Ergüder Yoldaş: Unique and formidable

Published 29.01.2016 22:31
Updated 29.01.2016 22:32
Ergüder Yoldaş: Unique and formidable

Having composed many beautiful Turkish songs with a unique blend of Western and Eastern styles, Ergüder Yoldaş died this week after many years of seclusion

There is a peculiar artist named Johan Borg in Ingmar Bergman's "The Hour of the Wolf" (1968) who lives on a far Scandinavian island with his younger wife. Borg is irritated by the approach of the odd and curious middle class people around him. He has a mental breakdown and is unable to separate the imaginary from reality. His wife does her best to save the artist, but he refuses her attempts.

Borg's imaginary situation, which is a personal story created by Bergman himself, has always reminded me of the situation of Ergüder Yoldaş, another peculiar artist who lived on an island, as a homeless man in Istanbul, for about 12 years after a mental breakdown.

Indeed, Yoldaş and the fictional Borg have many things in common. The curious crowd maddens both. Borg cannot leave his previous love and continue his life with his pregnant wife while Yoldaş was said to have left city life behind after he broke up with his younger wife Nur Yoldaş, who appears as a singer on his two best albums. Both are sincere in their passions, but are weird in attitude. Borg stops painting while Ergüder Yoldaş refused even to touch the piano presented to him by one of his students.

Early life and education

We have little knowledge of Ergüder Yoldaş's private life since he liked to live in secret and did not like speaking much. He was born in İzmir on June 6, 1939. His sister Ayça Hanım said in an interview that their father was also good at music.

The Yoldaş family migrated to İzmir from the Balkans. Ergüder was schooled at İnönü High School in the Balçova district of İzmir. He preferred to play instruments more than following his lessons at school.

He decided to embark on a career in music, so he applied to take the special exams required to be accepted into the State Conservatory in İzmir. He kept this secret and could not go to high school anymore. When his father learned of the situation, he supported him. After that, he spent all of his time in conservatory lessons.

Yoldaş graduated from the İzmir State Conservatory in 1963. Meanwhile, he married for the first time in 1959 and had two children from this marriage - a son named Mustafa Tanju in 1960 and daughter Ayşegül in 1967.

Musicians were in a great demand all around the world in those years. As a reflection of the abundance in theory and political proposals, musicians, too, were greatly desirous of creating new things different from conventional productions. They were making interesting mixes of modern and classical, domestic and foreign, local and universal.

Turkish soft music period

"Türk hafif müziği" - literally Turkish soft music - which was an invented term to meet the contemporary Turkish music composed and performed in a quasi-European manner, was born in such a searching and mixing environment. Many young Turkish musicians tried to catch the new sound, with Turkish classical melodies arranged with Western harmonies. Their main concern was how to re-arrange Turkish folk songs with Western classical music standards, including instrumentation and harmony.

Yoldaş started his first band, the Halikarnas Altılısı (The Halicarnassus Sextet) upon graduating from the State Conservatory. They made a single in 1966 named "Dertli Kaval" (Sorrowful Flute). Yoldaş composed the song and the sextet performed it. Yoldaş composed and arranged many songs for various singers and bands, including Nermin Candan, Ayla Algan, Ömer Aysan, Modern Folk Üçlüsü (Modern Folk Trio) and many others.

Anatolian pop period

After a while, Turkish soft music began transforming into a new genre called Anadolu pop, or Turkish psychedelic folk. Like its original in West European countries and the United States, Turkish psychedelic music was a very ambiguous genre because it was open to variety and innovation and there were no strict rules to make a psychedelic folk song. The genre was broadly open for creativity and ingenuity, and Yoldaş possessed both.

Yoldaş established a new band in the early 1970s, "Hafif Türk Müziği Oda Orkestrası" (Soft Turkish Music Chamber Orchestra). In those years, psychedelic folk became more popular and the group Moğollar dubbed it Anatolian pop.

Yoldaş's existence in Turkish soft music and the Anatolian pop scene was peculiar because of the originality of his compositions. In a later interview, Yoldaş denies that he made "a mere synthesis of the Eastern melodies with Western harmonies." He said that it is not a synthesis at all; it is the composition itself.

Yoldaş did not simply re-arrange Turkish folk melodies with Western rules. He only used the melodies and Western instruments together with harmony to make broader compositions. He is in charge from the beginning until the end of the songs. Yoldaş believed that what he made was the real creation, not arranging and not synthesizing.

Rise and fall

In 1976, Yoldaş got remarried, this time to singer Nur Belda, and the couple had a son named Devrim in 1977. They made a happy pairing in music, too. In 1981, Yoldaş composed and conducted his first popular album, "Sultan-ı Yegah," and Nur sang all the songs. The album reflects the unique and formidable manner of Yoldaş's composition paired with Nur's fluid, wide and joyful voice.

The Yoldaş couple was very popular in the early 1980s. They made a second album together called "Elde Var Hüzün" (Sorrow Remains), which included poems composed by famous Turkish poet Attila İlhan.

The happy and popular years ended too soon for the Yoldaş family. They divorced, and their business vanished. Yoldaş is said to have suffered a mental breakdown. He left the city to live in the forest on one of the Istanbul islands in 1991. Yoldaş refused help from his family, friends and public authorities until 2003 when he moved with his sister to İzmir.

Yoldaş suffered many illnesses during his last years and finally he died on Jan. 25, 2016 in İzmir. He is buried in the Urla district there.

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