NETHERLANDS/TURKEY: On - Altin Gün
Updated: Mar 7
This fusion album reinterprets Turkish folk music through the lens of modern funk as well as the 1970s Turkish rock scene
Based in the Netherlands and comprising of Turkish and Dutch members, Altin Gün (translating to Golden Day from Turkish) have an interesting mix of influences that range from 60s psychedelia to the Anatolian rock scene of the 1970s. Inspired by many artists, but in particular Barış Manço (whose moustache is a genuine sight to behold – seriously, go google it) who took the traditional folk songs of Turkey and updated them with modern sounds and brave sonic exploration, often combining traditional Turkish instruments with rock and funk, Altin Gün decided to do much the same. Though Anatolian rock is the basis of their style, the album is, in some ways, a tribute to the iconic work of Turkish composer and virtuoso of the long-necked lute-like instrument bağlama, Neşet Ertaş. Known by the astoundingly good nickname of ‘the Plectrum of the Steppe’, many of Ertaş’s compositions are standards of Turkish folk music, and their 2018 debut album On is largely comprised of reworked and retooled versions of his originals. Without any knowledge of this prior to listening, it is a testament to Altin Gün’s innovative skill as musicians that one would not know these were folk songs of any kind as they sound modern, with an obvious 70s retro inflection.
“They manage to rework Turkish folk in their own image, with a little help from the Anatolian rockers of the past.”
The album is full of songs that are likely to be successful dancefloor fillers, as they are largely up-tempo rock songs in the Anatolian style, and especially when performed live, there is a clear energy to the songs. Caney is a good example of this, where the guitar and bağlama riffs are overlain on top of energetic basslines and frenetic drumbeats. Perhaps my favourite of these songs is Goca Dünya, which features a funky bassline and guitar riff, while the synth riffs lain on top, as well as the lively vocals by Merve Desdemir all evoke the sounds of the Middle East. Similarly, Kirşehirin Gülleri combines the brilliant bass playing by Jasper Verhulst with a bağlama hook, which due to its droning, lilting sound, it seems haunting yet hypnotically psychedelic at the same time. Had Jefferson Airplane been Turkish, they may have composed sounds such as these. There are some exceptions to the rule, of course, with Șad Olup Gülmedim Șad, which features a moody and evocative bağlama lead played by Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız, as well as a powerful vocal performance. Coming halfway through the album, it serves as a palate cleanser from the boisterous music around it, and it becomes all the more memorable for it. Șeker Oğlan is another song that had a slightly different feel. Though it is funky, with another irresistible bassline, its slower tempo and ever-increasing musical intensity, reaching a crescendo at the end, give it an ominous atmosphere. In a good way, of course.
The band was brought together by a Facebook advert made by Verhulst in 2016 looking for Turkish musicians for a new project. Altin Gün was the result, and though they had only been performing together for two years by this point, they sound like an outfit that have been playing for years and years. Though it is true that On does not have much in the way of variety – they have their style and they stick with it more or less for the entire duration of the album – it is also an album that is very consistent in its quality. It is hard to distinguish to any great degree my enjoyment from song to song, and on a technical level, it is impressive as they manage to rework Turkish folk in their own image, with a little help from the Anatolian rockers of the past. While the fusion of genres may be a bit esoteric for some, it is definitely an album worth sticking with, as they are able to draw any casual listeners in with their aptitude for funky compositions.