From all Grup Ses projects and mixes that can be found on the internet, it’s easy to think that the work is that of several hyperactive artists. What’s impressive is that behind the deep knowledge of Turkish music and electro culture is a single person. He is mostly known for his ability to mix old pop or rock music with contemporary electro or hip hop sounds, and his sets are appreciated by night clubbers in Istanbul. Next Sunday, Grup Ses will play at La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris as part of the Kolaj Istanbul event dedicated to Istanbul’s new cultural scene.
What does ‘Grup Ses’ mean?
“Grup” means group and “Ses” means sound. It’s a stupid name, I have to admit, with no special meaning. For me, it’s a kind of a play on words. A funny expression like “group sex” or “a group of sound”.
Could you introduce the recent “Grup Ses Beats” project, more hip hop oriented, and how it started?
Grup Ses Beats is a side project of my alias Grup Ses. Five years ago, I started doing some mash-ups/mock-ups of Turkish pop tracks. Under the pseudonym of Grup Ses, I copy-pasted, sampled, modified and decomposed them.
I’ve been collecting vinyl records from all genres, from everywhere, not only Turkish ones. Later, I started to mix Turkish psychedelic records from the 60’s and 70’s with hip hop beats. Actually, I maybe shouldn’t use the word “psychedelic” since artists at the time didn’t label their music as psychedelic. It’s a term that’s been coined afterwards by Western critics.
Since I was using hip hop beats, it became a different project to Grup Ses. That was the start of Grup Ses Beats. Later, I met Kabus Kerim, an MC and producer who’s been supporting me throughout the project. He’s also an ex-member of Karakan and Cartel, one of the most influential hip hop acts in Turkey. Rap was popularized in the country after the success of their 1995 eponym album.
When did you start to perform live as a DJ?
I used to live in Ankara and play in a club called Manhattan with my friends. At that time, in 2002-2003, we mostly played electronica. Then, after moving to Istanbul, I started using many different aliases relating to genres like oldschool jungle, dubstep, and ambient. Together with friends and other artists from Ankara and Istanbul, I’m also helping them run the label Tektosag which is focused on electronic music.
You’ve made several online compilations called Memleketten Funk (Funk from the Homeland), with old Turkish funk tracks from the 70’s?
Yes. I did these for fun. I wanted to introduce the best bits from my private 7” collection to my friends. I mixed the tracks of well-known artists with obscure ones, wishing that people would discover unknown tracks through these DJ sets.
Over the past years, Turkish psychedelic rock from the 60’s and the 70’s, also known as Anatolian rock, has become trendy in both Turkey and Europe. What’s your reaction to that?
It’s a complicated question. Especially after the reissuing of Selda vinyls in 2006, the interest in Turkish records increased. DJs and producers in Turkey had been using them for a long time, but after the Selda repress, we started seeing more DJs and producers abroad using Turkish records or edits in their sets and productions. But, this hype is not only about Turkey: it is part of a larger trend towards non-Western music produced in 60’s and 70’s.
Of course there’s an exotic and orientalist side of this trend, whether conscious or unconscious. But it’s a matter of marketing too, like the world music trend at the end of the 80’s.
The Anatolian rock movement, which was very popular among young people, is that something we can relate to some kind of subculture?
The term ‘Anatolian Pop’ or ‘Anatolian Rock’ is widely defined as an attempt to bring Western elements to different forms of Turkish folk music. But also jazz, funk, rock and pop music of that of the 60’s and 70’s were influenced by the wave. Two classics of the golden era of Anatolian pop are Tülay German’s Burçak Tarlası and Alpay’s Kara Tren. So yes, we can talk about a subculture, influenced musically by the 60’s beat music in the UK. You can hear influences of British beat on first recordings that bands like Haramiler, Mavi Işıklar, Bunalımlar and others made.
Left-wing and revolutionary groups were quite strong in Turkey during the 60’s and 70’s. Were they politically engaged?
There were leftist singers and bands like Moğollar, Dervişan, Dostlar, Selda, Cem Karaca and Edip Akbayram. But you can also find nationalist bands or more neutral artists like Barış Manço.
And what happened after 1980?
During the military coup of 1980, musicians like Cem Karaca, Şanar Yurdatapan and many others were forced to leave Turkey. The bands that emerged after the 80’s sounded more like their Western contemporaries, and without the influence of the Anatolian rock generation. There’s a book by Münir Tireli called Türkiye’de Grup Müziği 1980’ler (Band Music in Turkey in the 80’s), which is an interesting read on the topic. Today, there are many bands and electronic musicians who are influenced by the 60’s and 70’s sounds. To get an idea of what’s going on right now in the Turkish underground scene, you can check my Ses Partisi mixes.
I have the feeling that all these young bands are like a community that helps each other?
Yes, there’s a very strong community supporting each other. But there are also other communities than the experimental music and indie rock ones; a hip hop community for instance, which is spread to every region in Turkey. There’s the website Hip Hop Life which is a sort of hub of Turkish hip hop. There are hundreds of albums available for download on that site.
What are the issues that MCs deal with in their lyrics?
There are MCs delivering quite explicit criticism of the government and politicians. But they speak about the daily life routine as well. I think that Turkish rap in a sense is more politically engaged than other popular music genres in the country.
You use a lot of sounds from the past in your work. Is it a kind of pleasure to look for these old records?
Of course. You never know what records you’ll get; you always have to dig in vinyl stores and second hand shops to find music. It’s like a treasure hunt. You also rediscover memories from the past through this music. For instance, I recently bought a record by Kerem Yılmazer which was recommended to me by a friend from Çerikunda DJ Krew. When I wanted to know what Kerem Yılmazer was doing now, I sadly found out that he was killed during the 2003 terrorist attacks in Istanbul.
What are your next Grup Ses Beats projects?
On September 23, I’ll release my first LP, in limited edition. I might release an LP or 7” in the UK afterwards as well. Then, I want to make a record with Sami Baha. I might also produce an EP with young Turkish MCs, linking different scenes together. And there are other projects under different names on the way too.