Erkin Koray
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24 June 1941

Koray was born in Istanbul and started studying piano and guitar at an early age. In 1959 he founded his first band, Erkin Koray and rhythm and is often heralded as the first Turkish artist to play rock ‘n roll. In 1962 he got the change to record a first single called ‘Bir Eylül Akşamı’ but it turned out to be to soon. Between 1963 and1965 played at various casino’s and fulfilled his military service.

After a period of demobilization in various countries around Europe he returned to Turkey in 1966 and heard about the Altın Mikrofon contest. Erkin Koray. Koray joined, he did not win, but it did deliver him a change to release the psychedelic single ‘Anma Arkadaş’. Koray followed this with a number of singles, both by himself and in collaboration with others, that established him as a force to be reckoned with on the Turkish rock scene. Koray became a controversial figure in Turkey during the 1960s and 1970s; he was actually assaulted in Istanbul, and on one occasion stabbed, for having long hair.

In the early 1970s, he formed the group Ter with the former members of Grup Bunalim (Turkish for "Group Depression"), a power trio styled group. Although they only recorded one single before breaking up, ‘Hor Görme Garibi’ (a cover of the major Arabesque music hit by Orhan Gencebay) was a smash hit, furthering Koray's career. However, Istanbul Records, unhappy with Koray and Ter's musical direction, withdrew all support and refused to let the group record, thus ending the group's career. The music of Ter was influenced by glam rock and psychedelia, and featured extended guitar solos and progressive arrangements - something that the record company was not prepared to accept.

The Turkish public remained interested in Koray's solo work nonetheless, and in 1973 his first album, Erkin Koray, was released. Up to this point, all of Koray's work had been issued only on 45 rpm records, although he had been recording for the past 10 years and was a very popular artist in Turkey. The album consists of a collection of singles from 1967 to 1973. Koray left Istanbul Records after the release of the album. In 1974, Erkin Koray signed to Doglan Records and released what is probably his best-known and best-selling single, ‘Şaşkın(Dabke)’. Set to a traditional Egyptian tune, the single proved Koray to be an ingenious musician and arranger.

1974 also saw the release of his groundbreaking album, ‘Elektronik Türküler’ ("Electronic Ballads"). Finally given the freedom to record an album instead of being limited to 45 rpm singles, Koray and his band created an album that reflected both his Turkish roots and his love of psychedelic and progressive rock. On the album the electric bağlam can first be heard, a traditional Turkish musical instrument related to the lute In 1977 he again changed backing group for a band called Passion. This wasn’t a true success and it took Koray five years to come up with a new direction. In 1982 a new Koray stood up and not without success. But financial difficulties and several lawsuits over copyrights brought him to the verge of bankruptcy. With extreme low budget and only one synthesizer he recorded ‘Çukulatam Benim’ in 1987 and ‘Hay Yam Yam’ in 1989. As a public figure he stayed in demand and this allowed him to record ‘Gün Ola Harman Ola’ in 1999. The album got much critical acclaim but didn’t sell really good. The 2005 documentary film "Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul" by Turkish-German director Fatih Akin emphasizes Koray's influence on the younger generation of musicians that the film features.

On the web:

- Koray's website: http://www.erkinkoray.net.tc/

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

Czesław Niemen (Poland)

Bijelo Dugme (Bosnia Herzogovina)

Triana (Spain)

What do we think:

DB: While Baris Manço  was warming up in Belgium and France Erkin Koray already was warming up the public back home with exercises of Turkish folk mixed with wild electronic psychedelic elements. Not that everyone was ready for that, see the stabbing incident. And in the end it was Manço  that released the first Anatolian rock album. Still, Koray’s seventies album are of such quality that they can easily match progrock made in and outside Turkey at that time.

Recommended albums :

♪♪♪ - Erkin Koray - 1973

♪♪♪♪♪ - Elektronik Türküler - 1974

♪♪♪♪ - Erkin Koray 2 - 1976

Further listening: Tutkusu - 1977; Benden Sana - 1982; İllâ ki - 1983; Ceylan - 1985
Aşkımız Bitecek - 1986; Çukulatam Benim - 1987; Hay Yam Yam - 1989; Tamam Artık - 1990; Gün Ola Harman Ola - 1996; Devlerin Nefesi - 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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