In the first article of our case file on the ’61-90 era, from 1961 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’ll ease into a wide-angle perspective on the music market of Germany’s “Imagined Turkey”. The work conditions and lives of contemporary bards are channelled through the #gastarbeitergroove - that is, guest worker grooves. Also included in the feature; the women stars of the day and wedding performers that transformed into disco folk the folk music familiar to all of us.
Translated to English by Zeynep Beler.
On the basis of music, the cultural exchange between Turkey and Germany precedes the birth of nation states.
Bülent Aksoy interprets the Ottoman Empire’s Tanzimat era of reform as starting with the official declaration of Westernization, and the Republic as the natural outcome of said process of Westernization. He describes the court’s welcoming of Western composers, the institutionalization of opera and classical music in court, the Western instructors and the founding of the conservatory.
In our conversation with Martin Greve, whose book Hayali Türkiye’nin Müziği [The Music of Imagined Turkey] was the result of an eight-year-long, comprehensive field study in Germany and today remains one of the most important resources on the period in spite of the two decades that have since elapsed, he stressed the presence of the Turkey-German exchange up until 1961 within the context of Western music.
He called attention to how, in 1943 as bombs fell on Berlin, Turkey’s first performing female pianist Ferhunde Ekin performed her husband Ulvi Cemal Erkin’s piano concerto with the Berlin City Orchestra conducted by Fritz Zaun.
The tides turned with the waves of migration beginning in 1961, when the culture that previously flowed from the “West” to Anatolia now carried the music of the Anatolian confines to the “West”.
The reason for Greve’s mention of “Imagined Turkey”: “It’s impossible to speak of a totality such as the Turks or the German Turks, so picking a title for the book was a challenge. Those from Turkey have dreams and so does Germany, but not all those dreams are rose-tinted.” As he points out in his book: “The “Imagined Turkey”, on the other hand, is homogenous on neither the ethnic nor the cultural, neither political, religious nor musical fronts.”
Of those who migrated to Germany from 1961 onwards and went on to make music there, some had gone as laborers, while others due to political reasons and education. Then there were musicians who hoped to take advantage of technical means to record albums or were touring.
Throughout #60JahreMusik, we will attempt to examine “The Music of Imagined Turkey in Germany” through examples of trailblazing trends and artists.
Workers in Germany came with their cultures in tow. When their musical cultures merged with the conditions there, themes of homesickness, longing, displacement and German girls that reflected and criticized these conditions surfaced in the form of “Germany folk songs”. Just as a certain stereotype was built around Turkish immigrants, similar generalizations were in turn made about Germans, like referring to them as Hanses and Helgas. Later, along with the rising political atmosphere of the 80’s, the songs began to include political references concerning both Turkey and Germany.
Metin Türkoz recalls being greeted by harmonicas in the Cologne railway station where he arrived in 1962 to work in the Ford factory. A while later, on the walls of the factory in which forty thousand workers were employed, he read a notice that lute players and singers were being sought to perform in the Republic Day celebrations.
At the insistence of my roommate who knew I had played on an amateur level in Turkey, I picked up my saz and went. In a hall containing roughly 1500 people, they abruptly and in first place sent me on stage to perform as an âşık. I said I wasn’t an âşık, but that I wanted to sum up the best way I could all that we had been going through.
I picked up the saz:
‘Oh Alamania, Alamania, you’ll never find a worker like the Turk
Alamania, Alamania, you’ll not get what you sought,’ I sang.
Everyone in the hall rose up at once.
I stayed on stage for 45 minutes and sang of everything I could think of that we’d experienced.” 
So set in motion, his journey continued with songs played for Turkey’s top officials, Demirel and Ecevit among them, and over 80 records. The album containing “Alamanya Alamanya” sold over a million copies. Although Türkoz quit music in the late 70’s to open a grocery store, he remained as the first name to come to mind in regards to #gastarbeitergroove. According to Nedim Hazar, frontman of the Turkish-German band Yarınistan that left its mark on the 80’s and 90’s era as well as author ofDeutschlandlieder: German Folk Songsset to be published in September 2021, Metin Türkoz is the pioneer, the first and foremost âşık:
“About a month ago in a virtual meeting in which we were discussing German songs, I was asked by a participant whether political songwriting began with hiphop. I replied by giving the example of Metin Türkoz’s‘Guten Morgen Maestro’. That song depicts work conditions in a tongue-in-cheek style. The social incident concurrent with the song’s release was the 1973 Ford Turkish strike. Not being unionized due to their lowly post-war status, Turkish workers were the first ones to hold such a momentous strike. I can honestly say that we all follow Metin Abi’s example.”
