Folk Songs of Anatolia in Harbiye

Bülent Birer / Yeni Gündem, 5 August 2000

"In Turkey, there is a conviction that popularization means corruption, but we believe that it is possible both to be popular as well as to preserve our opposing identity in the artistic sense, and not be slaves to the commercial music industry." Kardeş Türküler has received positive reactions from listeners with their album "Dogu" (The East), and drawn attention with their video, "K ara Üzüm Habbesi," sung in both Turkish and Kurdish. Tonight they are giving a concert in the Harbiye Open-Air Theater. Going onstage with a twenty-person team, Kardeş Türküler will perform twenty-four pieces. Six of these are new pieces, not included either on the "Kardeş Türküler" or "Dogu" albums. "Dano," which will be on Şivan Perwer's last album, the Gypsy folk song "Sukar Sukar" and the Sorani song "Pawane Kanî," will be performed for the first time at the Harbiye concert. We spoke with Kardeş Türküler members Feryal Öney and Vedat Yıldırım about the concert they'll give tonight at the Harbiye Open Air Theatre and about the group.

After its album "Doğu," Kardeş Türküler became better known and began gaining popularity. The Open Air Theatre concert is an indication of this. Besides you, other famous names of pop music such as Sezen Aksu and Candan Erçetin are taking part in this project. How do you see the issue of popularity?
In past years, nearly the only artists to perform in the Open Air Theater were pop music and stand-up artists. This year the situation is a bit different. You see names that can't be included in the pop category and who aren't in tight with the commercial music scene, such as Neşet Ertaş, Bülent Ortaçgil, Erkan Oğur and Kardeş Türküler.

You have started gaining a wider and more varied listening public. Has becoming popular influenced Kardeş Türküler's style?
Kardeş Türküler has become popular especially in recent years. This is a normal thing. Our music is neither underground nor elitist; in the end, what we perform is folk music. We perform the music of Turkey, and want to reach a wider public. There is a belief that becoming popular means corruption, but we believe that it is possible both to be popular as well as to preserve our opposing identity in the artistic sense, and not be slaves to the commercial music industry. You can see examples of this in the world
? famous names such as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits have managed to maintain their distance.

Has the changing political situation in Turkey helped in this broadening of your public? Feryal: Certainly. Just a year ago, we were really pessimistic about the idea of being able to give a concert based on ethnic diversity, let along becoming popular.

Has the ability to give concerts and the increase of album sales helped the group in a material sense? Because you used to give concerts more at schools and activities organized by public democratic organizations.
Those kinds of activities are generally held by volunteer organizations. The organizers ask groups to come to provide solidarity, but they are not able to give even the minimim amount neede by the artists to stay afloat. From a material standpoint, we don't have huge expectations of public democratic organizations; we don't believe we should. But even they should provide at least the minimum we need. In the end, if there is a demand, then they need people who put their entire time into music, and so they need to ask the question, "How will these people live?"

Has your recent popularity brought your income to a satisfying level, or does the group still struggle financially? Feryal: At least four members of the group have started working with music in a professional sense. We can give them a minimum monthly wate. But the money we earn is still not sufficient to finance the group completely. There are people who want to devote all their time to music, but for now it's just not possible. Most of the members live by working at different jobs.

Earlier on, you sometimes went onstage with the BGST Dance Unit. Did you think of using dance in this concert? The Open Air Theater seems to be quite compatible to including dance.
We really wanted to include dance in this concert, but we haven't been able to do any joint projects with the dancers in a long time, and so we didn't have a formate prepared. To prepare such a format is quite a time-consuming project. Lack of time is a serious problem for us. Vedat: In preparing for this concert, we also ran into problems other than time limitations; for example we thought there could be a slide show as well, but the use by the sponsor firm of a lighted advertisement obstructed the use of visuals.

A few members of the group participated in Şivan Perwer's last album. At the same time, you are working together with Yilmaz Erdogan on a popular film project like "Vizontele." How do you maintain your stability?
On both projects, we have a lot of common ground. We don't work with Yilmaz Erdogan just to be able to drop his name. "Vizontele" is a story that takes place in the East. We believe we can create music appropriate to this atmosphere.

Kardeş Türküler has been performing since 1993, and has a clear listener potential. But other groups with a multicultural theme like yours have yet to emerge. Do you see this as a deficiency?
One of our founding points was the theme of multiculturalism. But it would be a mistake to claim that Kardeş Türküler is alone in the area of ethnic music. People like Birol Topaloglu, Kaf Dagi, Fuat Saka and Muammer Ketencoglu come to mind. But in the opposition circles, the music is mostly in Turkish. It wouldn't be wrong to speak of a deficiency in creating multicultural themes.