Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Hidden gem: Senay - Senay (EMI) 1980

In recent years there has been a growing interest across the record buying community of the Turkish psych-folk scene of the 1970’s. Reissue labels – most notably Manchester’s Finders Keepers - have brought artists such as Selda, Baris Manco and Ersen to wider attention – the combination of fuzzy guitars and eastern instrumentation striking a cord with many DJs and listeners who want something outside the UK/USA axis of musical history. This has inevitably encouraged record diggers to look elsewhere within Turkish musical history to see if there are other unearthed gems.

I took a trip to Istanbul myself last year and spent much of my time combing through shops and market stores for such a gem. The reality was that much of the stock was in very poor condition – scratched and sleeveless – and when I did uncover treasure it was priced accordingly. On only one occasion did I find a stash of records by the artists I had identified only for the owner of the place to check out the going rates on ebay and charge me accordingly...

The best place I found was just off Istiklal Cadessi (Istanbul’s Oxford Street) near Balic fish market. Here was an arcade full of small book and record shops – not dis-similar to Walthamstow’s Wood Street Arcade for those who’ve been there. I met some really nice local guys in one shop who spotted an English need for fuzzy Anatolian folk and talked me through a few pieces of wax. As we talked the time slipped away and the genres of music widened. As regular readers of this blog know I’m a disco aficionado and he passed me a record by Senay. Its fair to say that i’d not heard of Senay but this sounded interesting indeed. I parted with about a tenner for it (along with a few other items)and took it home.

Upon my return I took a proper listen and my initial instincts had been good (that sinking feeling when you realise something you’ve listened to in a shop just ain’t that good is a killer). While obviously a commercial sound this was very passable disco. The obvious entry point was a slightly bonkers version of Rod Stewart’s Do you think i’m sexy? but plenty more was worth a listen – not least lead off track Honki Ponki – which I would guess given its availability on Youtube etc was the single. Less good were the following two tracks but the closing track on side one - Hayat bayram olsun was a real treat.It has a driving beat that a few of the other tracks lack and its spaced out intro and warped breakdown immediately appealed. The album as a whole is chock a block with early 80's synth sounds - somewhat reminiscent of a Georgio Morroder soundtrack at best or Hall and Oates at worst - sure, these make the album sound dated in places but it does create a certain wierdness...

Side two starts well with Dalkgvuk - a catchy chorus and horn stabs lifting this above Eurovision fare, while second track Sarkilar reminds me of Love Unlimited Orchestra with its easy strings. Next up is Bent Yasimi (or Do you think I'm sexy) - its actually quite faithful to the original but because its sung in Turkish it sounds suitably wierd and actually Senay's best vocals are on this track. Finally Doy doy Doymadim - another treat - experimental synths and a slow sleazy groove gove way to a lovely chorus and you can almost imagine yourself sailing up the Bosphorus...

So in conclusion its not a classic but neither is it entirely a guilty pleasure - its really interesting to hear how disco was adopted in Turkey and in parts at least there is some good stuff here. You're unlikely to find it in the UK but if you happen to be in Istanbul (which I thoroughly recommend as a cheapish but culturally significant holiday) then seek it out!

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