Psychedelic Rock: Not just a short trip

4 Mins read
Two people looking at one another, with a hypnotic spiral behind them
Psychedelic design was a recurring motif in the 1960s [Pexels: Cottonbro Studio]

During the late 1960s and early 1970s we saw the emergence of Turkish psychedelic rock, commonly referred to as Anatolian rock – it was marked by the use of unusual scales and rhythms as well as the use of traditional instruments like the Saz and the Baglama, and was influenced by Western psychedelic rock and Turkish folk music. 

Psychedelic rock, traditional Turkish music, and pop were all combined in Barş Manço’s music, making him one of the genre’s forerunners. As one of the most well-known musicians in Turkey in the 1970s, he was known for his colourful stage performances, captivating aura, and spiritual energy. 

The use of unusual; sounds, harmonies, and structures, as well as unusual recording techniques, are characteristics of psychedelic music. This first appeared in the mid-1960s, its characteristics being described as free-flowing and mind-bending, as well as its capacity to elicit transcendental experiences that can altered states of consciousness, and even hallucinations, are frequently used to define it. 

Turkish psychedelic rock and ethno-jazz band Derya Yildirim and Grup Simşek aspects of traditional Turkish music with modern sounds and styles. 

Antonin Voyant plays the guitar and flute for the group: “We honestly only started doing this from a place of love and passion, we never imagined that we would gain a following like this. I have learnt so much about traditional Turkish folk music and how much influence it has on music in Turkey today”, they tell Artefact.

The group are the latest in a long line of musicians who have contributed to the evolution of Psychedelic music, and Antonin believes the spiritual and psychedelic rhythm and flow are important aspects of this development.

“Psychedelic music is more than just regular music. Psychedelic music is an experience, it is not just music that you listen to and move on from. This is music that you feel within your body, almost as if you are experiencing a psychedelic experience. It is there to separate listeners from the outside world and to set them free”

“Masculinity does not necessarily have to be seen as soft and fragile”

Antonin Voyant- Grup Simşek

Founded in 2010, Grup Simşek uses a traditional Turkish string instrument, Saz, alongside the electric guitar, bass, drums, and electronic components. They are renowned for their distinctive sound, which combines classical Turkish music with modern beats and melodies. Over the last decade they have put out a number of albums, which helped them build a cult following and receive favourable reviews.

Psychedelic music differs from other types of music in a number of ways, such as the utilisation of unusual sounds and effects, including as distortion, phasing, and tape recordings played backward; use of synthesisers and electronic instruments, which were not as widespread in other genres of music at the time; incorporating elements of world music and the east; spirituality, the nature of reality, and the workings of the mind are all common topics in song lyrics. 

A supporting act at the Derya Yildirim and Grup Simşek concert - singer on stage, with stage lights.
Derya Yildirim supporting Grup Simşek at a concert in London [Rebecca Keen]

Often the music is influenced by psychedelic experiences or mental states in their imagery; issues surrounding masculinity and the unnatural nature of showcasing masculine energy in music and fine arts, sparked controversial conversations in Turkey at the time.

One artist in particular that is often referred to as the catalyst for Turkish psychedelic music is Barış Manço. “I’ve learnt a lot about the history of psychedelic music and especially about the work of Barış Manço. His music completely changed the perception of masculinity in music and demonstrated how masculinity does not necessarily have to be seen as soft and fragile. I always found that his music was extremely poetic and romantic and represented his confidence in himself and as a male singer,” Antonin told us.

It’s also important to keep in mind that psychedelic music isn’t just about the sounds; it’s frequently linked to a cultural and social movements that also include the visual arts, fashion, literature, and even architecture and expressed the desire to challenge norms and explore new possibilities.

“Our music is written in attempt to mimic the nature of the spiritual environment all around us. Psychedelic music is a form of meditation and mental training, it encourages followers and listeners to look deeply within themselves to find answers and to appreciate the things that we may often bypass in our daily lives. I can say, from personal experience that this genre of music is unlike any other and truly takes you to another dimension,”

“Psychedelic music is a form of meditation and mental training”

Grup Simşek

It should be noted that since the 1960s, the definition of psychedelic music has grown to encompass a wide range of genres and sub-genres, including psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop, psychedelic folk, psychedelic funk, and psychedelic electronica, all of which share the common theme of experimenting with unconventional sounds and structures. 

Grup Simşek successfully achieve this by putting their own personal psychedelic interoperation on traditional turkish folk songs such as Kar Ya​ğ​ar, which they debuted in 2019. “We needed to spin this traditional folk song around and introduce elements that were relevant to our generation and psychedelic qualities. To achieve this, Derya combines her vocals and her Saz to establish a base for the authentic folk flow, whilst we layer with instruments such as the drums and electric guitar to modernise the track,” Antonin explained.

The way the albums were made in the past were also remarkable; they were produced on a tight budget with improvised studio and technical equipment, which, when paired with musical experimentation, gave the music its distinctive sound which explains why it is still so intriguing and captivating today.

Featured image by Cottonbro Studio

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