Time & Location
07 May, 20:00
Plan B , Norra Grängesbergsgatan 26B, 214 50 Malmö, Sweden
About the event
Bongo Joe present brand new sounds from the cutting-edge of the 21st century Istanbul underground by powerhouse Turkish trio Lalalar. Riding a wave of fierce energy and acclaim generated by their show-stopping festival performances at Le Guess Who and Trans Musicales, they now unleash their hotly-anticipated debut album, Bi Cinnete Bakar. The brainchild of three of Turkey’s most active and innovative alternative artists – Ali Güçlü Şimşek, Barlas Tan Özemek and Kaan Düzarat – the album is a thrilling mix of punk energy, dark electronics and Turkish instrumentation and samples.
You can learn a lot from the names bands give themselves – and Lalalar is no exception. Principle songwriter, Ali Güçlü Şimşek, explains: “Lala is the wise man, the teacher of sultans in Ottoman history. And at the same time, in slang, the one who doesn’t know what he is talking about.” Make it plural by adding ‘lar,’ and you’ve got a moniker that might translate as “the wise guys,” delivered with a punkish sneer. That’s the kind of streetwise, confrontational attitude that crackles through Lalalar’s first, uncompromising full-length offering.
For listeners whose knowledge of Turkish music extends only as far as 70s Anatolian rock, Lalalar might come as a surprise. Though Şimşek suggests that those psychedelic classics are “in the veins” of all three members, Lalalar are much more than just another retro outfit. Instead, they weave subtle samples of timeless Turkish folk music into their electronic stews. Listen to how “Abla Deme Lazim Olur” begins with a flash of Arabesque strings before hunkering into a lumbering industrial-funk groove. Or the way a plaintive whine of Middle Eastern strings starts “Abla Deme Lazim Olur,” quickly giving way to a sultry theme with tense, spaghetti- western guitar.
In fact, the sounds of the 80s are a much more important point of reference for Lalalar – and for an underground Istanbul scene that for Şimşek says is currently fixated on “dark wave and dance.” You can hear it in tracks like “Isyanlar,” which revs up a turbo-charged electro-funk with echoes of the Night Rider theme, powered by hypnotic bass, a killer guitar hook, hand- claps and Şimşek’s somnolent, serious vocals. If pressed, Lalalar will admit to being influenced by the likes of Secret Chiefs 3, Rage Against The Machine, Neşet Ertaş, Pantera and Portishead. But, on tracks like “Sol Şeritte,” you can also hear traces of the gothic glamour David Sylvian brought to New Wave pioneers, Japan. “It’s deep waters, sometimes dangerous ones,” Şimşek explains. “It’s mostly fragile. There’s always something extra human even with all the robotic stuff we bang.” Turkish-speakers will also sense a certain intensity in Şimşek’s lyrics, which he describes as “sarcastic, dark humoured, political and heavily metaphorical.”
But for all their brooding mystery, Lalalar are anything but a bunch of shoe-gazing introverts. Over the last few years, they’ve forged a formidable reputation for their wildly ecstatic live performances. There as comfortable playing high-profile festival gigs – like the barnstormers they delivered at Le Guess Who in 2019 and Trans Musicales in 2021 – as they are rocking a DIY show in an Istanbul car park. This actually happened at the beginning of 2022, when they were chosen to kickstart a series of events organised by Kültür AŞ, an organisation with links to the social-democratic political party that currently stands as the main opposition to Turkey’s right-wing government. Shows like this have helped to position Lalalar at the vanguard of Istanbul’s extremely vibrant and volatile music scene where, according to Şimşek, “you can
easily find new bands popping up every day.” Just as the UK’s 70s punk scene was fuelled by youthful discontent with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, Turkish youth living under President Erdoğan’s rule are hungry for new sounds: “From underground amusement to posh clubs, there is always a crowd if you are doing something special as a musician,” says Şimşek.
All three members of Lalalar have been active on this scene for years but, although they’ve been friends since way back, they didn’t start playing together till Spring 2018. It was a long overdue meeting of minds, with a deep foundation of mutual respect. Şimşek says of his band mates: “To me Barlas is not only a guitar hero but also a magician when it comes music production and Kaan is a truly exceptional eye with his enormous musical knowledge.” In fact, Şimşek and guitarist Barlas Tan Özemek first worked together in 2014 on the debut album of another doyen of the current Turkish scene, singer Gaye Su Akyol – “one of the great things happening in Istanbul,” according to Şimşek. He’s been a member of her band every since and has worked on all three of her albums to date.
But now it’s Lalalar’s time to shine. They’ve been building a buzz for the last few years, with a total of seven scorching singles released by Bongo Joe since their debut, Isyanlar, in 2019 – and now, at last, they’re ready to unleash their first full-length album. Following on from Bongo Joe’s recent triumphs releasing albums by Altin Gün and Derya Yildirim, the label is thrilled to present Bi Cinnete Bakar, a gripping bulletin from the heart of the contemporary Turkish underground. Fans of Lalalar’s discography so far won’t be disappointed. The album collates all the tracks included on their singles, including B-sides, with almost all of them transformed into extended, remixed versions that allow Lalalar to stretch out and develop their urgent yet darkly transporting sound.
At its heart, the album Bi Cinnete Bakar is a rebel cry. The title translates as “all it takes is a frenzy” an expression coined by Simşek as the positive affirmation we all need in these sometimes troubled times: “It’s a jump-starter. It’s something like ‘You can do it!’ Let’s say you are depressed, at the end of the world, at the bottom of the sea –all it takes is a frenzy! Come on!”
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