Among other âşık folk singers who have satirized the Germany experience in their songs are Haydar Korkmaz, Aşık Kemteri, Aşık Seyfîli, Ali Sultan, Derviş Can, Aşık Zamani, Rıza Arslandoğan, Şah Turna, Aşık Yoksuli, and Gurbetçi Rıza. Gurbetçi Rıza’s “Ulan Alamanca Germanca”, for instance, depicts his unending struggle with the German language:
Ulan Alamanca Germanca
I can’t speak or understand you
The words are all sticking in my throat
Meister starts talking up a storm
Long-faced, he’s talking at me
I was happy to be spoken to
Jajaja, I say, like l’m getting every word
If it were Turkish, why, I’d talk up a storm
The âşık Haydar Korkmaz arrived in Stadthagen of Lower Saxony in 1973 to work as a union and business representative at a factory while his wife worked as a teacher. Meanwhile he wrote poetry and sang folk songs. His poem “Ausländer Raus" (Foreigners Out) is a worker’s consternation towards the German’s that would like him gone from the country:
We’re laborers of the changing world
We’re the millet seed spilling onto the earth
You take our honey, cast off the rest
‘Ausländer Raus’ is your final behest
The voices of contemporary bards that rose from Germany also took the lampooning tradition known as taşlama a step further by elaborating on the prejudices against immigrants from Turkey. Some musicians who would like their troubles heard by German listeners performed their songs in German, whereas other songs were sung in a mix of Turkish and German. While we’ll be sharing the story of the bard Ata Canani and his “Deutsche Freunde” in the oncoming days, it wouldn’t do to not give it a mention here as well.
The Women of the Period
The first name to come to mind after Türkoz is the so-called “Nightingale of Cologne”, Yüksel Özkasap, although her style was entirely distinct from his.
According to Ercan Demirel, founder of Germany’s Ironhand Records with its bent on unearthing old gems, who kindly shared with us every bit of his comprehensive knowledge of the musicians and industry of the times, “Yüksel Özkasap sobbed when she sang. She had a totally dramatic vocal style. The lyrics were just the cherry on top. She kept at that style until the 80’s. At the end of 15 years her way of singing remained the same.” Özkasap later married Yılmaz Asöcal, the founder of Türkofon Record Company that would later become Türküola, and “had no lack of opportunity in making records”.
Unlike Metin Türkoz, Özkasap is a studio artist, recording around 500 folk song albums. Her performances centered most heavily on provincial life, estrangement, longing and love.
Yüksel Özkasap’s first vinyl single “Gülom / Dere Kenarından Geçtim” sold 100.000 copies in the first six months after it was released. When her “Beyaz Atlı” album came out, Özkasap was not only in every corner of Europe but, thanks to the “Germaners” that brought her albums to their homeland, also of Anatolia. The record shortly broke almost a million sales to become one of the five top-selling records in Turkey. Not only recording for but also working at the Türkofon company to sell her own records until 1968, Yüksel Özkasap was a balm for the hearts that yearned for their homeland.
Her lyrics, “I have neither a letter from you, nor a word, I long for a rose from my people’s hands, how did I end up here in Cologne without a word of greeting from my mother,” is engraved into the memories of her contemporaries.
Özkasap, as per her social media account, has been granted twelve Golden Records in her 56 year career.
But were there other women artists? Our research has shown us that other female musicians also rose up through the ranks but, for various reasons, could not quite catch a break. Ercan Demirel replied to our query with the following:
“There are many names, both within the music industry and Yeşilçam, who married and quit the stage/acting. The same might be true of worker women in Germany. They may have lacked the support of a record company, left the industry after getting married and having children, or gone back to the homeland. Mihrican Bahar, for instance, who came to Germany to work at Siemens, returned to Turkey after a few years. There aren’t many who came even slightly close to the level of success achieved by Yüksel Özkasap. Asuman Çevikkalp is a name that comes up in the first generation. Later on, some such as Güler Duman and Şahturna made themselves something of a name, but none made it up to Yüksel Özkasap’s level.”
