❉ Welcome to your new obsession – Turkish superstar Barış Manço.
Ha ha! Look at the funny man!
That’s okay. Whatever it takes. That was my way in too, but soon I realised that I was in the presence of an amazing artist who was rocking my funk off, or funking my rocks off, or something. Both, probably. If you like it proggy, poppy, funky, rocky, cheesy, electro then Barış Manço (pronounced Barish Mancho) has something for you. Actually maybe not the electro. I have yet to learn to love his electro. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
It started with the seeing a TV performance of him doing Sarı Çizmeli Mehmet Ağa (aka Yaz Dostum). It was his hands. Such business with his hands. Better than Jarvis Cocker. Check it out.
Mesmerising. He would have made a great Master, if he turned to the dark side. Fortunately for us, he never did.
The next thing that grabbed me was the music. His fantastic band, Kurtalan Ekspres, that he put together in 1971. Check out the slinky as hell Kol Bastı (aka Dere Boyu Kavaklar – why all the alternate titles I don’t know). Seven minutes of groovy pure joy. Also on the YouTube. I may seem a little hyperbolic at times but I enjoy Barış Manço A LOT, and maybe you would too. If after these two tracks you’re not hooked then I pity you, sir, and I bid you good day. Hereon in, this is for the people who want to know more.
A note here on the nature of cultness in relation to our man. As with a lot of things, his cultness is strictly contextual. In Turkey he was mainstream as heck. I’ve seen a clip of him on some LE sofa showing the audience how to draw his head. Later on (i.e. past what I think it’s fair to call his peak) he had his own TV show that ran for eight years. I’ve seen him in Dallas in one of the travelogue sections, making out the odd phrase I could understand, like ‘Deeley Plaza’.
You may wonder how he would have travelled if he sang in English. Well, he did, but he wasn’t playing his A-game – a one-off album for CBS in Europe in 1976 produced by Jean Huysmans brought us such dubious delights as Nick The Chopper, which I think is best described as Phoney M – imagine if Ra Ra Rasputin had been a semi-comprehensible tale of a man who was so crazy for chopping down trees – it seems that the harsh chorus which describes him as a dirty old man is solely down to his poor personal hygiene, unless there’s some subtext I’m missing – that the trees turn to homicidal plotting. What developments did or did not follow from these aboreal mutterings the song does not relate, as at that point it leaves us.
I was some time into my Barış journey when I discovered, to my astonishment, 1975’s Baba Bizi Eversene. A 70s-style broad comedy movie, it seems, much like we had in Britain, but starring Barış. It’s on YouTube in good quality but with no English subtitles, unfortunately. Barış seems to be working in a pharmaceutical factory under a false name, he’s in love with the boss’s daughter but Sir Denis is having none of it. Fortunately Kurtalan Ekspres also seem to be working in the same factory so he can do one of his songs from time to time. If the kids like Kol Bastı they’ll love it when he’s being pushed along on a trolley! It probably all worked out alright in the end, I would imagine.
I think I might have heard his fantastic sexy 1973 single Lambaya Püf De! (say ‘poof’ to the lamp – he wants to sex you, but in the dark, he’s horny, not a pervert) in a cover version by ▲s (or Pyramidos, for people who’d rather not spell their name using silly characters), a “gypsy band from Japan”. This too is excellent. There are a lot of people singing his songs around. I’ve seen some, I’ve enjoyed them. But before long I always return to the Barış. It’s all about the Barış.
In a way it’s fortunate that he’s no longer with us and there is no danger of me having a phone call with him beginning with a terrible misunderstanding as I ask him “What are you wearing?” For sartorially, too, Barış provides us with an embarrassment of riches. Often multiple videos/TV performances of the same song are available, giving us a choice. Do we want the traditional rocker? The Brandreth? The Mike Smith? Sometimes, still, I will need to consume a song in audio form because the visual accompaniment distracts me too much with thoughts of “What the fuck are you wearing, Barış? Or rather not what, but why?”
The mental process of processing his canon is ongoing. Right here, at the end of writing this piece, I have learned to love his electro. Well, a bit. His popular 1992 number Süleyman, to be precise. But there is always more to do. In some ways Süleyman was easy. He doesn’t rap on it. There are no kids singing on it. The video is no longer a matter of “It’s WTF, but I can’t work out whether or not it’s terrible WTF..” Ayı, on the other hand…
❉ Check out our Spotify Playlist A Way Into Barış Manço: https://open.spotify.com/user/wearecult/playlist/6wiE7yOp2EcBchsr882mFk
❉ About the author: Writer, musician, artist – there’s no end to what Keir Hardie almost completely fails to do. An all-round renaissance slacker, he’s trying to do better with the writing now.