By Senol Tibet
Baris Manco- a name which is known as one of the most inventive and influential rock musicians which Turkey has ever produced. His name is one which resonates in every Turkish household- his timeless music, fully ingrained into the lives of Turkish people all over the world, even though it has been 19 years since his untimely death.
The road leading Manco to his vast success wasn’t an easy one. Most see his life as that of a born superstar- the most popular figure in modern Turkish music history becoming an international Star while rubbing shoulders with great bands like The Beatles. Few people know of his struggles to enter and reinvent the Turkish music industry, forming and reforming several bands which eventually lead to his great success.
In a time when his country was swimming in a sea of political madness, he managed to hold back his personal view and reach out to every single possible listener, no matter what origin or religion they were coming from. With his long hair, extraordinary outfits, and every kind of weird accessory, he could have easily been perceived as a common hippy rather than a musician. However, with his passionate voice, spiritual lyrics, clever mix of ethnic-folk-rock themes and sincere character, he was accepted by his people and rose to stardom. His fame wasn’t limited to Turkey alone. His songs were translated into many languages such as English, French, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, and Arabic. He was known as a great musician, but he was also a television programmer, a traveller, and the cultural ambassador of Turkey – but most important of all, he was a man of peace who tried to put love and friendship above all.
Baris Manco was born on January 1, 1943, in Istanbul while World War II was still taking thousands of lives. It’s therefore easy to understand why he was named Baris (meaning “peace” in Turkish) by his wealthy father and his musician mother (who played the Turkish oud). Although he was an inattentive student in school, he formed his first band when he was 15. He worked with short-lived bands like ‘Kafadarlar’ and ‘Harmoniler’. He recorded cover versions of some of popular American twist songs and rearrangements of Turkish folk songs in rock and roll form, marking the beginning of the Anatolian rock movement, a synthesis of Turkish folk music and rock. In this period, his key visual and musical influence was Elvis Presley. Manco recorded his first singles in the early ’60s, including one of his earliest tracks, ‘Cit Cit Twist’
In 1963, he moved to Belgium in order to continue his education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. During the following years, he played with a lot of different bands, travelled back to Turkey numerous times, and recorded French, English and Turkish singles. One of his most important bands of that era was ‘Les Mistigris’, with which he played live in France, Belgium, and Germany, and eventually brought the band to Turkey for recording sessions.
In 1967, he suffered a serious car accident, after which he started to grow his signature moustache to disguise his scar. After settling back in Turkey, Manco joined ‘Kaygisizlar’, a band which included musicians Mazhar Alanson and Fuat Güner, who would later form the band ‘MFÖ’. At that time, Manco had already started recording hit singles like ‘Kol Dugmeleri’ (Cuff Links) and ‘Seher Vakti’ (Twilight Zone). But his inevitable breakthrough came with ‘Daglar Daglar’ (Mountains Mountains), which was recorded with his multicultural band and (featuring in addition to Manco, musicians from Britain, the U.S., Tunisia, and Belgium) became one of the most eminent Turkish songs in history.
Manco explored rock & roll, the Twist, and beat music in the ’60s, but in the ’70s he created some of his most important compositions, while developing and subsequently contributing to the very first sounds of psychedelic rock. After working with another controversial yet successful Anatolian rock band, ‘Mogollar’ in 1970, he formed his main band,’ Kurtalan Ekspres’, which would play with him for the next 18 years despite line-up changes. The band took its name from a local train that would start its journey in Istanbul and stop in a southeast Turkish village called Kurtalan. Manco’s debut LP, ‘Dunden Bugune’ (From Yesterday ‘Til Today), was a compilation of his previous singles, but his second album had a clear and strong impact on the Turkish music industry. With the influence of Hammond Organist Murat Ses, Manco released his album ‘2023’, which is regarded as one of his best albums to date. The title track and ‘Baykoca Destani’ exhibited his capabilities as a musician. The use of a drum machine and atmospheric organs showed the first hints of electronic music in Turkey. After the lacklustre ‘Baris Mancho’ album, which was also released in Europe, Manco released Yeni Bir Gun (A New Day) in 1979. The album included one of the most important Manco anthems, ‘Sari Cizmeli Mehmed Aga’ (Warrior in Yellow Boots), the ambient ‘Coban Yildizi’ (Shepherd Star) and “2024” (a new interpretation of “2023”) were the other high points of the album.
In 1981 Manco recorded another masterpiece,’ Sozum Meclisten Disari’ (My Promise Away From Council) . The album included “2025” (the third part of “2023” story), ‘Gulpembe’ (Pink Rose) and ‘Donence’ (Upon Return).
Manco then began emphasizing his lyrics and philosophy as the ’80s progressed. After the birth of his first son and – more pressingly – the 1980 military coup, Manco tried to create understanding and unity among the Turkish people with his songs. Although he used proverbs and historic sayings in his previous works, he used them more frequently in the ’80s. His songs became more straightforward and easy to understand, and he even wrote children’s songs. Manco’s change in musical direction didn’t mean he was less popular in the ’80s or ’90s – on the contrary, with his straightforward music and lyrics calling for peace, he embraced listeners from all corners of Turkey and also the world. Songs like “Halil Ibrahim Sofrasi” (Halil Ibrahim’s Dining Table), ‘Kara Sevda’ (Dark Love) and ‘Domates Biber Patlican’ (Tomatoes Peppers and Eggplant) were singalongs, and after the album ‘Darisi Basiniza’, he was honored as a “State Artist” by TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation).
At the end of the ’80s, Manco started his television career with 7’den 77’ye (From 7 to 77), in which he travelled to countries from the equator to the arctic and presented the culture of those countries with footage of the simple man. The program aired for ten years, from 1988 until the last year of his life. 4 x 21 Doludizgin (4 x 21 Full Gallop) was his other TV project. The ’90s also saw Manco become surprisingly popular in Japan, even more than in his home country. A concert in which 20,000 Japanese listeners held Japanese and Turkish flags together and sang along with Manco was recorded and released as Baris Manco Live in Japan. Manco released his final studio album, Musadenizle Cocuklar (If You’ll Excuse Me Kids), in 1995. As a token of appreciation for such an international cultural effort, Baris Manco received some 300 Grand Prix awards, trophies, prizes and nominations in his career. Such as: Doctor Honoris Causa Es Art of the Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey (1991), Turkish State Artist of the Republic of Turkey (1991), International Culture and Peace Award of the Soka University, Tokyo, Japan (1991), Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France, Paris (1992), Chevalier de l’Ordre de Léopold II of the Kingdom of Belgium, Brussels (1992), Honorific Citizen of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat (1995), Doctor Honoris Causa of the Pamukkale University, Turkey (1995), Highest Honor Award of Art of Min-On foundation, Tokyo, Japan (1995).
Baris also had political ambitions and in 1995 he was candidate for mayor of the Istanbul district of Kadikoy by the conservative True Path Party (DYP), but heart problems forced him to withdraw from the race.
He was fond of Victorian and Art Deco furniture. He owned two of the largest collections of Art Nouveau Glass and 18th. Century Japanese “Imari” porcelain in Turkey.
Four years later, on January 31, 1999, he passed away. More compilation albums and re-releases saw the light of day after his death. During the last years of his life, Manco and his musician friends and collaborators were known to remark about how he didn’t receive proper respect from the media and Turkish people. For his funeral, millions of people – including Muslims, Christians, and Jews – gathered together praying, crying, mourning and singing his songs. It is possible that Turkish history had never before seen a crowd as large and as peaceful for an artist’s funeral. During his 41-year artistic career, Baris Manco wrote more than 200 songs, took to stages around the world (Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the United States, and more), and tried to spread his philosophy of peace. He will be remembered as both a man of the world and a great artist.
A Breakdown of Baris Manco
Born: Tosun Yusuf Mehmet Barış Manço, 2 January 1943, Üsküdar, Istanbul, Turkey
Died:1 February 1999 (aged 56), Kadıköy, Istanbul, Turkey
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, composer, actor, television producer and show host
Spouse(s): Marie Claude January – July 1970, Lale Manço (Çağlar) 1978 – 1999
Children: Doğukan Hazar Manço ( 1981)
Batıkan Zorbey Manço (1984)
Genres : Anatolian rock Alternative rock Progressive rock Psychedelic rock
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active: 1958–1999
Labels: Sayan, Yavuz Plak, CBS Disques / Grammofoonplaten SABV, Türküola, Emre Plak
Associated acts: Moğollar, Kafadarlar, Harmoniler, Les Mistigris, Kaygısızlar, Barış Manço Ve …, Kurtalan Ekspres, George Hayes Orchestra
Sources: “Sanat Biogrofi”, allmusic.com, Wikipedia