Selda Bağcan: Selda

If you're a fan of Turkish 1970s psychedelic music, then 2006 was a good year.

Selda Bağcan


Label: B Music
US Release Date: 2006-10-31
UK Release Date: 2006-10-30

If you're a fan of Turkish 1970s psychedelic music, then 2006 was a good year. First we had Shadoks with their two-disc Edip Akbayram retrospective in June, and now Finders Keepers is getting into the act with Mustafa Özkent's Genclik Ile Elele, and this, a re-release of some terrific Selda Bağcan.

Finders Keepers is the label that brought us Welsh Rare Beat, a collection of '70s psyche-pop from Wales that showed a flowing, folkish spirit. It's interesting to compare Rare Beat to a Turkish release like Selda and hear how the musicians in each country have used their respective folk music to color their pop. The Welsh drew on their mythic past and came up with Tir Na Nog folk operas and stories from the Mabinogi; songs that lilt. The Turkish music has more of a saz-buzz, sometimes dirty and squinched-up and squelchy, and it likes to chase its tail in curly frenzies while the Welsh sail across the skies.

Bağcan and Rare Beat's Nest Howells can both produce remarkable noises, but the way they go about it is very different. Howells lets her voice drift up and down the scale and leaves the listener waiting for it to fall, but Bagcan prefers to punch her notes into the air, or call out urgently. In Selda, she's a woman on a mission. The notes point out that her songs are the work of an activist who was trying to draw attention to oppression. "Sanma zalim olandan / Birgün hesap sorulmaz," she sings in one song, or "One day the tyrant will be scrutinized for all that is unjust", but even without that explanation it would be clear from her tone of voice that she's trying to goad the listener into action.

This goading style sets her apart from Akbayram, who was content to wrap the audience up in his ecstatic sadness and leave it nodding and murmuring, "How dramatic, how awful." His music asks us to feel sorrow, hers asks us to move and think. His version of "Mehmet Emmi" comes on thick with the paisley and the dramatic sweep of opening strings and a balmy ocean of instruments, but hers emerges in quick taps, bam, bam, bam, no-nonsense. She sings "Ince Ince" briskly, as if it hurts; Akbayram sings "Ince Ince Bir Kar Yağar", which is recognizably the same song, and sounds lush, languishing, filled with regrets.

She has the steel inflections of someone who believes in the words she's saying. The notes compare her "emotive vocal capacity" to that of Joan Baez and sometimes the comparison seems apt, but then there's this tricky wail she uses that makes her sound more desperate, more foreign -- in "Gitme" she starts high, flinging her voice around in circles, and then brings it down slowly like an airplane being guided into a complicated landing.

The CD contains the 12 songs from the 1975 album that marked her movement from a career in folk music into a more experimental, electric sound. At the end there are five songs from the next album after that. Both LPs were originally released by the Turkish label Türküola, and both of them had the same title: Selda. The five songs from the second LP are labeled "bonus songs" but it's difficult to see why they should be regarded as a bonus because the album would be too short, for a full-length CD, without them.

Those five tracks are enough to suggest that the second Selda was calmer and denser than the first, the edge of the singer's vocal activism blunted by the presence of substantial backing bands. In "Anayasso" she's backed by Mogollar, a popular group in its own right, and when it stamps in with its own chorus of heavy-voiced male singers the mismatch is enough to make me wince. The men sound as if they've come from a completely different place. But as long as they keep their mouths shut the collaboration works.

From what I can hear, I'm guessing that the first LP was recorded quickly and simply while the second was comparatively laborious and carefully planned, with more complicated roles for each musician. The music doesn't suffer, but Bagcan herself seems less free on the last five songs of the CD that she does on the 12 before them. The personality that comes out in her voice is the key to this album: It gives Selda a forceful zing that was missing from the last foreign-language psyche album I listened to, Ariesta Birawa's Vol. 1, Indonesia. If I feel that I should rank Selda slightly below Edip Akbaryam then it's only because that release included two discs of good music and Selda has only one. Both musicians are, in their own ways, equally fine, and deserve to be sought out.

Selda Bağcan -- Ah Yalan Dunya


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.