Do Look Back | Selda Bagcan
When it comes to early seventies protest music it’s easy to think exclusively in Western terms. The U.S. had Dylan, Baez, and others; the UK: John Lennon, Donovan, etc. Who else was there? The history of that turbulent era’s political music is generally documented as if the only people who were part of the scene were English speaking anglo saxons and Jimi Hendrix. Well it turns out there was a lot more. One such example is Turkey’s Selda Bagcan, a forward thinking artists of the first order whose leftist views and cutting satire landed her in Turkish prisons several times throughout the seventies and eighties (she reportedly received a combined 500 years of jail time for setting communist poet Nazim Hikmet’s poetry to music, though she did not serve it). A former engineering student, Bagcan made a name for herself in the world of Turkish folk music before branching out to experiment in progressive and psychedelic styles.
And while Selda (as she is called) has a massive discography that spans decades, the only LP that I know of that is easily available is the titular album that was lovingly reissued by Finders Keepers some time ago. It’s an absolutely astonishing piece of Anatolian funk, jazz, and psychedelic rock, all set to the bedrock of Selda’s traditional Middle-Eastern folk roots. Imagine potboiler Middle-Eastern styled vocals backed with explosive guitar, funky basslines, and powerful synths, and you have the right idea. Selda’s 12 original tracks pulse with an imaginative unrestraint that seems unconventional even by today’s standards. That you can’t understand the political lyrics if you don’t speak Turkish is irrelevant as the songs take on a life and force of their own in the universal language of funkiness.
One of the first to recognize Selda’s brilliance in the modern age was Madlib sibling Oh No (real name Michael Jackson – not that Michael Jackson) who recently sampled several of her tunes on his excellent beat collection, Dr. No’s Oxperiment. Hip Hop artist Mos Def was less forthright in “borrowing” Selda’s work, and it ended up in a lawsuit. And more are sure to come as DJ’s and Producers have recently turned to old school Anatolian funk as a new source of inspiration for new beats. And while I can appreciate the hip-hop tweaked takes on these old classics, I am still astounded at just how good music like Selda’s still sounds in its original form. While in her day Selda may have not found the same wide audiences enjoyed by her anglo peers, it certainly isn’t too late to appreciate it today.
— Jon Behm
Selda: More info