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Engin Music: Connecting Türkiye, Germany through Anatolian rock melodies

Anadolu Agency ART
Published October 13,2023

Anatolian rock music, a fusion of Western influence and distinctive Anatolian motifs, has been captivating people of all ages since the 1960s.

For about six decades, iconic tracks like "Sevgilim" (My Beloved), featuring band Mavi Işıklar's (Blue Lights) electric guitars, drums, and a traditional lute-like instrument called a bağlama, have served as the soundtrack to love and life's myriad of emotions. From the hope-infused tunes of Cem Karaca's "Bu Son Olsun" (Let this be the Last) to the modern soundscapes of Erkin Koray, Anatolian rock has held timeless appeal.

Engin, an indie band based in Germany, shared their unique journey in an interview with Anadolu, recounting how they stumbled upon Anatolian rock music, brimming with Turkish songs.

In their 30s, the trio, consisting of Engin Devekıran, Jonas Stiegler, and David Knevels, found inspiration in Anatolian rock melodies and songs.

Speaking before a concert in Istanbul, they believed they needed to introduce the genre in Germany since no one else was doing it.

Devekıran recalled his initial encounter with Cem Karaca's "Resimdeki Gözyaşları," (Tears in the Picture) a moment when he felt deeply inspired.

"Something clicked in my head, I thought that this is really moving and touching me," he recalled.

Devekıran later introduced his bandmates to Anatolian rock's mesmerizing tunes, such as those by Erkin Koray and Barış Manço.

Stiegler, the band's drummer, cited Erkin Koray and the group Altın Gün (Golden Day) as his influences, praising their "new modern sound."

Knevels, the bassist, on the other hand, acknowledged the profound impact of Erkin Koray and Özdemir Erdoğan's songs, describing them as "something magical."

Devekıran emphasized that Cem Karaca, who had spent a considerable time in Germany, was a major source of inspiration for him. He described Karaca's voice as "gigantic."

The band also drew inspiration from Turkish music's "chanson era," when Europe-based artists like Dario Moreno and Marc Aryan wrote and performed Turkish songs as the country's culture spread through the continent.

Devekıran said Germans have embraced their music with open minds. Their songs, blending Turkish and German, have received positive feedback from people of all ages.

"I would say people nowadays, and I got feedback from older people as well, They say that 10 or 15 years ago, people wouldn't have reacted positively to this kind of music in the mainstream. But now, people are much more open-minded," he observed.

Their performances of Turkish cover songs have transcended language barriers, garnering interest among both Turkish and German audiences. The music has evoked strong emotions, especially among Germans.

While occasionally offering translations during concerts, their primary goal is to showcase the connection between their songs and the history of Turkish migrant workers who came to Germany to build new lives after a 1961 deal between the two countries. The audience has responded with immense appreciation.

"We say it's German, Turkish, indie rock art. Turkish culture belongs to Germany now, and it's part of the new German culture," Devekıran asserted.

"Music should bridge gaps. Turkish people are no longer strangers after 60-70 years in Germany. We don't want people living in their own isolated worlds. We want to bring them together."

The band members related memorable moments from their concerts that reflect the power of music.

"There's a lot of great Turkish rock music, and I'm really happy because when I'm in Istanbul, I feel that young people still acknowledge and love rock music," Devekıran said. He contrasted this with the sense that rock music had faded in popularity in Germany.

In one instance that Knevels shared, the group played a Turkish song before an audience predominantly consisting of Turkish people in Frankfurt.

"Everyone had tears in their eyes, and everyone felt deeply connected. I think that's something we experience each time we play live," he recalled.

Stiegler also recalled an emotional moment when one of their songs at a concert they played moved a man, who had migrated from Türkiye at a young age, to tears.

Devekıran highlighted that besides stirring feelings in older individuals, their music also resonates with young people in Germany.

He mentioned that Turkish families, whose children no longer speak Turkish, express a desire to learn the language after listening to their Turkish cover songs.

"When we can inspire people to connect with their culture and discover the music and songs that exist, they can be proud of their heritage and cultural richness," he said.