Turkey has its unique figures in fields such as politics, music, culture and art so bizarre that they cannot be classified in universal terms. Özdemir Erdoğan falls into this category.
Özdemir Erdoğan, born in 1940, is a magnificent jazz guitarist, a unique singer, great composer of pop jazz songs and an arranger of various styles.
He began his career with rock’n’roll music, became a professional musician in the Eray Turgay Orchestra and he founded his first group named Özdemir Erdoğan Orchestra in the early 1960’s. He obtained his notion of jazz in the orchestra of İsmet Sıral, who is not only a perfect jazz musician but also an experimental and a creative musician who contributed to a great spectrum of musicians’ creative efforts. Erdoğan toured Scandinavian countries with this orchestra as a guitarist and vocalist.
In 1969, Erdoğan formed his orchestra and began to make single for the branch of HMV (Sahibinin Sesi) in Turkey. Most of these records were covers of popular western and Greek songs with Turkish lyrics. On the other hand, he also made an instrumental record with his orchestra named “Zenci Yürüyüşü – Uyanış” which was experimental funk music. In 1972, he made a synthesis of Turkish Folk and Turkish Art Music with jazz and funk. Cover of İstanbul Meyhaneleri that is originally composed by Avni Anıl, a great Turkish Art Music composer. In that period, he also composed Turkish native jazz songs like Bedava Yaşıyoruz (Lyrics: Orhan Veli) and Ayşelere Gel, folk compositions like Gurbet, jazz folk arrangements like Misket and Köroğlu. Yarın Artık Geç Olur was a funk, psychedelic arabesque composition that was a bridge between İsmet Sıral and Erkin Koray.
His debut LP, “Sivrisinek Saz ve Caz Orkestrası”, was a carnival where we listened to both of these works and a fantastic cover of Hello Dolly. Singles released from Yonca Records were mostly funk and Anatolian pop such as Aç Kapıyı Gir İçeri (which had references from The Doors’ “Riders On the Storm”), İki Gönül Bir Olunca (having impacts from Gypsy Music), funky Moogy song “İsyanımı Bir Sen Anla” and “Herkes Kendine Benzer” (trumpet and organ ridden jazz composition).
In 1976, he founded his own record company called HAP and his own studio named Labaratuvar. Gradually he released “İşte Forum İşte Yorum” as a Turkish Art Music LP which has also brilliant jazz arrangements. “Canım Senle Olmak İstiyor” (My Heart Wishes To
To be With You) that contained songs which became classical by the time as the sound examples of Turkish pop jazz music, “Ölü Gözüyle İzlenimler” (Impressions
From A Dead Man’s Shoes), a mixture of old and new songs but it reminds us of the first LP mostly, “Selam Sana Dünya” (Hello to You, Mother Earth), which contained TV and contest songs and soundtracks which created the great musician personality of Erdoğan. In 1981, he made the “Gençler İçin Türk Müziği” (Dance with Turkish Music) LP which mostly contained Turkish Art Music with various arrangements from jazz to a drum machine accompanied orchestration.
In 1980 he released a great jazz album called “Voice of My Country In Jazz” which contained most of the songs from the first LP and also two jazz instrumentals he arranged with the great Turkish Armenian jazz bassist, Onno Tunç named This is My Soul and Like a Herbie.
In 1984, he collaborated with multi- instrumentalist and arranger Attila Özdemiroğlu in the soundtrack of Fahriye Abla. In 1985, he released “Bahar Şarkıları” (Songs of Spring), which displayed his hybrid compositions of Turkish Art Music and Jazz, rock and pop.
In 1987, he made a very eclectic album named “İkinci Bahar” (Second Spring) which contained duet and composition with Sezen Aksu , arabesque pop songs, jazzy Turkish Art Music and some old songs with its original recordings. This was the first production of his new record company called Özdemir Erdoğan Müzik.
In 1989, he released “Voice of My Country In Jazz” with a different track list in addition to some old songs. Misket was edited with the duet of Mehmet Erenler (an important figure in folk music) instead of Özdemir Erdoğan’s orchestra parts and connected with the brass section. The recording of Take Five of Dave Brubeck 5 with the jazz pianist Tuna Ötenel was also one of the fabulous parts of the album.
In 1990, Özdemir Erdoğan made a quick shift for his new route where he gave up making pop and jazz compositions and became a solo singer. The album’s name was parallel with the new tendency: “Yorumcu” (Performer). As a final statement of a composer he released “Düşünceli Şarkılar” (Mindful Songs), which contained 4 new songs Yakında Kıyamet Kopacak (Doom Day is so Near), Hüsnü, Kadehler (Glasses) and Kuçu Kuçu in addition to the songs from “Canım Senle Olmak İstiyor” (My Heart Wishes To Be With You) and “Selam Sana Dünya” (Hello to you, Mother Earth). Kuçu Kuçu (Doggie) was one of the rare protest rock songs he composed, like the song named Gerçekçi Şarkı (Realistic Song) from “Bahar Şarkıları”.
During the 1990s, Özdemir Erdoğan made folk and Turkish Art Music albums and during the 2000s, he made reissues of his past albums with some re-recorded songs. In 1999, he covered classical Turkish pop songs for an album released by Yapı Kredi Bank named “Unutulmayan Şarkılar” (Unforgettable Songs).
In 2004, he released “Sahnelerden Canlı Kayıtlar” (Live Recordings from The Stage) which contained jazz and chanson classics played live from 1967 to the 2000s, including the cover of Brel’s Amsterdam with İsmet Sıral Orchestra. After making several Turkish Art and Folk Music albums, he released “Türkiye Jazz Tarihinde Işıksız Kalanlar” (Pieces from Turkish Jazz History That Remained In Dark) in 2014. This album also contained jazz covers, jazzy arrangements and his original jazz compositions recorded live and/or in a studio session with his various bands. The last two songs are performed with İsmet Sıral Orchestra in 1967, which are very much precious contributions to an obscure period of Turkish Jazz Music.
In 2016, another compilation of Özdemir Erdoğan was released by an independent label called Arşiv Plak on vinyl. The compilation is based on the jazz songs in two of Erdoğan’s albums called “Sivrisinek Saz ve Caz Orkestrası” and “Voice of My Country in Jazz”. The new remasters made for this LP called “Jazz Session” is planned to be released on CD by Erdoğan’s own label in Turkey. Arşiv Plak also plans to release a Funk LP of Erdoğan for the next year.
While Erdoğan and other Labels release his jazz albums and tend to support him to return to his jazzy roots, Erdoğan considers jazz as something precious he did in the past as he only uses some jazzy chords when he records or plays live on stage an eclectic repertoire of Traditional Turkish Music, Turkish Pop Oldies. Unfortunately, he still places himself somewhere between a jazz guitarist and a Traditional Turkish Music singer as he calls himself “Performer”.
Erdoğan is currently 76 years old and still performs on stage despite the cancer diagnosis; he fortunately has survived for nearly a decade despite this fact. Fortunately, he plans to record his new songs composed in the 2000s that seem to have satiric lyrics as he announces its name as Hiciv (Satire).
Nevertheless, he still plans to make another Traditional Turkish Music album before the new album. Despite his age, Erdoğan still has a virtue to support his personality as a musician, so I still hope he will be survived from his obsession of being a Traditional Turkish Music icon and return to his roots as a creative and eclectic ethno jazz musician.