Friday, October 25, 2013

Indie Review welcomes MANGA !

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Embracing numerous musical genres and a fresh blend of traditional Turkish and Western rock music, hard rock quartet maNga are ready to storm the U.S. Featuring singer Ferman Akgül, guitarist Yağmur Sarıgül (aka “Yamyam”), drummer Özgür Can Öney and bassist Cem Bahtiyar, the Turkish group have drawn international acclaim for the infectious sounds on their three albums, which one could compare in spirit to Linkin Park or System Of A Down. They made a big noise representing their from home country in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, have over 3 million Facebook followers and have drawn the attention of Billboard, the Huffington Post and MTV Europe, who declared them to be "one of Europe's best kept secrets".
Although the band recorded their first English language songs ("We Could Be The Same" and "Fly To Stay Alive") just three years ago, they have always sought an international audience. Indeed the band name maNga possesses a dual meaning. In Turkish, it refers to a unit of ten men in the army, and in Japanese, which was their chief inspiration for using the word, it means graphic novel.
"The name was Yağmur's idea, and from that moment 12 years ago we were dreaming about having connections to other countries," declares Özgür. "A North American tour is a dream for us."  The foursome finally got to play before a North American audience at the SXSW festival in Texas in March, and they play CMJ on October 18th.
The members of maNga always knew they wanted to make their own music. They even set aside the careers they had studied for in college to become full-time musicians. Three months after they formed in 2001, the group competed on the TV show Sing Your Song, which is the Turkish version of Star Search.  Their second place showing ignited a creative spark that lead to numerous gigs in Turkey while writing the original tunes that comprised their self-titled debut album, which was released via Sony Epic in Turkey in December 2004. The album and its videos spotlighted an amalgam of heavy rock, hip-hop, pop and Turkish music.
Big things followed. The album sold more than 180,000 copies in Turkey, making maNga the first band there to get gold certification on their debut album. The CD also achieved Japanese success. The group played notable festivals like Rock and Coke in Turkey, Sziget Festival in Budapest and the Mannheim Turkish Rock Festival in Mannheim, Germany.
The song “Bir Kadın Çizeceksin” appeared in the EA Sports FIFA 2006 computer game soundtrack, which exposed them to European audiences who loved their music even if they did not understand the words. That same year, an extended edition of their debut album called maNga+ emerged with one new song, “Kandırma Kendini,” and the Cem Karaca cover “Raptiye Rap Rap”.
Their second album, Şehr-i Hüzün, was released via Sony in 2009 and showcased a band transformed by personal growth and their international travels. "On our first album, except for two or three songs, the songs were about relationships, love and feeling hopeless," explains Özgür.
"The first album especially explored teenage feelings, and we were also younger," observes Yağmur. "Our songs were closer to the nu-metal genre at times, like Limp Bizkit and Korn. Songs for angry teenagers. After that, we started to talk more about people's problems, political problems and war, although we still had songs about relationships and broken hearts."
"Ferman really got inspiration from living in Istanbul," adds Özgür. "We read some books about Istanbul, about the history and the modern people living there and the people living in Istanbul becoming more desperate and lonely in city life. Starting from that point, he wrote some lyrics about that."
"We even gave the name of the second album to the old Turkish name of Istanbul, something like 'city of sorrow'," says Ferman.
Şehr-i Hüzün offered a rich blend of Eastern-Western fusion that included traditional instruments like reed flute, piano, tambour and the bağlama. Famous Turkish philosopher poets Karacaoğlan and Ömer Hayyam were quoted in the songs “Üryan Geldim” and “Hepsi Bir Nefes”.
maNga's sophomore album garnered them strong sales and European accolades, most notably the “Best European Act” award at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2009. "The Backstreet Boys gave us the award," reveals Ferman. "It was an interesting moment for us. It was funny, when I was bored during the recording of the second album, I was always trying to sing like the Backstreet Boys on our songs. Of course, we didn't tell them that." That same year, the group played with Limp Bizkit and Queensryche at the Rock The Balkans festival in Bulgaria.
In 2010, maNga became the official Turkish contestants in the world famous Eurovision Song Contest, for which they submitted and performed the English language song "We Could Be The Same". Shot at an abandoned naval facility, the song's video helped to emphasize its dual nature -- it is a love song but also a call to remove borders between people. "We always have other meanings beneath the songs," states Cem. "They could be about love, but if you think closely and deeply you'll find other meanings. Most of our songs have that speciality."
After the massive exposure gained by Eurovision (they came in second place), including the Sony release of the single for "We Could Be The Same" in Denmark and then the release of the "Fly to Stay Alive" video -- which debuted on MTV European and shot to number one on the MTV Adria Rock Chart and to number 3 on the Top 20 chart -- the group's experimentation continued with the 2012 release E-akustik. maNga rearranged and reinvented their songs in an acoustic format while offering mellower versions of their two English language songs. Their forthcoming studio album -- the first to be recorded in their new personal studio, which has allowed them greater creative freedom without pressure or time constraints -- will be their first English language release.
"We're using a bit more of a Seattle sound this time, but unconsciously," says Yağmur. "When we play like that, sometimes we hear a little bit of Pearl Jam, sometimes a little bit of Nirvana. It's really interesting because we have never used those chords or that style in our music before, but we still have classical maNga arrangements in our songs. We still have some hip-hop stuff, but not as much."
Özgür states that traditional Sufi music and American blues have similar feelings, although maNga's blend of the two makes them harder to categorize. He notes that for Western ears they sound Eastern and vice versa. "For Persians, we are Western because we are more democratic and more free than compared to Eastern countries," says the drummer. "For example, in Iran you can't have a rock band play in a bar. They go to other countries to play. That's the biggest difference, I think. I see us as an Anatolian band. We're just Turkish guys who grew up with Turkish influences who are playing Western instruments."
And cranking out some damn good music.

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