The best news of the year so far may be this: Anatolian rock lives. On his album Bahar, Umut Adan proves it, wielding the classic sounds and political spirit of Turkish psychedelic rock with an ease and skill that makes each track sound like it could have been pulled from a hall of fame featuring the likes of Erkin Koray and 3 Hür-El. In keeping with genre conventions, the messages throughout the album are firmly focused on issues of the present, critiquing local political machinations and civil rights issues.
Right now, Adan lives in Italy, which perhaps protects him from direct reprisal from those who disagree and allows him some objectivity. Still, he is no less invested in the realities of his homeland. The sonic aspects of his music alone make that clear, hearkening back to the specific styles of late 1960s activist sounds of the area and thus evoking that same sense of engagement in the Turkish social landscape. From the start, Adan makes it clear that he feels a great deal of kinship with his countrymen as “Bembeyaz Cananım” reflects on the Anatolian rockers who came before and how their legacies allow Adan to continue to make statements through music.
Among these provocative themes, too, are some more universally popular themes, like his cover of late master Fikret Kızılok’s acoustic love song “Zaman Zaman”, which Adan sings with a sensitivity that gives the album extra depth. He whirls through another cover, this time of the folk song “Arabam Kaldı”, with melismatic aplomb.
Though most other songs have more of a bite or bounce to them, Adan’s dulcet tones make each track go down smoothly. His voice has a limber strength and remains refreshingly unembellished throughout the album. It echoes over the heavy fuzz of electric guitars on “Güneş”, and swings on “Kadıköylü”, a city-paced commentary on Westernization in contemporary Istanbul. On “Ortasından Gel”, Adan juxtaposes quick guitar riffs against a serious lyrical delivery as he sings in metaphors of unrest like that spurring on the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
Last on the album is “Ana Baba Bacı Gardaş”, a final ballad for the future of Turkey as a nation and for the community that calls it home, whether onsite or from a distance, as in Adan’s case. More broadly, it sees Adan reach out to the world to come together as a planet of peaceful diversity. A wistful melody further enhances Adan’s dual expressions of hope and worry as he does his part to direct the world down a path to global fellowship.
Bahar is more than an homage to decades past. While Adan remembers and reveres his musical forefathers by adhering faithfully to the psych-rock they put in place so many struggles ago, his heart is firmly in the present. The turbulence of today may be different than it once was in terms of specifics, but every movement needs its voices. Umut Adan may not be the only one for this time and place, but his use of musical forms so closely associated with some of Turkey’s most radical political changes in recent memory show just how seriously he takes his role. The fact that every track also has such exciting musical color makes it that much more enticing to join the revolution.