Who is Cem Karaca?

📩 04/01/2023 09:06

Muhtar Cem Karaca (b. 5 April 1945; Istanbul - d. 8 February 2004; Istanbul), Turkish rock music artist, composer, theater actor. He is one of the founders of the Anatolian rock genre. He worked with many bands (Apaşlar, Kardaşlar, Moğollar and Dervişan), became the founder and manager of groups, and was a pioneer in the creation of a strong rock cult.


Cem Karaca, whose father was Mehmet Karaca of Azerbaijani origin, and his mother Toto Karaca (İrma Felegyan), of Armenian origin, grew up with art. Cem Karaca, who completed his secondary education at Robert High School, was the child of an artist couple. His first encounter with music was when his mother's aunt, Rosa Felegyan, taught Cem Karaca piano notes and piano tunes. During his college years he took an interest in rock music, which increased its popularity around the world. He sang the songs of the rock stars of the period to impress his girlfriends and according to the wishes of his friends. Toto Karaca discovered Karaca's vocal talent.

Music career

First years
As he entered 1962, he sang at Beyoğlu Sports Club at the request of his friends. Karaca, who takes the stage with her friends, then decides to form a group. İlham Gencer, one of the famous artists of that period, supported the group. Cem Karaca's first band was Dinamikler in 1963. They performed at the jubilee concert of the voice actor Fikri Çözüme. His father was still against Karaca's making music. The man even grabbed him and swallowed him at the concerts, but despite these, Karaca did not leave the music. As a group, they interpreted the classics of famous rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley. The group disbanded at the end of 1963. He played for a short time in a band called "Cem Karaca and You're Expecting". Shortly after this group, Gökçen played in Kaynatan's orchestra, but this union did not last long. In the same year, "Cem Karaca and Jaguarlar" was founded. In 1965, they applied for the Golden Microphone competition but did not pass the pre-selection. Karaca made his first marriage to the theater artist Semra Özgür in 1965. Three days after her marriage, Karaca went to the army. He started his military service in Antakya 3st Gendarmerie Private Training Regiment in November 1965. During this period, Karaca started to get to know Anatolian culture. He met Aşık Mahzuni Şerif, a Turkish minstrel.

Appash period
Cem Karaca met with the band Apaşlar, founded by guitarist Mehmet Soyarslan, in February 1967 after his military service. The Apaşs used to make western-style music, but after meeting Karaca, the music turned further east. Karaca joined the Golden Microphone 1967 with the group. The song Emrah, which they participated in the competition, was a Karaca composition made for the poetry of Emrah from Erzurum. In the competition, Karaca's group came in second, but they attracted more attention from the winner. Cem Karaca and Apaşlar went to Germany in 1968 and recorded 45's with the Ferdy Klein Orchestra. During this period, Soyarslan's song "Tears in the Picture" became the second hit song of Karaca after Emrah. After the plaque was a great tour of Turkey. In addition, concerts continued in Germany. In addition, an English 45 was recorded to open up abroad. These were the English versions of Tears in the Picture and Emrah. During this period, Cem Karaca married theater actress Meriç Başaran. At the end of the year, he ranked 1968th in Milliyet's “Most Popular Male Singers” survey of 4. In the “Melodies of the Year” survey, Tears in the Picture came 3rd among Turkish songs. In the mixed list for Turkish and foreigners, Tears in the Picture came ninth, and Cem Karaca's composition “Ümit Tarlaları” was 24th.

In 1969, differences of opinion began within the group. While Cem Karaca wanted to move towards more political music, Soyarslan was against this change. The band disbanded after the record of "Let This be the End / Felek Beni". In the same year, Cem Karaca started producing and managing the Bunalım group. Cem Karaca's name is also mentioned in both the lyrics and composition of the first 45 songs of "There is no Stone, No Dog / Enough is Women". Karaca, who quit this job after this 45, took the drummer of the group Hüseyin Sultanoğlu to his band Kardaş.

