Guide to SKOPJE

“Turks and Greeks, as well as other neighbors are – indeed also literally – brothers”


Periklis Tsoukalas from BaBa ZuLa on interview for Balkon3

BaBa ZuLa 2012: Periklis Tsoukalas, Murat Ertel, Umi Deniz, Cosar Kamci, Levent Akman

The BaBa ZuLa concert! Not just an event, but every time an holistic artistic experience, a “audio-visual feast” as the band themselves say. BaBa ZuLa represent what is called “Istanbul Psychedelia”, a multi-faceted endeavour that expresses the richness, uniqueness and dynamism of this city. They use a multitude of electronic and acoustic instruments, costumes and forms of art such as poetry, belly dance, theatre. They became widely known in Greece via Fatih Akın’s musical documentary in Istanbul (Crossing the Bridge, 2005) – of course their collaborations are countless and concern many personalities of the Turkish and international artistic spectrum. Their passage from Greece this time concerned Thessaloniki and then Piraeus’ famed “Passport” club  – and that’s where we went…Arriving there the place was so packed that “you couldn’t drop a pin”, as Greeks say…

Not a surprise… Knowing this would be the case, I contacted Periklis Tsoukalas separately from the concert for a short interview which he kindly offered to Balkon3. Periklis is an accomplished musician in his own right, and his current collaboration with Baba Zula is a typical example that bridges of creativity (most famously so in music) never ceased to hold strong between Turkey and Greece.

Periklis Tsoukalas

What are the group’s beginnings…sources of inspiration, admiration and influences?

BaBa ZuLa were created by two members of group “Zen” that existed beforehand, namely Murat Ertel and Levent Akman. As BaBa ZuLa the band appeared in 1996. Inspiration comes from any topic, personality, political or religious situation, sentiment, social groups, way of life or anything that triggers our interest and we feel we have things to say about. We admire truth, the power of unity, resistance to anything rotten, realism that dreams, creation.

What is the new or special element that the group wishes to offer to music and sound?

The band does not see it as its purpose proper to offer something new or anything else other than its own sound and word. We have grown up with various musical and generally artistic currents from east and west, north and south, which have influenced us. Therefore, the result is a natural situation that sources from filtering all these elements through.

Is there any of your work you consider for some reason special?

I think all our work, other than its raison d’ ȇtre, delivers our opinion and deals with issues that interest us equally. We love what we create and are glad that it is being understood as well as the fact that it has supporters.

The audience was anxiously expecting for the belly-dance psychedelia…“Çöl aslanları” live in Piraeus

Which is your own story, as a musician from Greece, and how did your paths meet?

My story in music follows the one of my life because my contact with music started already when I was a baby in the touring van of my dad’s band. So everything came naturally and my dealing with instruments came early. Then followed journeys for music-learning, concerts, purchases etc, that will be continuing until I can’t tell when. Many years of my life, about fifteen, I spent in Saudi Arabia among Arabs, Indians and other Asian immigrants and musicians. I am still between various countries and collaborators from various musical and geographical coordinates. For example, after my collaboration with “Hainides” for many  years and then with Glykeria and now except my band BaBa ZuLa I work with Diamanda Galas and Voivod, but I am also a teacher of oud, classical Ottoman music and folklore tradition of the East Mediterranean, while I have studies ecclesiastical Byzantine music and I continue my study in the classical music of northern India (Hindustani). So, as you understand, every musician from the Eastern Mediterranean sees Istanbul as an epicenter or one of his fundamental destinations. It was a matter of time before I found myself with the rest of BaBa ZuLa and to find out that we match in many ways.

An ecstatic crowd for “Zaniye” (live in Piraeus)

Which is your present concert tour plan (where can we find you in our Balkan neighborhood)?

Our concerts are constant. After the world tour we did in 2012, our concerts never ceased and are keeping up around the world. After Greece follows India and so on…for more information you can follow updates on

Especially about Greece, is the country’s musical culture interesting to BaBa ZuLa?

Greece is particularly interesting for us for too many reasons, either artistically, or culturally, socially, traditionally, any way you look at it. We have the most common things in all sectors, not only regarding the country’s musical culture.

Tell us a few words about Istanbul, how are you connecting with the city – artistically and in your everyday life.

Istanbul is the metropolis of East Mediterranean and my place of origin. A few words would be too few;  you see they write entire studies, books, songs, people’s stories, what could I say…You’d be more interested in your own experience from the city, rather than mine. Istanbul has always been a multi-cultural mosaic of every sort of people, cultures, tension, life, arts, studies, a never-ending journey and, as my friend Levent says, every day that you leave your home you don’t know what will happen to you until and if you come back! All this, therefore, is a basic inspiration for us and for all artists in town.

If you don’t mind a cliché question (but one that interests our Balkon): What do you personally and BaBa ZuLa as a band believe about the relation of Turks and Greeks? Compatibility of cultures for example.

I think that the history of the two peoples, except from the fact that it is very important, it is also very interesting. We have more in common than what would divide us, because our histories once merged and followed a common path for centuries and generations. They changed and both peoples were enforced into new religions, either sooner or later. Turks once were not Islamists and Greeks were not Christians and many other elements of more important interest that are being meticulously hidden from the formal states to the benefit of none but the few, to control the masses in order to maintain an artificial hostility for allies and voters where the leftover crumbs are eaten by fascism and militarism. The mass, as they name it, is made up by brilliant, educated people, neighbors, relatives and friends, people with respect to diversity, creation and vision for the future and as I said, the truth is solid and does not get diluted by myths, fairy tales, semi-learning, hatred and the army.

„I Scream Ice Cream“ L.P.

Turks and Greeks, as well as other neighbors are –indeed also literally – brothers, their genealogical tree is such. But we are only encyclopedically interested in “blood’ and we are interested in what is being made, because it is made of love, and not spilled and wasted away, because it is spilled by hatred.

…As for the concert itself? I think I have the same difficulty with Pericles to describe a feeling or an experience. Music is ingenious and a fact that happens, yet music is also intangible. You just go with the flow and so did the ecstatic crowd. The connection with the band also followed a natural flow. It is something you have to live through.

Wishing them they soon pass from this neighborhood again….we thank them so very much!!!

BaBa Zula – Discography

  • 1996 – Tabutta Rövaşata – soundtrack for “Tabutta Rövaşata” (“Somersault in the Coffin”) by Derviş Zaim (Ada Music)
  • 1999 – Üç Oyundan Onyedi Müzik (“17 Pieces from 3 Plays”) (Doublemoon)
  • 2003 – Psychebelly Dance Music (Doublemoon, mixed by Mad Professor)
  • 2005 – Feat. in the movie “Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul” by Fatih Akın
  • 2005 – Duble Oryantal (Doublemoon, mixed by Mad Professor)
  • 2006 – Dondurmam Gaymak – soundtrack for Dondurmam Gaymak (“Ice Cream, I Scream”) by Yüksel Aksu (Rh Pozitif)
  • 2007 – Kökler (“Roots”) (Doublemoon)
  • 2010 – Gecekondu (Doublemoon)

Sophia Nicolaou