Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Heroes of Eurovision 2010: maNga

Turkey have got a funny old track record in Eurovision. For years it seemed like they never quite got it - that their traditional rhythms sat poorly when pressed up against the pop of Western Europe. Of course at first it was mainly because our ears weren't yet accustomed to such exotic sounds. But in time they tried and failed with a brutal amalgam of the most obvious chunks of each continent's pop traditions without ever really getting a proper feel for what the contest was about.

But one day they stopped bothering what everyone else thought and just sent stuff that they liked - and that was when they started doing rather well. At first it was with the kind of Eastern turbo pop that peppered their home chart. But then after Sertab Erener's Everyway That I Can finally won the contest in 2003, they really started showing the rest of Europe what they were capable of.

No longer burdened with the perceived shame of being one of the oldest Eurovision stagers to never to win the thing, for their home contest they sent along a bunch of Rancid inspired ska punkers called Athena to grace the Istanbul stage. Despite being far from a traditional Eurovision song, they managed to come fourth.

Five contests later, after a fistful of moderately successful Turkish dance tunes, they sent along a band called Mor ve Ötesi, a cool power pop outfit whose song Deli rolled in at a very respectable seventh spot.

Someone obviously figured that the pop rock schtick was a good plan, as this year Turkish telly invited the recent winners of the Best European Act from the 2009 MTV Europe Music Awards, maNga.

Despite being cursed by a name whose lettering format probably seemed like a good idea when they started out, their powerful blend of Linkin Park style nu metal and more traditional Anatolian melodies seemed likie an odd choice for Eurovision. However, as experienced and consumate stadium performers they would surely be no strangers to performing on massive stage, so surely should be worth keeping an eye on.

As it turned out their tune, We Could Be The Same, turned out to be a belter - an easily singalongable chunk of a tune, with enough power to lure in the cool mums of Europe to the voting phone, but enough melody and easy pomp to win over the less rockist viewers. The boys clearly hit a nerve, and the song stormed its way into an unlikely, but highly welcome second place.

But they are no flash in the pan sensation - they've got a legacy of three cracking albums behind them as their nation's musical standard bearers.

Starting out playing covers of popular metal tunes in 2001, they first gained major public attention when they won a musical talent contest. This success attracted the attention of Sony Records who promptly signed them up and released their debut and self-titled album in 2004. Its raw, edgy fusion of rap rock and the earliest nu metal sounds proved an instant hit, and almost immediately went gold, selling upwards of 100,000 copies. The follow-up, maNga+, while not being as commercially successful, helped forge a more mature sound that paved the way for their third and most recent album, Şehr-i Hüzün.

Despite at first sounding like a regulation pop metal third-album workout, you'll soon get lost in its underlaying Eastern beats and underlying exoticism. What they lose in the raw snotty snarl of their debut, they more than make up for with a controlled power in this entirely Turkish-language collection.

If you liked their Eurovision tune, give some of their other stuff a go, as it's a pretty unusual slant on what can often be a very conservative musical genre. All three discs are crackers for sure!

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