Till the re-release of Mustafa Özkent’s LP “Gençlik ile Elele” (Hand in Hand With Youth) by ‘’Finders Keepers Records’’ among the Anatolian Invasion Series, Özkent was only known by record collectors and people trying to discover their musical roots. The LP was a rare one, so including myself, we had the recordings via MC duplicates or CD-R burns in the underground market or in the solidarity context between friends.
On the other hand, Mustafa Özkent was the name behind the popular Turkish Art Music recordings and arrangements such as Yıldırım Gürses. He also created relatively easy to find albums such as Digital Guitar and Elif. He was also very active during the 1970’s like the arrangements he did for the theatrical diva Ayla Algan (Farewell To Love) and the super funky and Moogy arrangements for the innovative Turkish Art Music singer and composer Yıldırım Gürses’ “Gençliğe Veda” (Farewell To Youth).
The rare “Gençlik ile Elele” was recorded live with the best studio musicians of Turkey in one day for Evren Records in 1973. The lineup consisted of Mustafa Özkent (solo guitar, arranger), Cahit Oben (rhythm guitar), Merih Dumlu (bass guitar), Cezmi Başeğmez (drums), Veysel Çadır (drums), Kamil Taşpınarlı (percussion), Prokop Minaoğlu (percussion) and Ümit Aksu (Hammond Organ).
The LP was recorded live with the musicians referred above in Grafson Studio and is considered one of the first Turkish stereo recordings pressed on LP. As the LP was stereo, they tried to use the extreme limit of the new sound technology. The arrangements of Özkent trips between funk, soul and psychedelic rock, but the magic is what was in the air at that era. Özkent and his companions were open to all western styles and consciously or not, even they sometimes reached the aura created by the German Krautrock groups, especially Can. Not only western styles, Özkent also did some modifications on the frets of his guitar to play Turkish modes and enforced it with fuzz and wah wah pedals in order to create an eclectic sound where you can hear Turkish music scales as well.
After the release of the LP, the cover which portrays a monkey with tapes and a microphone which was used by force majeure of the producer Ali Avaz, who is well known in Turkey with his political records, gave the audience the impression that the LP is not a type of a serious one. It was also criticized in a review in Hey Magazine, which was the best selling music and youth magazine of that era while the rest of the review was full of admiration of the great sound created by Mustafa Özkent and his orchestra.
Last but not least, the album was not fully accepted in the disco and nightclub scene of Turkey at that time. Özkent targeted an audience that would dance along a funky musical arrangement of Traditional Turkish Music. On the other hand, the Turkish audience on the dance floor was not quite ready to dance along with the melodies derived from Turkish music no matter how funky they were arranged. At that time, Özkent even made a social experiment on how the audience reacted as he gave his record to a DJ to play it to the interest of the people in a disco and witnessed that they danced joyfully with theintroduction of the first track called “ÜSKÜDAR”, but when the main melody started some of them were not so happy to hear it.
Therefore, the album did not reach its real audience for decades, therefore Özkent made his way to arrangements that financially helped him afford his living. He had a great influence on the music of Yıldırım Gürses, who tried to make Turkish Art Music more polyphonic with his arrangements. This brought him an alternative career that made him become a popular arranger of many Polyphonic Turkish Art Music albums as Muazzez Abacı,Muazze Ersoy, Samime Sanay,Hüner Coşkuner,Safiye Soyman, etc.
As the revival of vinyl records began during the 2000’s along with the compilation or the reissue of many Turkish psychedelic rock artists and albums, his debut album “Gençlik ile Elele” was also released by Finders Keepers in 2006 . The album with the press release of Andy Votel was a limited edition one and sold out rapidly and got great reviews.
These critics also attracted attention in Turkey but he was still considered an old musician who had surprisingly a great success after so many years and Turkish media just preferred to monitor to see what was going on abroad. The only activity in this semi-silence was the release of the original album on CD by Öncü Müzik in 2006.
On the other hand, there were activities abroad to realize the music on LP with a live set, therefore Özkent was asked to perform the LP live with an orchestra which has been created for him named Belçika Orkestrası (Belgium Orchestra). Belçika Orkestrası was also composed of one rhythm guitar, bass, two percussions, two drums and organ like, the formation of the musical staff in the original LP. Sofiane Remadna (bass), Yannick Dupont (drums), Jean-Philippe De Gheest (drums), Axel Gilain (guitar), David Picard (keyboards), Guillaume Codutti (conga, percussion) and Tadzio Baudoux (percussion) were the members of the band. He gave his first concert with the band in the ‘’Europalia Art Festival’’ in Brussels on 20th. November, 2015, then on the 21st. November he performed in Türkische Delikatessen Kultur Festival in Cologne, Germany. On November 22nd., Mustafa Özkent and Belçika Orkestrası appeared in Le Guess Who Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands. At the same festival, Okay Temiz and Gaye Su Akyol also had concerts.
Like Selda’s concert with the Israel psychedelic rock band Boom Pam in Le Guess Who, the same festival attracted the attention of Turkish Concert Organizers and finally, Mustafa Özkent had the opportunity to perform his real music on stage in his own country. On the 9th. of March 2016, Mustafa Özkent and Belçika Orkestrası performed live at Babylon Bomonti in Istanbul. Axel Gilain couldn’t attend the concert and he was replaced by Berç Yeremyan (generally known as Berç Yenal in album booklets or Beco among the musicians) for the concert. Beco was also the rhythm guitarist in Özkent’s solo album “Elif”.
The groove of all the concerts was just fantastic and they played the entire album with an addition of two songs and extended with solos of drums, percussion and other musicians in a fully funky atmosphere. Özkent was pleased to emphasize the name of the album that denoted music “hand in hand with the youth”, as he signed his LPs and CDs for a young audience who had much musical consciousness from their ancestors who skipped the opportunity to be the subject of the youth referred in the title of the LP.
In addition to this, it was a perfect coincidence that JACKPOT Records made a second edition of the reissue on color vinyl which gives a colorful psychedelic view while playing the record. Although hard core record collectors won’t appreciate it, it is also pleasant that Özkent’s debut the LP is not rare anymore and accessible to the ones who really want to connect to the groovy waves of this great energy.
In conclusion, I suggest that this concert should not be a conclusion of the discovery of Özkent. On the contrary, it should be considered as a beginning to discover the creativity of Dr. Frankestein of Turkish Psychedelic Funk Rock, which means more demand to encourage to Özkent and the band to record new works in the same attitude and energy, also to perform more on stage for the young ones who always stay young.