Selda / Mustafa Ozkent
Selda / Genclik Ile Elele
A- / B+
’ve listened to my fair share of world music records purported to be “the lost this” and “the missing link between x and y,” so I was suspicious going into the first listen to both Selda’s self-titled record and Mustafa Ozkent’s Genclik Ile Elele. But, then again, sometimes press releases get it right. The two records, recently reissued by Finders Keepers are the best hip-hop records that Turkey has ever produced.
They aren’t strictly hip-hop, of course. Selda and Genclik Ile Elele were released in 1976 and 1973, respectively. But the duo contain perhaps the hottest breaks found outside of the States released during that time period.
Genclik Ile Elele’s story is the stranger of the two: as Andy Votel relates in the liner notes, Ozkent was “an expert in both carpentry in electronics.” This, along with Ozkent’s adherence to traditional Turkish sounds, led to a new guitar which Ozkent treated so with “additional frets enabling him to replicate unique notes similar to that of a saz or the lute.” The result is what can best be described as an Eastern European Incredible Bongo Band. The ten instrumental tracks each groove with an intensity that only comes with purposeful, well-honed arrangements (something Ozkent specialized in). Even so, there’s more than enough time for the drummer to get some on tracks like “Zeytinyagli” or “Dolana Dolana.” Clocking in at a sleek thirty-one minutes, it’s a tour de force of Turkish funk that any self-respecting hip-hop DJ shouldn’t be without for long.
Selda, however, is the more satisfying. Votel begrudgingly categorizes it as a folk album, but he then immediately backs away and starts to throw around terms like “space age,” “psych-folk-funk-rock,” and “progressive-protest.” Whatever it is, as long as you can get past the voice, it’ll have you doing double takes continuously throughout its first nine tracks. “Yaz Gazeteci Yaz” drops a Tonto's Expanding Head Band-style synth over the guitar-led tune, before Selda’s group stops and starts its way to a blinding guitar solo. “Mehmet Emmi” follows, sounding all the world like a country-punk tune recorded in a washing machine (the sound quality here isn’t always the best, even if it is pretty good overall). After these almost offhandedly brilliant folk-psych masterpieces, it almost seems perverse to mention that “Dam Ustune Cul Serer” is the best song Fairport Convention never wrote or that “Yaylalar” is funkier than anything John Legend has ever put to tape.
I use the word perverse because, until Votel’s Finders Keepers label stepped in, this stuff was comically rare stuff. Credit is due for tracking it down and, in Ozkent’s case, taking care to get the best quality versions of each piece of music. Highly recommended.