Brothers period
Karaca, who wanted to continue band music after the Apaşlar period, formed the band Kardaş with the bass guitarist Seyhan Karabay of Apaşlar. At the beginning of 1970 there were many changes in the group members. After the group members were fixed, they decided to record in Germany, but due to an epidemic, Karaca and Kardaş could not go to Germany together. That's why Cem Karaca went to Cologne alone. After a musical break after the Apaşlar, he recorded his own compositions and Anatolian folk songs with the Ferdy Klein orchestra. 4 45's were published. His aim was to work without financial difficulties.

In November 1970, Karaca and Kardaş published the 45th "Dadaloğlu / Kalender". “Dadaloğlu” was another hit song of Karaca. This song was also a demonstration of Karaca's sliding to the left. In March 1971, 3 people were injured by 30 bombs at a concert given by Karaca in Trabzon. In the same year, the Greek bishop III. While Makarios was visiting the Turkish pavilion at the Cyprus Fair, the song Dadaloğlu was played. In 1971, Cem Karaca and Kardaş produced 4 45s.

Cem Karaca also worked on theater music the same year. Cem Karaca composed the music of the play Püsküllü Moruk, written by Ben Jonson and translated into Turkish by Ülkü Tamer and recorded it with Kardaş. The group recorded the songs and their songs were sung by Cem Karaca and his mother Toto Karaca to set an example for theater actors. This theater play did not hit a lot, and it disappeared after a short while. The songs recorded by Cem Karaca and Kardaş were released in 2007.

He started 1972 with Cem Karaca award. He was named "the best male singer of 1971" by Hey Magazine and participated in Hey's tour. However, disagreements arose with Kardaş guitarist Seyhan Karabay and Karaca parted ways with Kardaş. Meanwhile, an unprecedented exchange occurred. Cem Karaca left Kardaş and joined Anadolu Rock's powerful voice with the Mongols, while Kardaş added Ersen Dinleten, who could not agree with the Mongols, into his bands.

Mongolian period
Cem Karaca and Moğollar took the stage for the first time in a concert they gave for Hey magazine in November 1972, one month after they united. At the end of the year, Cem Karaca ranked 2nd in the list of best male singers in Milliyet's survey, while the Mongols were chosen the best indigenous community. In Hey Magazine, they were both ranked 1st in their respective categories.

In 1973, the "Glutton World / Take Care of Physician" 45 was published. However, the real success of the group was achieved with the song "Honor Trouble" recorded at the beginning of 1974. The song became very popular, its story was published as a comic book in Hey magazine. However, after this record, when Cahit Berkay decided to continue his studies in France, Cem Karaca and Mongolians parted their ways.

Dervish period
Cem Karaca, who left the Mongols, formed the "Karasaban" group with the Mongolian members Mithat Danışan and Turhan Yukseler who did not go to France first, but did not last long. He founded the Dervişan group in March 1974. The group gave one of their first concerts in the Air Force aid concert after the Cyprus operation.

In February 1975, one of Cem Karaca's most important works, "Repairman Apprentice" was published. This was the first time that Cem Karaca's political stance was clearly shown by the discourse of "You are a worker, stay a worker" in this song. At the end of 1975, "Surely Yavrum / Fight" 45 was published. The first song of the 45's, Absolutely Yavrum, was prepared for the Palestine Liberation Organization, and apart from 2 different Turkish versions, there were also unpublished English and Arabic versions. The song "Kavga", which was to be broadcast on TRT at the beginning of 1976, was removed from the program for an unknown reason at the last minute. In the same year, Cem Karaca was once again selected as the best male singer by Hey magazine.

In 1977, Cem Karaca was becoming an increasingly important figure with the increasing political tension. In a concert they gave in Aydın, the CHP Provincial Chair was beaten by extreme leftists. After a concert in Urfa, Dervişan guitarist Taner Öngür and his drummer Sefa Ulaş were attacked. Öngür later left the group for these reasons. This year, Cem Karaca published his first episode, Poverty, Kader Olamaz, consisting entirely of new songs. In this album, besides Karaca compositions, there were also poems of famous poets. Cem Karaca and Dervişan parted ways in early 1978 after the 1 May record.

