I’m not sure how I came across Grup Ses Beats. All I know is once I’d heard a few tracks I had to know more. I embarked on a cyber-manhunt only to discover the act was part of Distortion’s 2013 lineup. Clicking the link, the Festival offered this enlightening biography: “Mysterious Turkish People.”
Yes, there are people behind Grup Ses Beats. Turkish people. Or more accurately, one super-talented Turkish producer, known for making instrumental hip-hop tracks and sampling Turkish rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Citing J Dilla and Dimlite as influences, Grup Ses Beats' inspiration is obvious, but the sound is all his own. And it’s part of a bigger sound emerging from the likes of Istanbul and Ankara.
Let’s be clear: the rise of Turkish electronic music isn’t entirely new, the same way Turkey’s recent political turmoil didn’t just happen overnight. The scene has been developing for some time. It hasn’t lacked talent, but what it has lacked is ears.
For starters, Turkey is no stranger to melding sounds from opposing spectrums. As a nation literally split between two continents, it’s only natural. Take for example Anatolian Rock: a 1970’s Western rock/Turkish folk fusion. It has its fans, but while African and South American re-releases have inspired a cult following, Turkey has been somewhat absent from this trend. Not entirely: producer Oh No sampled national hero Selda and J. Dilla used bits of Turkish rock legend Moğollar. But overall, Turkey’s music has remained underrepresented and overlooked.
Things haven’t been much easier for contemporary bands. Part of the problem is Turkish soil is as much a source of isolation as it is a source of homegrown talent. Take for example Kim Ki O. They’ve been making their dreamy synth-pop for six years, but chances are you haven’t heard of them. Recently signed to French label, Lentonia, the duo chose relocation after years of lamenting Turkey’s government (and geography) and missed gigs due to visa problems. But while many acts have trouble crossing physical and linguistic borders, Turkish electronic may just be able to make the journey.
Which brings us back to “Mysterious Turkish People.” Grup Ses isn’t just making cutting-edge music—he is also promoting its growth, working with record label Tektosag, launched by Utku Önal, Ahmet Turk, and Koray Kantarcioglu in 2010. The following year, Tektosag branched out with Davulun Sesi, a sub-label focused on hip-hop and urban electronic talent.
Among its hip-hop artists, Da Poet (Ozan Erdogan) stands out. Young, but established, Erdogan gained notoriety with his politically-charged rap. His latest solo release ‘Beattape,’ composed of 21 instrumental tracks, echoes legendary producers like Madlib: coolly understated, but cinematic. Hints of jazz, offset by urban beats, blend with traditional melodies, creating that East–meets-West sound Turkey does best.
Just as intriguing, though less easy to categorize, is one of Tetkosag’s newer acts, Heartsparxx. Its singer/producer describes his music as pop, but the sound is much more complex. His debut track, “Your Love” is a perfect blend of contrasts: smooth, soulful vocals with an R&B feel, gliding over crisp, syncopated beats and subtle synth. It’s a sophisticated, sensual introduction to a seriously promising artist with great set of remixes to match.
But Tektosag doesn’t have the monopoly on upcoming music. Others worth noting include more experimental electronic acts, such as Gurur Gelen’s project Pullahs. It’s another name you probably don’t know, but one you definitely should. Crafting atmospheric melodies with down-tempo beats, Gelen’s work spans many genres, from glitch to chillwave and even disco. Also making waves are Biblo and Ekin Fil whose ethereal electro suggests a softer Grimes, with a hint of Maria Minerva and Laurel Halo. If these two Turks sound similar don’t be too shocked—they’re sisters.
For a nice, neat, but extensive, summary of it all, check out Diren Müzik ‘s compilation ‘Dayan,’ released a few weeks ago in support of Gezi Solidarity. It’s a successful sampling of a music scene with much to offer in a nation with much on its mind. But make no mistake: protests or not, these artists deserve the spotlight. It’s real, progressive talent. And luckily, that goes beyond politics.