Barıs Manço 

Sweeping the world’s forgotten corridors of sound, Scott Blixen sets his sights on Barıs Manço 

It’s not like we need an excuse to commend the visionary music made in mid-1970s Turkey. The arrival of synthesisers in Istanbul coincided with the nation’s psych explosion. But what prompts me to write about Barıs Manço, having said goodbye to a trying year, is his freak-a-tronic album ‘2023’.

By 1975, when this perplexing record hit the streets, Manço was already a successful pop star and TV host. 

It’s a measure of the man and the times that presenting a future-facing concept LP to his mainstream audience wasn’t deemed career suicide. As with other giants of Turkish folk and rock, Manço’s first album was a hits compilation. 

Perhaps feeling an urge to follow it with something more ambitious, ‘2023’ takes us on a trip to some eccentric and far-out places. While it may be folly to claim he reached the dizzying heights scaled by Erkin Koray’s 1974 LP ‘Elektronik Türküler’ or the two breathtaking albums Selda Bag˘can released in 1976, no other young Turk gave themselves as completely to the synthesiser as Manço did.

Turkish music of this era reveals how psychedelia and electronics fuse seamlessly with the country’s indigenous folk music. ‘2023’ is a spacey manifestation of these cross-cultural elements. Manço handily listed the gear he used on the sleeve, which included a Korg 700S, an ARP Solina String synthesiser and an elektronik davul (that’s a drum machine to you and me). 

Running water and wobbly synth strings introduce ‘Kayalarin Og˘lu’, over which Manço speaks portentously. You could be forgiven for thinking The Human League then crash the party, as a drum machine and doomy Korg slice through the atmosphere. The title track is an intoxicating and progressive piece that charts a course through diverse electronic soundscapes. ‘Uzun I˙nce Bir Yoldayım’ is a pretty-pretty ballad underscored with filter-sweeping synth and flute. The 13-minute epic ‘Baykoca Destanı’ blends birdsong, Turkish strings and gorgeous, synthesised arabesques. 

Although Manço’s band Kurtalan Ekspres are stunning throughout, nothing prepares you for the smokey funk workout they unleash on the closing track ‘Kol Bastı’. As the album cruises to a languid conclusion, a horny horn section and wah-wah guitar trade licks, while Manço indulges in a victory lap synth solo.

Tragically, Barıs Manço didn’t live long enough to experience life in the 21st century – he died in 1999. His vision of the future was exultant and inspiring, though, and who wouldn’t prefer that to the shabby shit show we’re currently enduring?

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