Istanbul

08/05/20Bucovina Club Meets Anadolu Rock On Shantel & Cümbüş Cemaat's Rousing Collaborative LP

In 1976, the legendary Erkin Koray, one of the pioneers of Anatolian rock music, released a track called "Cümbür Cemaat", which roughly translates to 'all together now'. Almost five decades later, today, Frankfurt-based producer and partisan of Balkan music styles Shantel teams up with Istanbul-based outfit Cümbüş Cemaat – notice the play on words, 'cümbüş' referring to an oud- or mandolin-like Turkish instrument as well as a 'merrymaking' – to release a rousing collaborative album, dedicated to the city of "Istanbul".

Preceded by the mouth-watering three-track "Suda Balık" EP a few weeks back, "Istanbul" is a utopia of sorts, a dialogue of cultures or a friendly clash of civilisations, however you want to put it. Yet, although this combination of Shantel's production skills and Cümbüş Cemaat's extensive repertoire of songs from the great Anatolian songbook may come as a welcome surprise to some, it has been a long time in the making, taking us back to the early 2000s, when Shantel reinvented himself with his Balkan-tinged "Bucovina Club" sounds. 

Shantel's Southeast European productions eventually led to an invitation to play at the infamous Istanbul nightclub Babylon: "While he was still having a hard time of getting European audiences to let their hair down and shake their hips, Shantel found in cosmopolitan Babylon a concentration of creative potential: a jubilant crowd of underground musicians, avant-garde artists, fashion designers, intellectuals, party kids and bohemians, eager to celebrate." In short, "Istanbul adopted and naturalised Shantel," aka the 'Disko Partizani'

Around the same time, in the TomTom neighborhood of Taksim / Beyoğlu, the heart of European Istanbul, Cümbüş Cemaat were steadily making a name for themselves on the underground circuit, performing at countless parties, weddings, clubs and venues the likes of Anahit Sahne and hanging out with the cool crowd at their favourite Ziba Bar. However, after thirteen years in the game and with some 500 songs to their repertoire, they had yet to record and add a proper release to their name.

Enter "Istanbul", a ten-track collection of impeccable cover versions of Turkish, Anadolu rock classics, performed by Cümbüş Cemaat and produced by Shantel, "taking the hypnotic aspect of Anatolian Neo-Folk to a new level" and ready to flood the global speaker systems.

"What we have here is a kind of rootsy musical hybrid that could only develop in the diaspora, because there is currently an aesthetic standstill in Turkey, an identity crisis of the young generation that no longer sees any real perspective. The brain drain has further weakened the local scene, as many artists have no other prospect but presenting themselves outside the country."

Keeping that in mind, we hereby invite you to give "Istanbul" a listen. You can also watch the spontaneous lockdown fan video to lead single "Suda Balık" below, though you might want to bring a towel. All together now!

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom