Baba Zula
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Baba Zula

İstanbul, Istanbul, Turkey | INDIE

İstanbul, Istanbul, Turkey | INDIE
Band World


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"A monthly survey of sounds from around the planet"

All across Istanbul’s skyline the air is filled with the echoes of muezzins from within their minarets, calling the faithful to prayer. In the streets, cafes ofter potent coffe and fruit teas, hookah joints are lined with local patrons puffing on tail pipes. In sprawling bazaars, ritual bargaining is performed for rugs, spices and jewellery. Yet despite the exotic exterior, Turkey’s capital is in reality the hub of the most secular of Muslim nations. The “muzezzins” are actually tape recordings. The cafes also offer Coke. Bazaars are filled with multilingual salesmen ready to bargain with tourists from anywhere in the world. Caliphs are more welcome in HipHop lore than in this native land. Want a taste of Turkish tobacco? Smoke Camel cigarettes.

As far as music is concerned, the city’s old7new world dichotomy is reflected in the Western-tinged “Beyoglu beat” (named after a district filled with musicians and clubs). But since most locals are indifferent to this music, what you’ll hear in restaurants is fasil (Turkish light classical music) played on oud (round bodied, short necked lute), saz (a barrel shaped lute with a long, thin neck and movable frets), darbukka ( hand drum) and ney (wooden flute) by small groups entertaining the tourists as they consume shish kebab and baklava. Far from being quiet dinner music, these combos whip themselves into a raucous frenzy, egged on by the diners.

It’s a familiar story; in the process of Westernisation, older regional musics have become homogenised into an ersatz “national” style. The Sufi ritual of the Whirling Dervishes, for instance, is now a once-a-month tourist show, repletewith religious poetry, chanting, dances and freeform improvisations (though not as fiery as Cecil Taylor, of course).

The influence of the West also leapt into the miz in the late 60s, the age of legendary “Anadolu rock” performers such as 3 Hürel, Kardaslar and Erkin Koray, Though still using many traditional instruments, these groups followed role models such as Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd Anadolu managed to thrive for a decade until it was wiped out in President/General Kenan Evren’s 1980 military coup, when numerous artists became victims of State intimidation.

Only in the last ten years has any genuinely creative new music reared its head again. Anadolu has remained a huge influence a number of present day groups cover songs from tahat time, followimg a similar “groove with a saz” pattern. What makes this music unique is that the artists grew up listening to (and working with) traditional local musicians, playing different time signatures with semi- and quartertones. Supposedly, even harmolodic basssist Jamaaladeen Tacuma had trouble keeping up with multi- instrumentalist Burhan Öçal on a recording date for the album Groove Alla Turca (Doublemoon 1999). As with other Arabic music, there are many more notes in Turkish scales – almost double the number that occur in Western scales. Also unique is the makam, a grouping of notes akin to Indian raga, which gives the music its orental sound. Like their Anadolu ancestors, the Beyoglu beat outfits still use mostly traditional instruments. The droning quality of the music derives as much from their own local predecessors as from The Velvet Underground.

Thanks to a recent release on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! Label, Zen are probably the most widely heard Beyoglu group outside Turkey. Led by Merih Öztaylan’s vocal babble and Murat Ertel’s amped saz, Zen’s music is a widly improvisational ride straight out of London’s UFO club at the height of the psychedelic 60’s, best heard on Tanbul (Kod Müzik 1998). Their strange musical brew is matched by their choice of unusual performance locations such as a local cistern, a mental hospital and the ancient walls of Rumeli, as well as once undertaking a 24 hour performance.

Baba Zula are equally popular, thanks to their soundtrack to Dervish Zaim’s first movie Tabutta Rövasata (1997) and several European tours. Their music is more song-structured, featuring expatriates like singer Brenna MacCrimmon and Saxist Ralph Carney and a bubbling undercurrent of percussion as heard on 1999’s 3 Oyundan 17 Müzik (Doublemoon). You’d almost think you were heraing fusil if it wasn’t for the drum machines, samplers and toys, overlaid with the sound of crying babies and orgasmic breathing.

Apart from punkish live sensations Rashit and Zen refugees/army recruits Nekropsi, the other great Beyoglu hopes are Replikas. This ethno-psych crew’s recent debut, Köledoyuran (Ada Müzik), shows off their love of everything from Goa Trance to Can to “zikir” ritual prayers/happenings. The pay-off has benn that they packed a local club for a recent release party and are actually played at some local shops, itself a coup to match General Evren’s.

Since even the local media support for this music is pathetic, this is probably all news to you. Other than the corrupt, unimaginative labels of old – who regulary boot - Wire Magazine

"Hard, Industrial Turkish Dub"

From the opening track-if you can call it that- Baba Zula mean business. It's one lone qhiplash of percussion and guitar lasting all of about two seconds: the aural equivalent of a singer-finger salute. There's a strange dynamic to the album. So many of the tracks sound like and hoe live jams that could sprawl on for hours yet they are studio creations that are almost absurdly concise. Everything's very raw and low tech: the uninstrusive dub processing often sounds like their guitarist in fact fighting to tune a wayward instrument he was just conned into buying from the bazaar rather than any attempt to sound and of the moment.
Levent Akman, Murat Ertel, Cosar Kamçi have been honinhg their self styled "oriental dub" for over decade. Playing saz, (turkish stringed instrument), strings, darbuka,toys, bird-calls and anything else they can get their hands on, they create stark, intuitiveplaces that exploit the potency of thwacked objects and mesmeric guitar lines. The only false notes are struck in the last brace of tunes. "Alexender" in contrast to the sketch-like nature of the rest of the album, outstays its welcome by a good five minutes, albeit while sounding like a Turkish LCD Soundsystem. Indeed, "Roots" is unusual in that, while unmistakebly Turkish, its so often conjures up the door and abrasive sounds of the UL post punk scene. "Blind Lemon Man" the album's first song proper, is a surly skank with a loe Strummer sneer, while there's something of the Pil to the cantankerousness of "Turkish Haiku".

Matthew Milton - Songlines

"Baba Zula / Roots"

Signe sur le label discographique turc Doublemoon , qui incarne le son moderne d'Istanbul, ce groupe est l'un dess fers de lance de la nouvelle scene stanbouliote, presentee dans le talentueux film de Fatih Akin, Crossing the Bridge (2005). Baba Zula joue le trait d'union entre la musique traditionnelle de Turquie et l'electro. Ce parti pris s'exprime au travers d'une fusion shaleureuse, sensuelle, suprenante, voire drole parfois. Un hennissement de cheval incruste comme leitmotiv. - Le Monde

"Baba Zula / Roots"

Formation stambouliote, Baba Zula chatouille depuis une dizalne d'annees les traditions musicales turques. Pour ce nouvel opus, tout simplement intitule Roots, le trio de base s'est retouve a minima pour se concentrer sur le son et affirmer ses intentions. C' est alnsi qu'une moitie de la trentaine de plages n'affic he pas plus de deus minutes au comteur. A quoqi bon delayer . Our les 3 ,BZ, l'important est de sinsxrire aujourd'hui dans une historie qu!iis connaissent sur le bout des doigts. entre musiques trad et rock d'avant les boltes a rhythmes. Doublemoon roots! Ces musiciens qui affectionnent le grain du son d'hier et la leberte des prods d'aujourd'hui sont si attaches a la tradition qu'lis savent la faire evouleer. Juste delicieus. / Sq - Mondomix / n27 Mars/Avril

"Mad Prof Dubs the 'Zula"

In his recent documentary film Crossing the Bridge, The Music of Istanbul, German-Turkish director Fatih Akin used the band Baba Zula as a narrative thread for his exploration of the remarkably diverse music being made in city today. Baba Zula performed on the deck of a ship as it moved slowly through the Bosphorus against a backdrop of mosques and waterside villas and the modern skylines their guitars, traditional and Western percussion, electronics, saz and clarinet, augmented by the bass playing of the film's presenter, Alexander Hacke ( from the cult band Einsturzende Neubauten) matched the city's historical eclecticism. Baba Zula are veteran musical adventurers who plend traditional with electric and Turkish rhythms with rock and reggae. Their controversially explicit lyrics featuring sensitive themes from daily life with titles such as "Father in Hospital" and "I think I'm pregnant" ( a conversation between a young man and woman set agains a slow solo saz melody and piercing birdsong) Of these 21 songs mixed by London' s legendary dub producer the Mad Professor, four were remixed by Jameica's legendary producers, Sly and Robbie."Children of Istanbul" sees the original's taut saz melodies and pulsing frame drum submerged in layers of echoing choruses, while others exploit the tension between reggae's ryhthm guitar style and the saz. This seductive soundtrack to Istanbul' s effectively migles tiny musical snapshots with long vocal explorations of themes.

Sue Steward - Songlines / March/April 2006


*Kökler / Roots
( Doublemoon 2007)
*Dondurmam Gaymak (Kadraj – soundtrack- 2006) *Duble Oryantal (Doublemoon 2005)
* Ruhani Oyun Havalari / Psychebelly Dance Music (Doublemoon 2003)
* 3 Oyundan 17 Müzik / 17 pieces from 3 plays (Doublemoon 1999)
* Tabutta Rövasata / Sommersault in the Coffin (Ada Music 1996 /
Kadraj - soundtrack- 2006 )



BaBa ZuLa of Istanbul

Formed in Istanbul in 1996, Baba ZuLa features founding members Levent Akman (spoons, percussions, machines, toys), Murat Ertel (saz and assorted strings, vocals, oscillators, theremin), as well as darbuka player Cosar Kamci who replaced original member Emre Onel in 2005.

