Tuesday, 07 May 2024 13:01

Grup Yorum - On the Move

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Grup Yorum - On the Move

Grup Yorum on the move

Grup Yorum are an ensemble I have deeply admired for many years, and even had the privilege to bring them to Britain to attend the Workers’ Music Association Summer School in 2023. Its hard to describe the extent to which they’ll fight for their political beliefs, but their recent travels go a long way to demonstrate it.

Recently, the band made a daring visit to the contested Donbass People’s Republic, where they visited Luhansk, Mariupol, Krasnodor, and Severodonetsk meeting people locally, hearing about their experiences of the past 10 years, and performing their music to the people of these towns. At the time of writing, they went straight from there to Syria, where they are aiming to sing songs in solidarity with the Palestinian people, visiting Damascus and Aleppo, amongst other locations in Syria.

I was able to talk to the group about their motivations to travel to these places, what their experiences were, and satisfy a real curiosity to see what on earth they were doing – as very few bands are carrying out such daring visits.

GY2

I initially asked the band what drove them to the Donetsk People’s Republic, to which they said:

“We wanted to help the people here, and we were here in 2015. It is important now to report this trip, the Western media is filling the airwaves with misinformation. We are preparing a documentary about everything we have seen and the criminal acts of the US. The world is misinformed about the war and tell the truth about the Fascistic nature of the Ukrainian government. We came here to tell the truth”.

They informed me they started filming from their arrival, as well as writing in diaries about everything they witnessed, and collecting as much physical material they could. Alongside this, they wanted to share the stories of the people of Donbass, who have been completely isolated since the escalation of the conflict in 2022.

I asked what their overall feelings and experiences had been, being so close to the conflict. They said:

“When we were in Severodonetsk, the city was in a terrible state. Every building had been attacked by the Ukrainian government, and civilians were killed by the Ukrainian forces, and we saw lots of guns and bombs supplied by NATO.”

They went on to highlight that they were only 8km away from the frontline and could hear the noise of the war on the horizon.

GY3

Despite the horrific destruction they witnessed, they were eager to stress that the people were extremely happy they had appeared, because of how isolated from the rest of the world they are:

“In the West, we don’t see the reality on the ground, and the people [here] are eager that our efforts are being promoted internationally. They truth doesn’t find its way, we have to bring the truth out! The people who saw the concert were extremely excited that we were there. They wanted to talk to us. They were extremely happy with our support and solidarity, and we promised we will come again, and to make a bigger concert for them”.

The band performed their usual blend of their own Turkish radical songs alongside international hits like Bella Ciao! and Katyusha and the band informed me how enthusiastically they were received. When talking about the reception of their songs in Turkish, they told me they shared the meaning of these songs and some in attendance described the band’s political vision was ‘crystal clear’.

In our discussions, I asked what their of the war zones were:

“We were aware of the risks when we went to Donbass, but we took them. In our history, 39 years of making art, we weren’t just watching the events from a distance. To make these songs we have to be there with the people. We have been in Iraq and Syria in the past and in Palestine also.There are risks attached to this, and we know that, but we have to face the risk. There were some critical moments, the people are living these conditions every day, they protected us and showed us great solidarity, and kept us in secure spaces. There were risks of drone attacks at points, but we trust the people to protect us more than themselves – for us, there were many risks, but we had to do this”.

I asked about the documentary, and they informed me that the documentary will be about 90 minutes long, and they’ll promote it when it is ready for release. On the band’s future plans, they told me they were getting ready for Syria, where they’ll give three concerts in the conservatoires and the universities in the towns and cities they visit. They are also heading to Greece, Netherlands, Switzerland, England, and they were invited to two Italian universities.

Grup Yorum are a band like no other, and they are carrying out actions which individuals like Paul Robeson, the Workers’ Music Association Choir, and other radicals who put their safety to the side so they can reach the people in need.

Some people are often quick to flippantly brush aside political music, preferring to the espouse the need to respect ‘art for art’s sake’, but when a Grup Yorum is singing the song and walking the walk, you have to stop and pay attention to the political motivation of this great music. 

 

Read 91 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 May 2024 13:11
Ben Lunn

Ben Lunn is a composer, music critic, trade union activist, and helped found the Disabled Artist Network, an organisation which is bridging the gap between the professional world and disabled artists. He also has a monthly column in The Morning Star.