Edirdahan period and the September 12 coup
After Dervişan, Cem Karaca founded a music group, mostly from Kurtalan Ekspres. the name of Turkey's Edirne and put the two ends of the Edirdah inspired from Ardahan. However, the group changed its members after 20 days, when Kurtalan Ekspres members returned to their former group. In 1978, Cem Karaca released Safinaz, his first and last single recorded with Edirdahan. This record was a 18-minute rock never before operated in Turkey. It was about a girl named Safinaz falling into a bad way. The other songs of the single were the compositions of Ahmed Arif and Nazım Hikmet poems. Cem Karaca performed in 1979 at the world famous Rainbow Arena in London.

The band disbanded in 1979, and Cem Karaca started working as a solo for the first time in many years without a group. During this period he also moved to Germany. He published the album Hasret, which is mostly composed of Nazım Hikmet's poems. In March 1980, at the Martial Law Court, Karaca's "1 May" record began to be tried for "communism propaganda". Singer Cem Karaca, song's composer Sarper Özsan, and record label owner Ali Avaz were also charged in this case. Cem Karaca started his European tour during this period. Shortly after the trial started, his father Mehmet Karaca lost. Cem Karaca could not attend his father's funeral.

Germany years
After the September 12 coup, Cem Karaca, along with Melike Demirağ, Selda Bağcan, Şanar Yurdatapan and Sema Poyraz, were invited to the country by the Martial Law Court. The deadline was given until March 13, 1981. Cem Karaca, who lives in Bonn, asked for additional time to return home. July 15 has been extended until 1982 but Karaca Cem Karaca's time, he will return to Turkey, he said, and after expired the same day, January 6, 1983, Yilmaz Guney was removed from Turkish citizenship.

Cem Karaca also continued his musical life. He released the album Wait Beni in 1982 with his musician friend Fehiman Uğurdemir in Germany. The songs such as "My Son", "Alamanya Berbadı" and "Wait Beni" in this album showed Karaca's longing for his country. This album was not well known since Karaca was expelled from citizenship and could not take place in the media. In 1984, he released the album Die Kanaken, all of which are in German except for one song. This album was about the difficulties of immigrant Turks in Germany by German playwrights Henry Böseke and Martin Burkert. In addition, the album was turned into a theater play. After the album was released, Karaca took the stage as Die Kanaken, the name of the album, on German televisions and introduced the album.

return to Turkey
In 1985, Karaca met with Prime Minister Turgut Özal through his friend Mehmet Barı, expressed his wish to return to the country and spoke with Özal, who came to Munich. With the positive response of Özal, legal proceedings were initiated. At the end of the year, he was acquitted of the case that led to his dismissal from citizenship. The arrest warrant in absentia, which was given to him in 1987, was revoked. Cem Karaca on June 29, 1987, he returned to Turkey. The same year, he released the album Hello Youth and Always Young Remains. This album became one of the best selling albums of that year. Töre followed this album in 1988. After this album, Cem Karaca started to appear on TRT screens where he was banned.

Cem Karaca established a musical partnership with his friends Uğur Dikmen and Cahit Berkay and released the album Yiyin Efendiler. In the song "Oh be" in this album, in response to those who call him "renegade", he replied, "I came back to my hometown because I came back. On July 21, 1990, he won the Golden Pigeon best song award with his song Kahya Yahya, written by himself and composed by Cahit Berkay. During this period, she performed for the Social Democrat People's Party.

Karaca wrote the lyrics of the song “Sev Dünyaayı”, which was prepared for UNICEF in 1992 and performed by the choir of famous names such as İbrahim Tatlıses, Ajda Pekkan, Muazzez Abacı, Leman Sam, Fatih Erkoç, and took part in the choir. On July 22, 1992, his mother Toto Karaca died. Towards the end of the year, where were we in his second work with Dikmen and Berkay? released his album. He achieved great success with his compositions "Raptiye Rap Rap" and "Wet Wet".

