17/10/2023Zel Zele Records Releases Timeless 1980s DIY Solo Album By Turkish Bass Guitarist And 'Gurbetçi' Bahtiyar Taş

No idea what was going on in the '80s, but certain albums tell a fantastic tale of a time quite unlike any other, where going against the stream was considered good etiquette and electronic experimentation paved the way to new forms of musical production. It was in that era that Turkish bassist Bahtiyar Taş self-produced an exceptionally bizarre DIY solo album offering a glimpse of his parallel universe. We first stumbled upon the much needed reissue of this eight-track joyride while searching for tracks to add to our monthly playlist and made up our minds to eventually do a short write-up on it. Well, dear readers, the time has come to introduce you to the madness that is "Acaip" ('strange').

After reading the release notes, Bahtiyar Taş would seem to be what you call a 'Lebenskünstler' in German, i.e. someone who has mastered the art of living. This unique outlook on life and "outstanding ability to not take life too seriously" seems to have resulted in these one-of-a-kind compositions that are way out of line, but also irrefutably appealing: "Arabesque melodies meet odd fusion beats with humorous lyricism, cheeky use of synthesizers and a free approach to arrangement; [...] a cross-genre trip into Taş's ironic world." In its essence, "Acaip" is the musical expression of Taş dealing with the doldrums of life as an outsider or 'Ausländer' in 1980s Germany. 

Taş had moved to Istanbul as a teenager, pursuing a career in music. After a few years of busking he joined the acclaimed classical musician Yıldırım Gürses and, in 1973, became a member of iconic pop-folk outfit Beyaz Kelebekler, introducing him to the rock'n'roll lifestyle. From there, he chose the path of arabesque music, "a genre known for its heavy lyrics about hopeless love stories and troubles of everyday life." He eventually moved to Germany with plans of forming a new band, but was met with a different reality. Low on cash, he ended up living in a run-down squat in Frankfurt and, although he began to regret his decision of relocating to Germany in the first place, decided to stay, when a military coup took place in Turkey in September 1980, ultimately bringing the golden era of Turkish music to an end. 

Facing a life in exile, Bahtiyar Taş turned to musical production as an outlet as well as a means of processing the disheartening ongoings in his life, channelling a singular blend of dark humour and baffling creativity as an antidote to the absurd. "Between 1981-88 he recorded hundreds of bedroom recordings, with no intention to make a hit, [...] exploring political and social irony through his bass guitar and synthesisers." Moving in and out of genres as if trying on potential new outfits in the fitting room of a vintage clothing store, Taş takes listeners on an adventurous outing of able musical merrymaking. "Acaip" reveals an extraordinary wealth of ideas, brought forth with a sort of casual ingenuity and carefree audacity that demands your attention and oozes originality.  

Curated by Istanbul's Grup Ses and lovingly restored from the original cassettes, "Acaip" was released late last year on London's Zel Zele, including artwork done by Bahtiyar Taş himself around the same time period. Epic stuff!

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom