Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Ezhel – Felâket

We close Amnesty 2019 with an occasionally political Turkish rapper with an unpolitical song. See you next week for Readers’ Week!


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Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “Felâket” is a love song, but I didn’t know that for the first several months I listened to it. When a Turkish friend introduced me to it, he made no mention of what the track was about. He did, however, rave about Ezhel, a famous singer/rapper who was arrested by the Turkish government for lyrics about drug use (spurring the hashtag #FreeEzhel), and who then later used his art to speak out about the sociopolitical situation in Turkey. So, full disclosure, I wanted to like “Felâket” before even having heard it, in part because I was excited to hear Turkish music for the first time, and in part because when someone you love makes a big deal out of something, you want to love it as much as they do. And while I was initially underwhelmed by this pleasant, MOR AutoTune-heavy song with laidback vibes, “Felâket” has since become a fixture of my 2019. Listening to this song together, my friend’s love of Ezhel has wormed its way into my heart. The track has soundtracked so many memories, sipping coffee on Sunday mornings, feeding chunks of bagels to seagulls, lounging around doing nothing. When I met his friends in Istanbul, we sang this song together when tipsy. When I returned home, I started humming it without even thinking. That’s the thing about sharing music: not only can it transcend cultural difference, but learning to appreciate something someone else cherishes can feel like the most intimate thing in the world, a love language all on its own. Which, I suppose, brings me back to this realisation that “Felâket” is actually a love song. An oud with a spacey sonic treatment opens the song, crawling into focus; the vibe is chill but a little uneasy. Singing like his head is resting on your shoulder, Ezhel sings about a girl: “How did you fit the sun in your smile? And turn my heart into a desert?” Yes, Ezhel, how did she do that? And how did you capture that moment so beautifully?
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Iain Mew: I absolutely love the way he uses AutoTune to turn his voice into a perfect mirror of the song’s instrumentation. It spreads a depth of feeling across the whole song in a really striking way.
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Nortey Dowuona: Slowly descending guitar melts upon steady, pulsing bass with heady, crippling drums. Sticklike, scattered strings battle with the wind as Ezhel slowly squishes his nasal, frizzing voice across the guitars. A swarm of horns swipe up and into the aether.
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Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Congrats to this year’s winner of the Bruno Mars Prize for Apocalyptic Horniness in Metaphor!
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Katherine St Asaph: I wish I could pinpoint the exact cross-cultural confluence that makes this Turkish pop song remind me, in autotune, skank and laid-back feel, of nothing more than Latvian pop duo Elektrik Elderz‘ “More Acid More Sugar.” The common factor is neither of those things, really: more breeze, more swoon.
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Edward Okulicz: Not knowing any Turkish, or Turkish pop, I’d have struggled to place the language or the country of origin on either element, and both wouldn’t have helped. Listening to the gentle skank and numbing AutoTune, I would not have guessed that the song is stuffed with references to natural disasters and tragedy. And if you’d told me that, that it’s a love song would be so improbable. Great pop does the impossible, but this one’s just good.
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Joshua Minsoo Kim: Just some guitar skanks and impassioned AutoTuned vocals –pleasant in the moment, but I can’t remember or hum a single thing after multiple plays.
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