Cem Karaca
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5 April 1945 – 8 February 2004

Karaca was the only child in an ethnic Azeri / Armenian family. In secondary school his aunt starst teaching him piano. In 1962 he sang at the request of his friends at the Beyoglu Sports Club. This persueded them to form a band  his friends, then decided to form a group called the Dinamikler in 1963 specialised in beat-covers. Much against his fathers wishes. Later he joined Jaguars, an Elvis Presley cover band. In 1967, after miltary service, he started to write his own music, forming the band Apaşlar (The Rowdies), his first Turkish-language group. The group performed at Altın Mikrofon 1967 ending second in the competition. Their biggest and only hit would be ‘Resimdeki Gözyaşları’ (Tears in the picture) that even gained some international attention. In 1969, Karaca and bass-player Serhan Karabay left Apaşlar and started an original Anatolian group called Kardaşlar (The Brothers). Partly moving to Cologne, Germany and living in Turkey recording became very difficult, also because there was no financial backup. Eventually the single ‘Dadaloğlu/Kalender’ was released in 1970. The band started touring but met with political sentiments along the way. In 1971, during a concert in Trabzon, a bomb exploded injuring 30 people. It would be the end of Kardaşlar but Karaca himself became very popular. In 1972, Karaca joined the group Moğollar (The Mongols) and wrote one of his best-known songs, ‘Namus Belası’. However, Cahit Berkay, the leader of Moğollar, wanted an international name for his band, and he left for France to take the group to another level. Karaca, who wanted to continue his Anatolian beat sound, left Moğollar and started his own band Dervişan (Dervishes) in 1974. That year a compilation of his work till was in fact the first release under his own name.

In 1975 the songs and hits followed soon after on another. ‘Tamirci Çırağı’ (Handyman’s Apprentice), ‘İşçisin sen, işçi kal’ (you are the worker, workers stay ) and ‘Mutlaka Yavrum/Kavga’ (Surely, my child / Fight) are all present on his second album. But with the socialist thematics it also placed him under suspicion of the governement accusing him of treason for being a separatist thinker and a Marxist-Leninist. The Turkish government tried to portray Karaca as a man, who was unknowingly writing songs to start a revolution. Under pressure Dervişan was ultimately dissolved at the end of 1977. A year later he founded Edirdahan, an acronym for "from Edirne to Ardahan"; the westernmost and the easternmost provinces of Turkey. The concept album 'Safinaz' was one of the first in Turkey featering an 18-minute long rock-opera. In early 1979, he left for West Germany for business reasons. Turkey continued to spin out of control with military curfews and eventually a military coup on September 12, 1980. Living in Bonn Karaca released the album ‘Hasret’ based on the poems from dissident Nazım Hikmet in protest. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Karaca by the government of Turkey.

In 1987 he received amnesty which enabled him to return to Turkey (meanwhile his father had died without Karaca able to attend). His return also brought a new album ‘Merhaba Gençler ve Her zaman Genç Kalanlar’ (Hello to The Young and The Young at Heart), one of his most powerful works. In 1992 he recorded the charity single ‘Sev Dünyayı’ for Unicef with  İbrahim Tatlıses, Ajda Pekkan, Muazzez Abacı, Leman Sam and Fatih Erkoç. In 1995 he traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina with 95 other artists in support of the Muslim part of a country split by war. Over the years however Karaca had lost the youthful audience and acquired few new listeners. Not untill 1999 was he able to record again. In 2001, after the death of Baris Manço, he joined Kurtalan Express in a tribute concert evolving in a retro-tour in bars. In january 2004 he recorded the duet ‘Hayat Ne Garip?" (what a strange life?) for a Mahsun Kirmizigul album. It would be his last act. He died on February 8, 2004 and was buried at Karacaahmet Cemetery in Istanbul. A string of young artists like Yavuz Bingöl, Manga, Teoman, Deniz Seki, Suavi and Ayhan Yener recorded a tribute album in 2005.

On the web:

- Good fansite: http://www.cemkaraca.com/

If you like this, you probably like.. / european counterparts:

Czesław Niemen (Poland)

What do we think:

DB: With his enormous moustache and big glasses Karaca seems like a parody of a seventies bohemien artist to Western eyes. Fact is that he was the real deal. Compared to Turkish progrock counterparts Koray and Manço, the music of Karaca sounded much more funky and soulfull. And therefor the most accesible of the three to non-Turkish ears. His retoric and socialist styled lyrics did not make it easy for him. Next to singing he also acted in several movies. His excile to Germany in the Eighties fated him to almost being forgotten in his homeland let alone abroad. After his death came the revival and also the interest from international prog-rock reissue labels. Anatolian rock at its best but probably the worst coverdesigns in the history of European rock.

Recommended albums :

♪♪♪♪♪ - Kardaşlar - 1973

- Cem Karaca'nın (compilation of his sixties EP's) - 1974

♪♪♪♪ - Yoksulluk Kader Olamaz - 1977

♪♪♪ - Safinaz - 1978

♪♪♪ - Hasret - 1980

- Bekle Beni - 1982

- Die Kanaken - 1984

- Merhaba Gençler - 1987

- Töre - 1988

- Yiyin Efendiler - 1990

- Nerde Kalmıştık? - 1992

- Bindik Bir Alamete... 1999

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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