Turkish record label Uzelli are releasing a world first compilation of electronic saz music – an instrument inextricably linked to rebellion and revolution – entitled Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984) – and it’s out on March 13th.
Extracted from the tape archives of the label Uzelli, the music is curated by Murat Ertel – the lead singer and saz player of pioneering psych band BaBa Zula – and his wife, Esma Ertel. Innately attached to Anatolian culture, the saz or bağlama is represented here across 13 tracks – “this collection amplifies a period of rebellion in Turkey and beyond, the soundtrack and preserve of freaks, gangsters, pimps and punks of the era,” says Murat.
A key track from the selection is Dalrildim Darildim by Akbaba Ikillisi, who tells the story of the ‘Cross Prisoner’ and his mistreatment in solitary confinement:
Originally conceived as Uzelli Kaset, the label was launched by Muammer and Yavuz Uzelli – two brothers living in Frankfurt, Germany, back in 1971. The tapes and music that the Uzelli Brothers distributed across the country, represented the struggle and longing for home felt by expat Turks living in Germany (also known as Gastarbeiters – translated as ‘guestworkers’). Many had been there since the 1960s when Germany started inviting tradesmen to help boost their labour system and economy. The tapes accompanied many special occasions for the migrant workers and the label’s popularity grew, its repertoire diversified and in 1977 the brothers moved offices to Istanbul.
Nestled within the Uzelli catalogue are some of the most important releases of Turkish folk, pop, jazz and psych ever to be put to tape – including İbrahim Tatlıses, Grup Turbo and Kibariye. As the music industry modernised and the ’90s CD revolution took place, Uzelli began a process of carefully preserving its visual, audio and document archives rather than following the trend to manufacture onto a new format.
Much of the Uzelli catalogue has remained unreleased on other formats, after its original cassette release, until recently when the catalogue has begun to be reproduced digitally and on vinyl.