Baba Zula

Baba Zula is a Turkish musical group, founded in Istanbul in 1996, featuring founding members Levent Akman (percussion, rhythm machines, toys), Murat Ertel (saz and other strings, vocals), as well as darbuka player Coşar Kamçı who replaced original member Emre Onel in 2005. BaBa Zula added live drawing artist Ceren Oykut into the mix in 2004. Her presence onstage has added an important visual aspect to BaBa Zula's live performances. Akman, Ertel, and Onel originally formed Baba Zula as a side project of now disbanded Anatolian rock group Zen. [Nick Hobbs, "Istanbul Grooves", "fRoots" June 2008, pp. 59-61]

Musical style

Baba Zula go to great lengths to provide their fans with a unique live show experience. Their ritual-like performances are a mixture of disciplines of art, often featuring belly dancers, elaborate costumes, poetry, theatre and live animation, delivering viewers a tantalizing audio-visual feast.

By mixing oriental instruments such as the darbuka, electric saz, and spoons with electronics and modern sounds, BaBa Zula creates a sound all their own called "Oriental Dub". While a ney can represent the past Sufi-Islamic tradition, and a clarinet is the symbol of the music of the Turkish gypsies, an electric saz together with a wooden spoon can serve as a musical compass to Turkish musical roots going as far back as pre-Islamic, shamanic times, through Anatolia reaches all the way up to present-day Istanbul. Despite sounds that might initially come to mind when one hears the phrase "Oriental Dub", Baba Zula's music is in fact rock'n roll that rolls in a way that westerners have not heard since the late 1960s rock epoch. Baba Zula share their legacy with us through their music, a music born out of Istanbul and influenced by the memories of Istanbul passed on to them from generations past.

The group, which from the very beginning has shown great interest in featuring guest musicians and players in concerts and albums, has been accompanied by stars such as the Thracian Selim Sesler (clarinet master), the Canadian singer Brenna MacCrimmon (specialized in Balkan folk music), Alexander Hacke (E.N.), Fred Frith (from Henry Cow, John Zorn, etc), Jaki Liebezeit (Can), Hüsnü Şenlendirici (clarinet master from "Laço Tayfa"), Ralph Carney from San Francisco (saxophonist who worked with Tom Waits and B52's) and the diva Semiha Berksoy (first Turkish opera singer and painter).

Baba Zula's debut album, "Tabutta Rovasata" (Eng: Sommersault in the Coffin) (re-released by Kadraj in 2006) includes the original music score for Dervis Zaim's first movie of the same name released in 1996, about a car thief who returns the cars he has stolen to their original owners and falls in love with a peacock. The album also includes four songs on which the movie's stars Ahmet Ugurlu, Tuncel Kurtiz and Aysel Aydemir contribute vocals.

Baba Zula's album, "Three Plays from Seventeen pieces" (Doublemoon Records) comprising music created for the plays "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery, "Frog Tales" by Arnold Lobel and "Kitchen Accidents" by Perihan Mağden, was released in 1999. Along with a number of other artists, Ralph Carney, Brenna McCrimmon and Selim Sesler also took part in this album as guest stars. Baba Zula also made the music for the film "Renkli Türkçe" (Eng: Colored and in Turkish), directed by Ahmet Cadırcı.

Their third album "Psychebelly Dance Music", released in May 2003, was mixed and mastered by the British musician and producer Mad Professor, who previously worked with Massive Attack, The Orb and Lee Perry.

Their fourth album "Duble Oryantal", which was released on DoublemoonRecords in May 2005, reunited them with mix-master Mad Professor, Sly & Robbieand Alexander Hacke and reflects the culmination of years of fearless musical adventuring, and as usual there is a talented and eclectic supporting cast.

On the 2007 release, "Roots", Baba Zula return to their original format as a trio and only the core members of the BaBa Zula family, such as vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon, can be heard on only one song. The group also show off a new perspective on their trademark sound "oriental dub", courtesy of the group's first trip to Japan in the spring of 2007, where they befriended a Japanese sound engineer. Traditional Turkish influences on the album include works by important composers and lyricists in the history of Turkish music, such as Neşet Ertaş and Pir Sultan Abdal as well as analog recording techniques courtesy of Turkish producer Mehmet Ateş.

Baba Zula have composed several mood-setting pieces for movies over the years. Their most recent release is an original score for the film "Dondurmam Gaymak". The band also appeared in the Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear award-winning director Fatih Akın’s film "Crossing the Bridge", that explores the sounds of Istanbul. The group also provided music for the film byrecording with Einstuerzende Neubauten's Alexander Hacke.

Baba Zula have performed at festivals such as the Roskilde Festival (Denmark), Sofia Film Festival (Bulgaria), Klinkende Munt Festival] (Belgium), Arezzo Wave Festival (Italy), Images of Middle East (multi-city Denmark tour), Cologne Triennale (Germany), Printemps de Bourges (France), Şimdi/Now Festival (Germany), the Boost Festival ( Netherlands) and the Venice Biennial.

Guest musicians

International guests:

* Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare
* Alexander Hacke, bass guitarist of Einsturzende Neubauten
* Canadian vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon

Turkish guests:

* clarinetist Hüsnü Şenlendirici from Laço Tayfa
* Turkish rock and pop Özkan Uğur from MFÖ
* writer-painter-musician Mehmet Güreli


* 1996 - "Tabutta Rövaşata" - soundtrack for "Tabutta Rövaşata" ("Somersault in the Coffin") by Derviş Zaim (Ada Music)
* 1999 - "Üç Oyundan Onyedi Müzik" (Doublemoon)
* 2003 - "Psychebelly Dance Music" (Doublemoon, mixed by Mad Professor)
* 2005 - "Duble Oryantal" (Doublemoon, mixed by Mad Professor)
* 2006 - "Dondurmam Gaymak" - soundtrack for "Dondurmam Gaymak" ("Ice Cream, I Scream") by Yüksel Aksu (Rh Pozitif)
* 2007 - "Kökler" (Doublemoon)


* Performed before Manu Chao 2002 Efes Pilsen Summer Festival.
* Mediterranean Film Festival Cologne
* Cologne Triennale (Germany)
* Printemps de Bourges (France)
* Şimdi/Now Festival (Germany)
* Boost Festival (The Netherlands)
* Roskilde Festival (Denmark) (3 July 2004)
* Venn Festival on 3rd of June, 2006
* [ Ariano Folk Festival] on 26th of August, 2006

The band also appeared in the film "" (2005) by Fatih Akın. It is a documentary on the music of Istanbul, played and recorded with Einstürzende Neubauten's Alexander Hacke. The band performs the song "Tavus Havası".


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External links

* [ Baba] - Official website
* [ Baba Zula Fan Sites]
* [ Baba Zula] at MySpace
* [ Review in "Die Presse"]

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