A very special instalment of Digging Deeper featuring an interview with Jasper Verhulst, founder of Turkish psych-folk group Altın Gün. Since their first release on Les Disques Bongo Joe back in 2017, Altın Gün has been a favourite here at Bongo HQ. We've seen the group rise to prominence in the world music scene in the past few years with their fresh take on Turkish classics. Two LPs and a Grammy Award nomination later, their success shows no sign of slowing down.
We’re all big fans of Altın Gün here at Mr Bongo. For those unfamiliar with what you do, could you please explain the approach behind Altin Gün?
Thank you. Happy to hear that! Like many bands and artists around Turkey in the seventies, we play Turkish traditionals and folk songs and rearrange them with psych, rock, funk and disco elements.
What drew you to reworking Turkish music in this way?
When I first heard Finders Keepers 'Selda' compilation years ago I was blown away by the intense and very refreshing mix of Turkish traditional music with 70's funk grooves, psychedelic guitars and synths. Later I discovered there was much more music made in this style and I started to collect this on vinyl. To me, it also seemed like the perfect music to play live and couldn't find any bands that were doing this at the time...
From here in the UK, it’s becoming clear The Netherlands hosts a lot of brilliant musicians at the moment, especially in the psychedelic scene. Groups such as Kikagaku Moyo, Mauskovic Dance Band and Jacco Gardner seem to be inter-connected, with players fluidly moving between the groups. Why do you think this is, and what’s the music scene like for you all on a local level?
Hard to say why that is. There are a lot of good festivals and record shops in The Netherlands. Maybe that helps. There definitely is a nice scene still in Amsterdam with a lot of very talented musicians. Unfortunately, it's also becoming more expensive and regulated these last couple of years.
Which albums/records have been the most influential on the Altın Gün sound?
These are the most important Turkish albums for us...
...but we are influenced by music from all around the world. From MPB to Italo disco, from Jimi Hendrix to Kraftwerk.
The instrument the electric saz features heavily in psychedelic Turkish music; for those who don’t know this instrument can you briefly explain what it is and how it differs from a guitar?
In Turkey, it's usually called a bağlama. It has seven strings divided into courses of two, two and three. The frets are movable so different scales with quarter tones can be played. It is usually played with a much longer and softer pick then a guitar.
Which classic Turkish musicians that you love to work with? A Selda collaboration would be amazing...
I saw some clips of Selda performing live recently and she definitely still has it! Amazing artist. I don't know any other Turkish artists from the golden days of Anatolian folk-rock still performing, to be honest.
Are there any new records or bands which you have discovered whilst touring that you’d like to share?
I think we discover most new music online and in record shops. Here are some mixes I've made from our tour discoveries.
Which countries have been the most receptive to your Music?
I guess Germany, France, Turkey and The Netherlands but lately, we seem to be doing pretty good in the states too. Turkey is always a special thing because everyone in the audience knows the songs and sings along.
Finally, what can we expect from the group in future?
We see ourselves as a live band mainly, so we'll keep doing that! Hopefully playing lots of places we haven't played before. We're also working on new material right now. I guess more of the same, but also very different!
Many thanks to Jasper for taking the time to speak to us. You can buy the latest Altın Gün album from us here.