Mostly famous for being the first band in which Turkish rock star Cem Karaca showcased his talent, Apaslar is actually the most important rock & roll band to emerge from Turkey in the ’60s. Taking their name from the 1960 Shadows hit “Apache,” Apaslar was thought to be a simple spin-off, but they proved everybody wrong with their short but impressive career. Combining the standard rock & roll forms with a beat way of thinking and Turkish folk lyrics — inspired by Turkish philosophers like Karacaoglan and Pir Sultan Abdal — as well as skillful instrument playing, Apaslar was a milestone in Turkish music history.
The story of Apaslar dates back to as far as 1956, when guitarists Mehmet Soyarslan and Yalcinkaya Tumer formed Sen Gencler. Only existent as an amateur attempt, Sen Gencler later joined forces with the members of Kuartet-X and named themselves Apaslar in 1961. Although 1961 was the year the band was formed, their first breakthrough came with the 1967 “Golden Mic” competition. That year, Mehmet Soyarslan (guitar) and Yalcinkaya Tumer (guitar) had joined forces with Timur Fildisi (drums), Ahmet Tuzcuoglu (bass), and the extraordinary, instantly recognizable Cem Karaca (vocals). Following the leader, Mavi Cocuklar, in second place with their first-ever single, “Emrah,” Apaslar earned a chance to tour the country, which in return made them start to build up a fan base.
Like most of the Turkish rockers living in the ’60s, Apaslar went to Germany to benefit from better equipment and experienced musicians. Although they had some real tough times abroad, they signed a record deal and worked with Ferdy Klein Orchestra, which improved their sound to near-perfection.
Upon returning to Turkey, they were the heroes of a new decade, with their stage shows and costumes. Guitarist Soyarslan had improved his style and he was playing his guitar with his teeth or on his back like Hendrix did. Other members were descending onto the stage from the roof, and Cem Karaca was clearly one of the most talented singers Turkey had ever seen.
While Apaslar was at the top of its musical power with songs like the definite hit “Resimdeki Gozyaslari” or the instrumental “Gilgamis,” lead singer Cem Karaca got himself into politics. Apart from political views, the two leaders of the band, Karaca and Soyarslan, were also arguing constantly, even on-stage. It didn’t take long for Apaslar to break up, calling it off in 1970. Karaca went on to work with the best bands and musicians in the country, like Mogollar and Kurtalan Ekspress, and he became one of the most popular singers in Turkish history. The rest of the band couldn’t keep their name going. Karaca passed away in 2004 after numerous successful albums and singles.