We will focus on Mozaik Music Ensemble, one of the most mariginal bands of the 1980s, in our series about the examples on the union of jazz and poetry. Before we focus on their songs that feed heavily on poems, let’s start the article with their piece called “Çook Alametler Belirdi” as they performed it during the 26th Istanbul Jazz Festival, 27 years after they disbanded.
There weren’t many LPs by Turkish musicians included in the archive of jazz lovers in the 1980s other than Tuna Ötenel’s “Jazz Semai”, domestic and international albums released by Ahmet Muvaffak Falay, Atilla Engin and Okay Temiz, Özdemir Erdoğan’s valuable works, and recordings of Sevinç Tevs and Tülay German. We had to wait for the mid-90s to arrive to listen to albums of the prolific musicians Önder Focan and Kerem Görsev’s first recordings, both of whom have tens of recordings today.
Maybe music lovers were in the need of more “open messages” instead of internal voyages to the betters ahead in these days due to the heavy atmosphere caused by the coup. Urban intellectuals and students were listening to the albums of Zülfü Livaneli and Ahmet Kaya, who took folk music as their starting points, as well as bands like Yeni Türkü and Çağdaş Türkü. Those who were a bit more intellectual would hum Bülent Ortaçgil and international artists’ songs.
Mozaik Music Ensebmle was founded in such an atmosphere, and as Saruhan Erim, one of its members, put “when 9 people came together in an environment in the 80s in which 3 people couldn’t get together”.
The ensemble, founded by the students of Boğaziçi University, consisted of the main members Ayşe Tütüncü, Saruhan Erim, Mehmet Taygun, Serdar Ateşer, Timuçin Gürer and Bülent Somay, even though they had many guest musicians accompanying them through the years. They released 4 albumbs in the cassette format in 12 years.
Mozaik Music Ensemble’s first album “Ölümden Önce Bir Hayat Vardır” was released in 1983 and is a concert recording that was way ahead of its time with its focus on World peace, freedom and stories of philantrophy. The band’s second albüm “Ardından” featured their own lyrics and compositions. Following “Ardından”, their third albüm “Çok Alametler Belirdi” presented more jazz-centric pieces while their last albüm “Plastik Aşk” showcased a heavier rock feeling.
This ensemble featured some of the most creative artists Turkey has to offer such as Ümit Kıvanç (journalist, author and documentary maker) and Ezel Akay (advertiser and cinema maker). We encounter many beautiful poems in their work when we view them through the framework of poetry.
Their fans saved their cassettes with great care after the band broke up in 1995 and asked the band members to get together again every time they came across one, or at least release their original recordings once again. Lead by Ayşe Tütüncü these 4 albums were finally released in CD format and their opus also featured two extra CDs that featured their never-before released compositions and interpretations.
The first albüm “Ölümden Önce Bir Hayat Vardır” was released in 1983 and featured songs about freedom from various different geographies; from the works of Victor Jara to Karl Wolf Biermann, from Inti Illimani to Pete Seeger.
This albüm also features French author, poet, musician, singer, journalist, scenario writer, actor, critic and translator Boris Vian’s poem “je voudrais pas crever/I wouldn’t want to die”.
“I wouldn’t want to die”
Before having known / The black mexican dogs / Who sleep without dreaming / The butt-naked monkeys / Gobbling up tropics / The silver spiders in / Webs riddled with bubbles / I wouldn’t want to die / Not knowing if the moon / Behind its fake nickel look / Has a sharper side / If the sun is cold / If the four seasons / Are really only four / Not having tried / To wear a dress / On the boulevards / …
The poem called “Ermutigung/Encouragement”, featured in the same albüm belongs to the old Eastern Germany opposer socialist poet and singer Karl Wolf Biermann.
You, don’t let yourself become hardened / in these hard times. / Those who are overly hard will break / those who are overly pointed will pierce / and break off immediately. / … / You cannot go into hiding, / you need us and we need / your cheerfulness right now. / We don’t want to keep quiet about it / in this age of silence! / The greenery is bursting from the branches / we want to show that to everybody, / then they will understand.
Mozaik Music Ensemble’s second albüm “Ardından” was released in 1985 and featured their own lyrics and compositions. This albüm presents the poem “Yaprak Dökümü/Fallen Leaves” written by the beloved modern Turkish poet Can Yücel, who created a new movement in Turkish poetry with his not-refined but sincere language. This poem was also interpreted by Yeni Türkü.
Those leaves that turned red before they yellowed and fell / all through the autumn put on a splendid display. / As the season turned and the wind began to freshen again / in the nakedness of that horse it’s them who’ll run / those children
those leaves, / those wine-reddened brigands. / Without them who else would I have?
Their third albüm “Çook alametler belirdi” features two poems by Meltem Ahıska, who was inspired by the antique Greek poet Sappho:
“Conversation with Sappho”
stars dimmed down like the moon / the night is almost gone, the time flies / love walked away caressing herself / it was years, years ago / the skies were silent. / stars dimmer down like the moon, / the time opened up, the roses are blooming / that star sings about itself, / it was years years ago / the skies were silent…
Sky blue and rose petals shed / Wearing my hair down in the wind / I want to walk / To walk / On the naked soil / On the cold crazy soil / Until my face gives up on me / To walk / Towards a country where songs live on the streets / I want to walk / Until my eyes become stars / To sing / In a language I don’t speak / Big / Old / About friendship
Internationally renowned ceramics artist Hale Tenger’s poem “Gitmeliydik/We Should Have Gone” is featured in this album as well.
We Should Have Gone
We Should Have Gone / The Waves were our Wings / Our eyes on the knots instead / Knots in our throats / We Should Have Gone / The Waves were our Wings / The Sea was freedom / As we undo the knots on the ropes / We are like grapes on a vine / We faded away on the branches
Josef Fodor’s poem “Kendi bıraktığım izlerde/On My Own Trail” is transformed into a beautiful composition in this albüm. The video of this song is even more meaningful than the song itself fort he fans of the band…
On My Own Trail
Walking on my own trail / I have no strength nor is there a meaning to this / Let my heart turn upside down / Let my tongue lock / As someone who forgot how to talk / or someone who is learning a language / all these pointless meaningless residue / I want to set them on fire like dried up bushes
This band, which is one of the most successful ensembles in the Turkish music history, opted not to include any composed poems in their 1990 album “Plastik Aşk/Plastic Love” while Meltem Ahıska, whose poetry was included in the previous albums, wrote the lyrics of several songs including the titular one. Ayşe Tütüncü shoulders the vocals of this titular piece.
This child will hardly know about loves of the past / Like a big crystal jar / How it would break without any touch / It is the time to watch / Not the time to act but to watch / It gives you faux flowers / Pin them to your chest / This child will hardly know / What hopes used to be / Like a crooked wooden swing / How it would speed up on its own / Hold on to time now / Don’t stare but hold onto it / It gives you a comfortable chair / Sit on it / Hide yourself so the child won’t know / This child will hardly know / What break ups used to mean / How they would go out with no blow like a shining lighthouse / Now complain about time / Don’t hesitate but complain / Break ups are not a problem anymore / Plastic love is always strong / Hide yourself so the child won’t know
Esteemed artist and musician Ayşe Tütüncü spent many years and much effort in putting together “Külliyat”, which brings together all the albums of Mozaik Music Ensemble and their work that wasn’t released previously. You can enjoy examples of the friendship between poetry and music in this compilation.