After this album, Cem Karaca was not actively interested in music for a while. In 1994, he presented the program called Raptiye in TRT. In 1995, he made the Cem Karaca Show on Flash TV, and in 1996, on the same channel, "I Tell My Master". In 95, he went to Bosnia-Herzegovina with an artist group and supported the Bosnians who were in a difficult situation after the war.

The artist's return to music was with Ağır Roman, which was released at the end of 1997. The producer of the film, the former Apaşlar guitarist and Karaca's friend Mehmet Soyarslan, re-recorded “Resimdeki Gözyaşları”, which brought Cem Karaca fame in 1968, for the film. The track, which is the main soundtrack of the movie, brought Karaca back to the music market. The old record company released the series "The Best of Cem Karaca" without permission.

In 1999, Cahit Berkay, who are the veterans of Turkish rock music, released his album “Bindik Bir Alamete…” with the support of Engin Yörükoğlu, Ahmet Güvenç and Uğur Dikmen. In 2000, Kahpe, in which Cem Karaca also starred, sang some of Byzant's music. Soyarslan, who is also the producer of this film, wrote songs inspired by Dede Korkut in Apaşlar's time and recorded with Sadık Bütünay but did not release them. After these works, he became a guest artist in several poetry albums until his death.

Recent works
In February 2001, he started performing as Cem Karaca Trio with Murat Töz, Barış Göker and Cengiz Tuncer. In May 2001, with the death of Barış Manço, he started playing with Kurtalan Ekspres, who was left without a vocalist. They took the stage at the Harbiye Open Air Theater Concerts. In 2002, he formed the band called Yoldaş and took the stage with them again. The last songs recorded before his death were only released shortly after his death. The first single "Animal Sweaty" was released. A clip of Mehmet Eryılmaz's song was shot with images of Karaca singing this song in a bar program. In May 2005, 10 days before his death (2004), "Hayat Ne Garip?", Which he recorded with Mahsun Kırmızıgül, was published in Kırmızıgül's album Sarı Sarı. A clip consisting of images of Karaca and Kırmızıgül in the studio was released. In June 2005, he interpreted Yeni Türkü's “Migration Ways” in the album “Söz Vermiş Şarkılar” consisting of the new interpretations of the songs written by Murathan Mungan.

In 2005, the album Absolutely Yavrum, consisting of Cem Karaca songs performed by Yavuz Bingöl, Edip Akbayram, Manga, Teoman, Deniz Seki, Volkan Konak, Haluk Levent, Suavi, Ayhan Yener, Tuğrul Arseven, was released. This album also included an unpublished English song Cem Karaca. On the 6th anniversary of his death, the song "Karagözlüm", which he had not recorded and published before, came to light for the first time in the Beyaz Show.

Theater and cinema career
In 1961, he took his first step into the theater by playing in Hamlet. In 1964, the play General Matchmaker, played by Münir Özkul, was the first major theater work. During his military service in 1965, he directed and played Cahit Atay's Pusuda and Aziz Nesin's Tauruslar Monster. In the same period, he translated and played the play named “Anahtar Bendedir” in Istanbul Theater into Turkish. Karaca, who took a break from the theater for a long time and was not interested in theater other than making the music of the play Püsküllü Moruk, was in the version of "Die Kanaken", played at the North Rhine-Westphalia State Theater, of the play Ab in den Orient-Express, which was composed of songs from the album Die Kanaken, released in Germany in 1987. He played with his mother Toto Karaca. During the German period, he directed the play Seyh Bedrettin Epic by Nâzım Hikmet at the Munich Public Theater. Cem Karaca played in 1970, his first and only leading film, The Anger of the Kings. Cem Karaca, who played the leading role with Murat Soydan in this domestic western style film written and directed by Yücel Uçanoğlu, played a cowboy named Camgöz. However, this movie was not very successful. Karaca, who stayed away from the big screen for a long time, took a role in the role of a bard named Kahpe Byzantium Karaca Abdal in 1999 and sang some of the soundtracks of the film. Karaca took part in the series Müjdat Gezen, named One Billionaire One Child in 1990. Apart from that, he took place as a guest of honor in the TV series Yeni Hayat in 2001. In the same year, he played the role of Dem Baba in the TV series Avcı.

