Reviewed on this page:
Sıla - İmza - Konuşmadığımız Şeyler Var - Joker - Vaveyla - Yeni Ay - Mürekkep - Heybeden Şarkılar
After a few years writing songs for other Turkish pop artists like Kenan Doğulu and Emel Müftüoğlu (also collaborating with Sezen Aksu on a TV theme), Sıla Gençoğlu released her first solo album in 2007 and found instant success. Since then, she's ranged from electronic dance to Latin American rhythms to a flexible, inclusive take on rock and roll, with barely a misstep: Though nothing in her approach is strikingly different or virtuosic, the way she puts the pieces together is unfailingly rewarding.
Surely significant credit should go to Efe Bahadir, who co-writes most of the music, but whichever way you slice it up, she's well worth hearing even if your interest in things Turkish extends no further than taffy.
Her debut was an instant success, keyed by the midtempo electrogrind "...Dan Sonra," a hit duet with Kenan Doğulu.
At first listen, it comes across as fairly ordinary Turkish pop, accomplished as it is ("Özledim Onu") - at least for me, only repeated hearing revealed the richness underneath. The electronic stuff isn't rushed and breathless (the slow-burning monster "Biktim") like so much Eurodance. Where so many singers are afraid to leave vulnerable vocals front and center, she leaves her ballads uncluttered ("Malum").
And a few bands have pulled the Bad Company/Talk Talk trick (artist and song sharing the same name), but I can't think of another solo artist with an eponymous song this side of Van Dyke Parks ("Sıla") - plus, her dark, dank effort is actually worth hearing.
There are a few so-so tracks ("Kenar Süsü"; the Pinhani-lite "Ne Desem İnarsrin").
In 2008, Sıla appeared on Colombian vallenato band Ciclón's remix project Shaker.
Gençoğlu's true sophomore release, and more or less the same not-too-fast, not-too-slow survey of pop idioms ("Sevişmeden Uyumayalım"). The best tracks are superb:
"Bitse De Gitsek" (again with Doğulu) puts together insidious keyboard hooks, rap, and acoustic guitar into a surprisingly subtle dance groove; "Her An Aksilik Çıkabilir" is assured funk.
Not to mention that she makes writing a beautiful pop song like "Bana Biraz Renk Ver" seem a lot easier than it really is. On the other hand, there are more ordinary tunes here than on any of her other releases (the sodden "Yara Bende"), so don't put this at the top of your shopping list.
Konuşmadığımız Şeyler Var (2010)
More electronic than the previous releases; otherwise, there's nothing unusual about these songs except how powerful and striking they are... For example, "Oluruna Bırak" is medium-slow and romantic, "Kafa" is medium-fast and danceable, both present Turkish melodic and instrumental elements in a way that's not overwhelming for Northern European audiences, and both were well-deserved hit singles. The solemn, entrancing "Zamanında" is better still.
A few of the mellower tunes don't quite come across ("Cam"), the gypsyfied middle of the otherwise hi-tech "Gol" is a bit silly, and Sıla's voice won't knock you out, but overall it's a rock-solid batch of pop served up with verve and feeling.
A live-in-the-studio CD/DVD - not Unplugged but Less Plugged - and though most of the titles are familiar, the results are more powerful: deadly funk ("Pardon"), ballads with a kick ("Yoruldum"), even salsa ("Cam," revved up from the previous album) and reggae ("Boşver," with a luscious Rhodes-led middle).
The band - Bahadir and Kerem Türkaydın (guitars), Burak Erkul (keys), Cudi Genç (bass), the phenomenal Nedim Ruacan (drums) - serve up a roots-rock feel and an enviable pocket, no matter how the mood or tempo shifts (the contagious "Alain Delon," originally a house track written with Ozan Doğulu, is perhaps the purest fun on the disc).
Whatever form she's working in, and whether the songs are new or previously recorded (the quietly devastating "Vur Kadehi"), Sıla's dramatic sense and melodic invention are in full flower, and the album has the coherence and timeless feel of a classic.
In contrast to the previous release's profusion of approaches, this time Sıla basically stays in character as Janis Ian circa Aftertones ("İmkansız") - even on the dance remixes ("(C)esaret").
"Vaveyla" means shouting or wailing (assuming she's not punning in Azerbaijani, which she may be), and most of the songs are somber lamentations (the manic, Marisa Monte-like "Panik Atak" - wthe actual Turkish term for a panic attack - excepted). That may not sound great if you're not an Ian fan, but I sure am, and the judicious use of strings and percussion - supplementing Joker's live-band sound - lend breadth to the enterprise ("Çocuk," a melancholy anthem if I've ever heard one). Even when the tunes are slender ("Zor Sevdiğimden"), they're elevated by the artful presentation and thematic unity.
Earlier in 2012, Sıla wrote (with Bahadir) and produced an album for Göhkan Keser.
Yeni Ay (2014)
In a similar low-key vein, with the bouncy "Reverans" and a perfunctory remix of "Yanbanci" the only concessions to danceability.
After several listens none of the songs grab me by the lapels, but each one is well constructed and distinct ("Yabanci")... it's not easy to string together so many midtempo downers without them all blending together but Sıla manages, due to subtle arranging - Duane Eddy guitar on "Doldur"; accordion on "Merhabalar" - and dynamics shifts.
Traditional Anatolian instruments feature more than usual - mostly winds, percussion and kemençe rather than bağlama - though never in a heavy-handed way, and she sounds exactly as comfortable here as with the pseudo-70s Joker band ("Yeter").
Online configurations of the album contain demo versions of all the tracks, which is a cool concept though they don't reveal much apart from Bahadir's rock-solid rhythm playing.
In 2015, Sıla and Bahadir put together a self-titled album for another protégé, Güliz Ayla, and wrote most of Ziynet Sali's No. 6.
Mostly acoustic again, with no audible electronics; some swooping strings are as bright as the disc gets. But (with the exception of the mournful "Bırak") quiet doesn't mean gentle: the air of lamentation has shifted to finely veiled menace, with titles (in translation) like "Waste," "Viper," "Leave," and "Bullet," and Sıla projecting a keeping-my-cool-but-just-barely mien that puts me in mind of Big Mama Thornton ("Can Dostum").
As always, she and Bahadir strew little arranging details across the album - Sleater-Kinney style guitar lines and burbling percussion on "Engerek" - so the songs claim their individual spaces within the overarching mood.
They also get a lot of dramatic mileage out of a massed vocal chorus on "Ziyan."
Heybeden Şarkılar (2017)
A collection of duets and guest appearances ("Alain Deleon" with Ozan Doğulu), going all the way back to the Cicl&oeacute;n/Shaker tracks. I'd missed some of these when they came out ("Seni Gormeseydim" from a Şükrü Tunar tribute album) and it's certainly convenient to have them all in one place.