Write, Journalist, Write!

January 27, 2019

The 1970s in Turkey were a time of opening across all cultural spheres but especially musically. After the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, “Alaturca” music was banned from radio stations in favor of Western classical tonal music. Generations of Turkish musicians were trained to play piano and violin but not traditional folk instruments. The traditional Ottoman courtly music style was almost lost completely, and while regional folk styles continued to be popular in bars and at weddings, generations of urban dwellers grew up without Turkish music.

By the 1960s, many Turks were listening to Bulgarian, Syrian, and Egyptian radio to fill this niche, while the big cities began to undergo a pop culture revolution. Tango became very popular and was allowed on radio. Meanwhile, young people from Western-oriented families began listening to psychedelic rock, which sounded a lot like the Anatolian music that fresh waves of migrants from the countryside were bringing with them.

This mix produced a first wave of “Anatolian rock” by groups like Moğollar, Erkin Koray, and many more. This music found a home on the political Left in Turkey, and found its way back into Anatolian villages as restrictions on radio were relaxed and because the artists could claim that it was indeed Western-influenced music.

Selda Bağcan enters the scene in the mid-70s and is renowned as a political activist to the present day. The daughter of refugees from the Balkans and Crimea, she grew up in multiple areas of rural Anatolia and picked up a strongly class-oriented lyrical repertoire.

Her 1976 hit “Yaz Gazeteci Yaz” (Write Journalist Write) is perhaps her most famous song, influencing artists including St. Vincent and Tune-Yards as well as generations of Turkish musicians. The song has been covered by almost every rock act in Turkey, with the lyrics edited to reflect the plight of different cities and towns. Its lyrics address the growing disparity in wealth between urban and rural areas, and the cultural distance this opened up. The song gains a lot of power from the lines of verse that can’t be contained by meter or rhyme; the urgency of the message allows the lines to spin out and flood the psychic space of the listener.

Bağcan was arrested multiple times after the coup of 1980 and had her passport confiscated. She now performs at music festivals around the world as a sort of Marxist nan.

[Her song "Yuh Yuh" is also worth checking out in video and lyrics]

Aman gazeteci gel bizim köye bizim halları da yaz

Şehirde ojeli parmakları yazma

Bir de bizim köyde nasırlanmış elleri de

Yaz yaz gazeteci yaz,

Yaz yaz efendi yaz

Bankada parası olan kulları yazma

Onlara aldanıp yolundan azma

Şehirden asfalt geçen yolları yazma

Bir de bizim köyden eşek geçmeyen yolları

Yaz yaz gazeteci yaz,

Yaz yaz efendi yaz

Şöhretten bunalmış dilleri yazma

Kendi bahçendeki gülleri yazma

Haksız yere genç öldüren elleri yazma

Doğuda doktorsuz ölen kulları

Yaz yaz gazeteci yaz,

Yaz yaz efendi yaz

Almanya'da çalışan elleri yazma

Libya'ya gidecek olanlara şaşma

Evi barkı yıkılanları yazma

Bir de türkiye'de dul kalan kulları da

Yaz yaz gazeteci yaz,

Yaz yaz efendi yaz

Have mercy journalist come to our village and write about our situation

Don't write about lacquered fingers in the city

Write about the calloused hands in our village for once

Write write journalist write

Write write sir write

Don't write about the slaves with money in the banks

Don't be deceived into taking that path

Don't write about the asphalt roads leading from the city

Write about how donkeys can't travel the roads in our village for once

Write write journalist write

Write write sir write

Don't write in the suffocating language of fame

Don't write about the roses in your own garden

Don't write about the unjust hands of those murdering the young

Write about those dying in the east without doctors for once

Write write journalist write

Write write sir write

Don't write about the working hands in Germany

Don't be wowed by those who depart to Libya

Don't write about the collapsed households

Write about the left-over widowed slaves in Turkey for once

Write write journalist write

Write write sir write


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