All too often these days, the world can feel like a dark and dangerous place. But music remains a light in the bleakness, offering a constant sense hope and joy and celebration. In Turkey the ominous shadows have been growing longer for several years but Baba Zula have been a shining beacon for 20 years, bringing the West and the Orient together in a glory of Istanbul psychedelia. To celebrate those two decades of existence, XX brings together tracks from across Baba Zula's history on 2LPs, along with an accompanying CD of dubs created by artists like Mad Professor. Dr. Das of Asian Dub Foundation, and Dirtmusic.
"We wanted to have a compilation that was a little different," explains group founder and electric saz player Osman Murat Ertel. "None of the pieces here are in their original forms. Instead, we picked remixes, re-recordings, collaborations, live tracks, all the possibilities, but none of these have been released before. And it's a mix of recording techniques – digital, analogue, tape, MP3." The band's deep and fascinating history are displayed in widescreen on XX. "Biz Size Aşik Olduk (We Fell In Love With You)," for instance, is the only song they've ever created for a television serial, one that catapulted them to popularity all across Turkey. Baba Zula have always believed that music needs to make a powerful statement, and they've never pulled punches in their lyrics. On XX, both "Aşiklarin Sözü Kalir (Eternal Is The Word Of Poets)" and "Efkarli Yaprak (Worried Leaf)" make their points very eloquently.
In typically perverse and playful fashion, although their biggest ‘hit' – "Bir Sana Bir De Bana (One For You And One For Me)" – is here, it's not the original Baba Zula version of the song, but one featuring a duet between an Armenian man and a French woman. The second LP closes with a pair of previously unreleased live tracks. "Çöl Aslanlari (Desert Lions)" was mixed by Einstürzende Neubaten's Alexander Hacke, while "Abdülcanbaz" is taken from a performance at the Resistance Festival in Piraeus, Greece, with Ertel's electric saz powering and pushing the group higher and higher over a swell of percussion, electric oud, effects, and vocals. They're long, mesmeric cuts, the pulsing of an ancient Turkish soul in a very modern band.