On the first of February of 1999, Turkey prematurely lost a legend. Aged just 56 at the time, Barış Manço’s death shocked the Turkish nation in ways comparable to how the loss of David Bowie affected Londoners. The godfather of the Anatolian rock scene, he created a fusion of Turkish folk music and psychedelia that enchanted not just Turkey but the whole world throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s and 90s he became a familiar face to children growing up, thanks to his charming kids-friendly show 7’den 77’ye which was beamed into every Turkish household from Istambul to Yüksekova.
Djanan Turan was one such child. Born in 1978 in Adana, she was weened on Barış Manço’s magical music. Having made London her home since 2001, she is a stalwart on the festival circuit, touring with bands such as The Egg as well as Sam and the Womp. Last year, to celebrate 20 years since the death of the iconic Anatolian pioneer that is Manço, she put on a show at the Jazz Café that went down in history among the Turkish diaspora who have made London their home. Last night, thankfully, she decided to do it all again.
Accompanied by her ‘friends’ on stage, a wonderful collection of talented musicians and singers, she belted out hit after hit, keeping the spirit and music of Manço alive. She began with her take on his classic song Dere Boyu Kavaklar, a track that originally appeared on the icon’s 1975 album 2023, which we would like to share below:
Everyone seemed to know the words to every single song. Many of those present last night may not even have been born when Manço met his untimely death, but, as has happened throughout the centuries in Turkey, Turan managed to echo the aşık tradition of passing stories down to the next generation via the fantastic music of Manço.
The night was billed as The Psychedelic World of Barış Manço, yet Turan was barely out of her teens when the great man met his maker. How could this night possibly live up to the billing? Manço was the living, breathing embodiment of a man-mountain hippie. Even his name, “Barış”, means “peace” in Turkish (his older brother was, slightly less fortunately, called Savaş, which means “war”). He grew his hair long, having been mentally scarred in childhood from having his head shaven following a particularly bad outbreak of head-lice at his school. How could he not become a hippie? But not having been to the show last year, we were really was not sure how the young skinny Djanan Turan was going to pull this off. We needn’t have worried. Turan was captivating on stage as her idol was in his hey-day. What a treat!
She wrapped up the first half of the show with two classics that left the crowds hungry for more. A haunting, slow rendition of Gesi Bağları, a beautiful old folk song that tells the tale of Mustafa, a boy from a poor family from Gesi in Kayseri, who goes to find construction work in Istambul and gets together with a girl (Leyla) who cannot get used to life in the sticks and gets bullied by his sisters and mother while Mustafa tries to get a better job. Turan then ended the half with her own version of the classic Dağlar Dağlar (mountains, mountains).
We should add that we would not have been able to identify these last two songs were it not for the help of a very friendly young man who was standing beside us, who turned out to be the manager of rocksalt.epsom, a fusion restaurant in (you’ve guessed it) Epsom which is getting rave reviews as the moment. You could not meet a friendlier and more helpful chap. We thought we would mention this, as we are very grateful for the help he gave us with the songs.
A shout-out also to the excellent DJ and audio team, who kept us entertained with some quality music whenever Djanan Turan and her friends were not on stage. We chatted at the end of the evening to a DJ who introduced himself as Umut, or Twelve-Odysses. If it was him who was also DJing at the start of the evening, then we bow down to his excellent record collection. We loved hearing the beautiful Dragon Pom Z by Polo & Pan on the Jazz Café outstanding speaker-system.
After the break, Djanan Turan broke with tradition and started introducing all her band members, something normally done at the end of a gig. This gave everyone the chance to have a little solo. It was a great tune, in Turkish, but very reminiscent of Manço’s crowd-pleaser Nick the Chopper, though we could not find our helpful restauranteur at that moment to confirm the song title. More and more people joined Turan on stage including the amazing clarinettist, astronomer and academic Dr Alice Mary Williamson. After the final song, the crowd screamed for more. Clearly quite overwhelmed, and seemingly unprepared for an encore, she decided, after some discussion with her band-members, to play Gibi Gibi, a song that Manço initially brought out in 1985 when he introduced synths and drum machines into his music. It was a fitting ending to a wonderful night.
Will this become a regular thing? We guess we’ll find out around about this time next year. And if indeed Djanan does come back and do it for a third time in the near future, we urge you to book tickets. If you love the combination of psychedelia and ethnic sounds, on one of the capital’s best sound systems in these reviewers’ humble opinion, and surrounded by the ever-friendly Turkish party-goers, you would be crazy not to go.
So, if you are reading this, Djanan Turan, please make this a regular thing. You are onto a winner. Thank you for keeping the wonderful psychedelic world of Barış Manço alive and well. The great man would have been proud of you.