-Rabbim” was released in the beginning of 1975 and the other tracks were released in Selda’s debut LP in 1976 which is known as Kızıldere. The LP is indeed formed of recordings with various bands. The song Kızıldere was recorded with Moğollar, Nasırlı Eller and Dam Üstüne Çul Serer were recorded with Dün Bugün Yarın. Kızıldere was based on the operation in which one of the most significant leftist guerilla Mahir Çayan and his friends were killed after they had kidnapped 3 radar technicians from the plants of NATO in Turkey.
The soundscape that was reached in Selda’s recordings with Dadaşlar were also exceptional especially if we consider her later recordings as she was more a neuve cantion singer than a rocker. After the military coup in 1980, Selda was arrested several times, even tortured.
Her passport was not extended due to the conditions of the coup and therefore she couldn’t attend the WOMAD Festival organized by Peter Gabriel in 1986 . On the other hand, she found her place in the WOMAD’s compilation album named An Introduction To Europe Volume 3 with Nadka Karadjova , A. Sidouchkina, The Pogues , Dick Gaughan, Pedro Caldiera Cabral, El Nino de Almaden , Stockhausen & Struder Bruninghaus , Cocteau Twins and Muzikas.
After she gained her passport back in 1987 partly with the pressure of WOMAD, she had several concerts including the ones in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the same year. She even made a single with Miki GAVRIELOV, a guitarist from Israel covering her past hit “Tatlı Dillim”Dillim” (title is Neredesin Sen) in 1991. She was one of the most popular Turkish singers among the music audience in Israel.
The real international popularity came with the release of her compilation album by Finders Keepers Records which also printed the LP of Ersen. The funny thing about the label was that they replicated the logo of the original publishing company and wrote their brand under the logo which seems to be an ironic pirate attempt.
The LP was sold completely and Pharaway Records also reissued Selda’s second and third LP. The second LP also contained a more rocker and a bluesy Selda with wah wah guitars and electric saz sounds in combination with Moog and Hammond sounds.
At the same time, the hiphop artist Mos Def has used the sample of Selda’s “İnce İnce Bir Kar yağar” from the first LP with her voice and the guitar riffs of Fehiman Uğurdemir. Finally, Teoman, the famous Turkish pop rock singer, used the same riffs of Fehiman Uğurdemir in his song Tek Başına in the Album Aşk ve Gurur.
These progresses gave a new path to Selda which led to her collaboration with the surf and psychedelic rock band Boom Pam. Boom Pam was formed with four musicians named Uri Brauner Kinrot (guitar),Yuval “Tuby” Zolotov (tuba), Dani Ever Hadani (synyhesizers) and Ira Raviv (drums). Their unique sound was based on the tuba patricians of Zolotov which gives the bass lines instead of a bass guitar. They define themselves as “A Mediterranean Surf Rock Tuba Driven Power Trio, Seasoned With Dueling Guitars and Alcohol Soaked Wedding Party Ecstacy”
In 2014, they began a collaboration with SELDA. The band visited Istanbul for a series of rehearsals which eventually led to a special show in front of 10,000 people in “Groove Festival”.
After that they attended a concert headlined in Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
In the Fall of 2015, the recording of this concert was released as vinyl of 500 copies as a limited edition. The LP contained mostly the covers of the arrangements of Fehiman Uğurdemir which were Yaz Gazeteci Yaz (Say It Journalist! Say it!), Mehmet Emmi (Uncle Mehmet), İnce ince (It Snows to the Poors) and Yaylalar from the first LP. Acıyı Bal Eyledik and Vurulduk Ey Halkım Unutma Bizi (They Shoot Us People, Don’t Forget Us!) were from her second LP. Yuh Yuh (Boo Boo!) was from a single of her cover of Mahsuni Şerif which gained a large success after the second LP. Tatlı Dillim (My Sweet Tongue) and Adaletin Bu Mu Dünya? (Hey World! Is This Your Justice?) were among her early singles which were reshaped with the oriental surf approach of Boom Pam. Özgürlük ve Demokrasiyi Çizmek (Drawing Freedom & Democracy) was a sample from her period of New Song works circa 1980s, but with the Boom Pam touch it becomes a rock march.
Last but not leastleast, the band and Selda released an electronic platform single called “Yuh Yuh-Adaletin Bu Mu Dünya”, where those songs were reprised in a studio recording.
As an open-minded and an experimental group, Boom Pam is expected to make more solo projects as well as new collaborations with artists such as Selda, Kojima Mayumi, Judah Caesar and Selda will also continue to make out a new pathway to introduce her value to an international audience. On the other hand, we should always be aware of the fact that in every music one admires, there are unknown heroes whose names were not even credited in the original recordings but it is never too late to remember their names. So thanks to Fehiman Uğurdemir, Özkan Uğur and Mehmet Gözüpek as much as we stress the name of Selda Bağcan.