Asuman Çevikkalp’s “Beyaz Atlı (Prens Charming)” album was released by Grafson-Türkofon record company. In this album there are string instruments that make us feel the homesickness and pangs of love on one side, giving you a springy excitement feeling on the other side. We are not sure of the date of the photograph that Metin Türköz accompanies her with the jura. But looking at the musicians and Çevikkalp, seems like it is a cheerful song, could that be “Affetmem Seni Sevgilim?" (I will not Forgive You My Love)?
According to İmran Ayata, whose "Songs of Gastarbeiter” compilation along with Bülent Kullukçu unleashed the #gastarbeitergroove, one of the most interesting aspects of migration is how inept states have proved at managing the new cultural practices formed as a result migrants’ own cultural and social struggles.
“Like in the first years, musicians such as Âşık Metin Türköz would tour the worker dorms. These gurbet-themed songs began as a way to make merry with the other workers, in environments of intimate conversation. For these musicians, weddings soon became their primary stage. Throughout the years, with the Derdiyoklar Duo leading the way, many bands surfaced that made piquant music at weddings.”
Martin Greve’s take is thus: “In Imagined Turkey, the road from amateur to semi-professional small-business musicianship was unbelievably short and success had little to do with one’s musical capacity or talent. The only thing necessary to traverse that road was the desire to make a living off of music.”  And yet some amongst those musicians would become legends.
In the 1970’s, the Derdiyoklar Duo created the trend of wedding-specific music and the disco-folk movement, an altogether new genre. It paved the way for many musicians to be able to make a living off music. You can read the interview we did with him before he passed away from here .
We would like to give mention, then, to wedding musicians in Germany such as Yurtseven Kardeşler, Divaneler, Gurbetçiler, Grup Güvercinler, Grup Şenyuvalar, and Küçük Mahzuni.
Finally, to fully comprehend the power of the movement created by the Derdiyoklar Duo, we leave up to your discretion a comparison alongside some bands who followed a similar path, one sure to bring to mind the word “counterfeit”. For an example, the mere name of the band Derdiçoklar requires no further explanation. Or just look at this photograph of the Akbaba Duo...
Following this piece, we’ll be sharing with you our interview with the band Gurbette Esenyeller in which we hope to delve a little deeper into what weddings mean to the estranged and homesick. We talked about the band’s near-forty year history, beginning with their first wedding, as well as their musical journey from authentic folk music to “disco folk”.
By Way of a Conclusion
Because the first generation found themselves in a situation that they could not easily come to terms with. Because it was stressful… And maybe also offending. Because they planned to come to work and to go back. Suddenly they found themselves unintentionally to be migrants. And the second generation was occupied with other problems. Only now the third generation has an eye and an ear for what was going on.
Ulrich Gutmair, Gazeteci ve Yazar
Researching this article introduced us to many musicians we had never heard of. From today’s vantage point, we were able to witness the process in which laborers in Germany kept their culture alive amongst themselves, how as a tool of expression, music forges its own path. As such, the doors of Germany’s “imagined Turkey” parted before us. Thank you for accompanying us through them by reading our first feature.
In our second feature, #gastarbeitergroove will be nudging the doors open a little more. To read about stars from Turkey whose itinerary crossed through Germany for various reasons and musicians who expressed themselves in genres other than folk music, stay tuned!
Suggestion to Watch: The video prepared by Ercan Demirel in German sheds light to this period and our second piece to come: "Als Die Gastarbeiter Kamen…" (When the Guest Workers Came...)
Suggestion to hear: The recording of the talk by Murat Meriç at bi'bak in 2018 "Gurbetin Tınıları" is an hour long pleasant journey.
 Aksoy, Bülent, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e Musiki ve Batılılaşma, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyete Türkiye Ansiklopedisi içinde, s.1212, İletişim Yayınları, 5. Cilt, 1985.
 Greve, Martin; Almanya’da “Hayali Türkiye”nin Müziği, İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, İstanbul, Temmuz 2016, s. 18.
 Site: https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/anadoludan-avrupaya-insan-hikayeleri/kayserili-asik-vatan-hasretini-turkulere-doktu/1598603, Erişim tarihi: 01.08.2021.
 Greve, Martin; Almanya’da “Hayali Türkiye”nin Müziği, İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, İstanbul, Temmuz 2016, s. 114.
This piece is written in the framework of #60JahreMusik project financed by Berlin Yunus Emre Institute.