Baba ZuLa go to great lengths to provide their fans with a unique live show experience. Their ritual-esque performances are a meld of disciplines, often featuring belly dancers, elaborate costumes, poetry and theater , treating viewers to a tantalizing audio-visual feast.

By mixing oriental instruments such as the darbuka, electric saz, and spoons with electronics and modern sounds, BaBa ZuLa creates a sound that has been called a 'space sound of Istanbul', "Turkish Oriental Psychedelic " . While a ney is reminiscent of Turkey's Sufi-Islamic tradition, and the clarinet is the symbol of the music of the Turkish gypsies, an electric saz together with a wooden spoon can serve as a musical compass to Turkish musical roots. Roots going as far back as pre-Islamic, shamanic times, from the far corners of Anatolia all the way up to present-day Istanbul.

Baba ZuLa share their legacy with us through their music, a music born out of Istanbul and influenced by the memories of the timeless city, passed on to them from generations past.

The group, which from the very beginning has shown great interest in featuring guest musicians and players in concerts and albums, has been accompanied by stars such as the the Canadian singer Brenna MacCrimmon (specialized in Balkan folk music), Alexander Hacke (Einstüerzende Neubauten), Fred Frith (Henry Cow, John Zorn ), Jaki Liebezeit (Can), Dr. Das (Asian Dub Foundation), Hüsnü Senlendirici (Clarinet ), Titi Robin, Serra Yilmaz , William Macbeth (aka Bill MacBeath bass) and Ralph Carney from San Fransisco (saxophonist who worked with Tom Waits and B52's) and the diva Semiha Berksoy (first Turkish opera singer and painter).
Baba ZuLa' s debut album, "Tabutta Rövasata = Sommersault in the Coffin" (re-released by Kadraj in 2006) includes the original music score for Dervis Zaim's first movie of the same name released in 1996 about a car thief who returns the cars he has stolen to their original owners and falls in love with a peacock. The album also includes four songs on which the movie's stars Ahmet Ugurlu, Tuncel Kurtiz and Aysen Aydemir contribute vocals.

Their album, "Three Plays from Seventeen pieces" (released by Doublemoon Records in 1999) includes music created for the plays "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery, "Frog Tales" by Arnold Lobel and "Kitchen Accidents" by Perihan Magden. Along with a number of other artists, Ralph Carney, Brenna McCrimmon and Selim Sesler have also taken part in this album as guest stars. Baba ZuLa has also made the music for the film "Renkli Türkçe = Colored and in Turkish", directed by Ahmet Çadirci.

Their third album "Psychebelly Dance Music" released in May 2003 was mixed and mastered by Mad Professor who previously worked with Massive Attack, Lee Perry and the like.

Their fourth album "Duble Oryantal" which was released on Doublemoon Records in May of 2005, reunited them with mix-master Mad Professor, Sly & Robbie and Alexander Hacke and reflects the culmination of years of fearless musical adventuring, and as usual there's a talented and eclectic supporting cast on board for a share of the bounty.

On 2007 release, "Roots", Baba ZuLa return to their original format as a trio. Only old friend vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon can be heard on one song. The group also show off a new perspective on their trademark sound "oriental dub" on 3 dub mixes courtesy of the group's first trip to Japan in the Spring of 2007, where they befriended a Japanese sound engineer. Traditional Turkish influences on the album include works by important composers and lyricists in the history of Turkish music, such as Neset Ertas and Pir Sultan Abdal as well as analog recording techniques courtesy of Turkish producer Mehmet Ates.

Baba ZuLa have composed several mood-setting pieces for the silver screen over the years, their most recent release is an original score for the film "Dondurmam Gaymak".

The band also appeared in Fatih Akin’s Golden Bear award winning film "Crossing the Bridge" which explores the sounds of Istanbul and also provided music for the film by recording with Einstüerzende Neubauten's Alexander Hacke.

Their albums have been chosen among the top 5 albums by respected music publications in Turkey from 2003 on.

They have received many awards for the music they composed for films and theaters, the latest being the prestigious Ismet Küntay Award for the best theater music of the 2008 season....

Baba ZuLa have turned up the volume and energy levels at festivals and clubs including:

Memphis In May Festival (Orpheum Theater -- Memphis, Tennessee) 3 times
Sofia Fil