On the morning of February 8, 2004, he suffered a severe heart attack due to respiratory and heart failure. He passed away at the age of 58 in Bakırköy Acıbadem Hospital, where he was removed despite all the interventions applied. In the statement made by the hospital, the cause of death of Karaca was stated as cardiac and respiratory arrest. He was buried in the same grave with his father in the Karacaahmet Cemetery after the funeral prayer performed in Üsküdar Seyyit Ahmet Deresi Mosque (Iranians Cemetery) in the afternoon on February 9, 2004. Names such as Erol Büyükburç, Erkin Koray, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, Kayahan, Mustafa Sarıgül, Haluk Levent, Kenan Işık, Edip Akbayram, Ahmet Güvenç, Berkant, Sezen Cumhur Önal, Nejat Yavaşoğulları and Necdet Mahfi Ayral attended the funeral.

Private life
Cem Karaca made his first marriage to Semra Özgür on 22 December 1965. Özgür was a theater artist like Karaca's mother. This marriage did not last long. At the end of 1968, Karaca started to have a relationship with Meriç Başaran, who was also a theater artist. In October 1968, Karaca made his second marriage to Başaran. This marriage also lasted for 2 years. He made his third marriage to Feride Balkan on 21 August 1972. Emrah Karaca, the couple's son, was born in 1976. The couple broke up during Cem Karaca's compulsory life in Germany. On 5 July 1993, Cem Karaca made his fourth marriage to his first wife Semra Özgür. Cem Karaca's last marriage was with İlkim Erkan.

After the death of Karaca, problems occurred between Feride Balkan, the mother of Karaca's child, and her last husband, İlkim Erkan Karaca. İlkim Karaca claimed that Karaca was infertile due to an accident he had in his childhood, so Emrah Karaca was not his son. With the court decision, Cem Karaca's grave was opened and DNA samples were taken. As a result of the DNA test, it was determined that Emrah is the son of Cem Karaca. After this incident, Balkan and Emrah Karaca won the insult case they filed against İlkim Karaca. İlkim Karaca later found a place in the media with the claim that “Cem Karaca and Barış Manço were brothers”.

Movies and TV series

  • The Anger of Kings (1970)
  • Byzantine Whore (1999)
  • Hunter (2001) TV series
  • New Life (2001)


Some of over 100 plaques and awards;

  • 1967: Golden Microphone contest: First prize for the composition of the work Emrah. (Cem Karaca and Apaşlar)
  • 1971: Hey magazine: First prize with Dadaloğlu. (Cem Karaca and Kardaş)
  • 1972: Hey Music Oscars of the Year: "Male Artist of the Year"
  • 1974: Hey magazine: "Composition of the Year" - Namus Trouble
  • 1974: Democrat Izmir: "Plaque of the Year" - Honor Trouble (Cem Karaca and Mongolians)
  • 1975: Hey Music Oscars of the Year: "Male Artist of the Year"
  • 1975: Golden Butterfly: "Male Singer of the Year" award in Turkish Western Music
  • 1975: Sound magazine: "Western Music Artist of the Year"
  • 1976: TGS İzmir Press: "Male Artist of the Year"
  • 1976: TGS İzmir Press: "Successful Record" - Fight (Cem Karaca and Dervişan)
  • 1977: TGS İzmir Press: "Society of the Year" - Dervişan
  • 1977: TGS İzmir Press: "Male Artist of the Year"
  • 1990: 4th Golden Pigeon song contest: "Commentator award" - Kahya Yahya
  • 1990: 4th Golden Pigeon song contest: "Songwriter Award" - Kahya Yahya
  • 1993: "35 Years in Turkish Pop Music", organized by Raks, Popsav and the Ministry of Culture: "Compose of the Year award" - Honor Trouble
  • 1995: Bahçelievler Municipality: Press award
  • 1999: European Youth Festival "North Star"
  • 2000: Journalists and Writers Foundation: Over a quarter-century pride table
  • 2001: Burç FM: Honor Award

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