Baba Zula – Aşıkların Sözü Kalır [2017 version]

• “Aşıkların Sözü Kalır” set to a picture of the housing album. Thanks to GlitterbeatTV.

9.8 “All-time classic Middle Eastern from Turkey”

From their album “XX” released in January, 2017.

The song “Aşıkların Sözü Kalır” (trans: “Eternal Is The Word Of Poets”) had first appeared as a 5 minute piece on their album “Kökler” back in 2007, but they re-recorded it in 2016, giving it a richer, fuller, more dramatic sound, as well as doubling the actual length of the piece. Although not in the billing, frequent collaborator Brenna MacCrimmon provides the suitably mystical and powerful female vocals (just as she did in 2007). Amazingly, she’s Canadian! The Toronto-based singer is so deeply in love with Turkish and Balkan music that she’s spent several years in Istanbul, on and off, and is always welcome in the court of Baba Zula on these intermittent sojourns.

They’re a MUST see if you’re going to the WOMAD Festival 2019 @ Charlton Park in Malmesbury in the last week of July. Here’s a flavour, with “Aşıkların Sözü Kalır” performed live in Berlin, 2015 (n.b. not Brenna MacCrimmon on vocals):

[Most of the following info was sourced from the 2017 Glitterbeat press release for “XX”, which featured interview quotes from the group leader, Murat Ertel.]

Formed by Murat Ertel (electric saz, electronic sounds, vocals) and Levent Akman (electronic sounds, wooden spoons) in 1996, Baba Zula took Turkish psychedelic pioneers of the 1960s like Moğollar as their inspiration and foundation for what they called Istanbul psychedelia, the fathers of a scene that’s since grown up around them.

“Those original bands of the ‘60s grew out of traditional Anatolian music. But the coups of the 1970s and ‘80s put an end to any experimentation. We picked up the reins to make music for the 21st century with electric instruments, effects, and machines, something contemporary and unique. I always tell people that they might not like us, but no one can say we’re not original!”

The group came into existence when Ertel’s previous outfit, ZeN, was asked to create a soundtrack by a director friend. Ertel and two other members were interested, and the band grew from that seed, with music for films very much a part of their output. Since that small beginning, Baba Zula have played all over the world, won awards for their work in film and theatre, often been rewarded at the Turkish Billboard awards, and had their albums counted among the most prestigious ever released in Turkey. They’ve also built a global network of like-minded performers, experimental souls in all genres of music, working with people as varied as Turkish opera singer Semiha Berksoy, dub mixer Mad Professor, and Can drummer Jaki Liebzeit.

The “XX” album is described in the press release as “A kaleidoscopic, two-disc, career-spanning compilation from Istanbul’s revered psychedelic explorers.”

“We wanted to have a compilation that was a little different. None of the pieces here are in their original forms. Instead, we picked remixes, re-recordings, collaborations, live tracks, all the possibilities, but none of these have been released before. And it’s a mix of recording techniques – digital, analogue, tape, mp3.”

Baba Zula have always believed that music needs to make a powerful statement, and they’ve never pulled punches in their lyrics. “Aşıkların Sözü Kalır” (Eternal Is The Word Of Poets) makes its point very eloquently:

“It’s a re-interpretation of the songs we released in 2007. We wanted to re-record it so it was closer to our live sound. It’s about how the words of the talking heads and politicians become meaningless so quickly, but what poets say resonates through the centuries.”

And now, with 20 years behind them, what’s next for Baba Zula?

“I never thought it would last this long. Maybe another 20 years is possible, maybe not. But living here in Turkey, I don’t know about the future. I hope the band could continue without me. We give our messages very carefully for those who can understand them. But I do know it’s important to carry on; you can be gone anytime.”

Heard on Pete Jackson’s January 2017 show on Dandelion Radio.

Get it at Bandcamp.