Urban Soundtracks: Istanbul According to Jakuzi

 

I must admit to being particularly lost when it comes to Turkish music. As a result of a relationship with a Turkish girl, I am knowledgeable about every bad 90’s Turkish pop star imaginable, but in terms of good contemporary Turkish music I’m completely clueless. That was until I stumbled upon Jakuzi.

Completely unlike anything that I’ve heard coming out of Istanbul, Jakuzi attempt to construct a sound they refer to as “Depeche Mode in an opium den”, which perfectly summarizes their synth-inspired post punk sound through Turkish lenses. They simultaneously sound present while conjuring a memory of the past as almost to exist in an uncategorized time period. In so many ways, they encapsulate the image of Istanbul that is not seen by tourists, offering something far more complex than what can be placed. They will be releasing their debut album Fantezi Müzik through Berlin based record label City Slang on March 24th.

The mix they put together for Post Pravda gives a hint to that Istanbul full of complexity. Check it out, along with our interview with them below. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Soundcloud.

 

Istanbul is a city that conjures a very specific image that is constantly described as being “where East meets West”. Through the works of Orhan Pamuk to cheap tourist pamphlets, this description is a constant cliché that fallows any conversation regarding the city. Listening to your mix, I find you not attempting to invoke this bridge between Asia and Europe, but firmly implanting your soundtrack of Istanbul in the West. Can you please tell me about the mix you composed and its relationship with Istanbul?

The relationship of the mix with Istanbul is far different than the cliché of being the bridge between West and East. After the coup in 1980, music stopped progressing except for arabesque, traditional, and pop music. For us to exist, we were listening mostly to the music that was produced outside of Turkey and this affected our musical taste, which you can see in our mix.

 

The mix is really fantastic. Although some of the tracks are newer, the dominant influence on this mix stems from the Post-Punk era of the late seventies and early eighties with bands like Wire, The Fall, and Sisters of Mercy. Many of these artists have spoken about how both the threat of nuclear war and the dread of the Thatcher government shaped their music. That period of time in Turkey during the early eighties was marked by a coup and a military takeover of the country. Currently, Turkey is undergoing another rather difficult period with the fallout of the attempted coups during the summer and a number of terrorist attacks. Do you believe that the music you create is shaped by these events?

In the 70’s and 80’s, to include your political view within your music and to express yourself was important. The music during that period was one of activism. Punk emerged with this attitude. We have become otherized now by doing this. We are taking a stand against the system with our lives and including our political views in the music. We want people to feel that they are not alone and/or to find something which gives them strength in the music we make. The music of that time period is what we listen to and that era as a whole was a major influence on our music.

 

Last summer, a listening party was held in the centre of Istanbul for the release of the new Radiohead album. It was attacked by men upset about people drinking and listening to music during Ramadan, leading to many injures. You make music that is challenging dominant norms and conventions. In the track “Lubunya”, you address the issues of the trans community in Istanbul, which is a community heavily oppressed in Turkey. Have you encountered much resistance to your music from similar reactionary forces? If so, how far has it escalated?

The neighbourhood where the Radiohead party got attacked was the same place that we were living in. It is a very conservative neighbourhood and in those kind of places people get attacked because of their private lives by religious conservatives. These sorts of attacks are a real hypocrisy. For instance, a trans-gender artist, Bülent Ersoy, is a star in our country. The audience who listens to her are the same ones who were being these attacks. Also, a larger percentage of the men who sleep with transgendered sex workers also accost or even kill them. There is just a strange sickness within these hateful people.

We weren’t victims of a direct attack or get a reaction from this song but that doesn’t mean that we won’t in the future. We know though that we have got plenty of love from Lubunyas. We support and love these people.

 

Despite Istanbul’s incredible size and international significance there has only been marginal interest in the music scene there. We at Post Pravda really believe that what you’re doing is interesting. For people interested in music in Turkey, for something a step up culturally from Şahin K and Harun Kolçak (haha), what would you suggest? Any favourite Turkish artists from the past or present?

Despite Istanbul’s massive size, population, and cultural importance there is a really narrow musical scene. As we mentioned above with the coup that happened in 1980, music stopped really progressing. To give you an example, for a period before the 80’s Harun Kolçak was the bass guitar player of Erkin Koray, who we really love very much. After the coup most artists started to move to pop music using synthetic instruments and apolitical lyrics. The artists we love from the past influence Neco, Neriman, Tanju Okan, Tunay Akdeniz and Çığrışım. Current artists we like include Kim Ki O, She Passed Away, Art Diktatör and Tunç Çakır.

Track list:
00:00 Guyer’s Connection – Pogo Techno
03:07 You’ll Never Get to Heaven – Cought in a Time So Far Away
06:44 John Maus – Silent Chorus
11:40 Black Magique – Beverly Kills
15:54 Ministry – She’s Got A Cause
19:18 Kas Product – Never Come Back
22:35 Frustration – We Have Some
24:10 Puff – Psychological Survival
27:24 Stratocastors – Portable
29:41 Cris Cohen – Caller No.99
33:09 Badbadnotgood – Speaking Gently
37:09 Siekiera – Czerwony Pejzaż
41:45 Sisters Of Mercy – Marian
46:37 Carcrash International – Fall
51:14 Wire – The 15th
54:12 The Fall – Totally Wired
57:34 The Skids – Sweet Suburbia

 

Photo Credit: Deniz Ezgi Sürek/Zero