Meet Aqua Talk: Turkey's answer to underground prog

A press shot of Aqua Talk

“There are a lot of underground bands here in Istanbul,” says Aqua Talk’s main man Sarp Ogun, “but there aren’t that many prog rock bands, and hardly any keyboardists.” As a result, the guitarist has resorted to playing the band’s Hammond and mellotron parts himself via MIDI-triggering foot pedals, in true Rush style. “It’s tricky and I don’t really like doing it,” he says with a laugh, “but until we find a good enough keyboardist I’ll keep doing my strange little choreography!”

He’s only 21, but already there’s a restlessness to Ogun’s musical quest. A few years ago he left Turkey for the UK to study Advertising and Marketing, in Oxford and then Greenwich. His primary goal was always to form a band, and he assumed it’d be easy in prog’s homeland, but he struggled to find fellow musicians, let alone those into his favourite artists – Pink Floyd, Camel, Genesis and ELP.

He ended up returning to Istanbul last year and hooking up with old friend, bassist/vocalist Bugay Akyuz and Akyuz’s schoolmate, drummer Berkay Koksal. They’d all previously played in cover bands, but Aqua Talk is the serious project they’d been craving. Their first album Whatever Tickles Your Mind was recorded live in their home studio in just one day, with a few overdubs done later. It’s formative, but promising: the trio channel Meddle- and Animals-era Floyd, and even Tarkus-time ELP with their engaging instrumentals and moody, often funky songs, which deal with, Ogun says, “oppression and everyday problems people may encounter. We’re a prog rock band but we don’t want to limit ourselves to one genre. We want a modern, diverse sound that people can enjoy”.

And people seem to be into it, picking up on the band via their Facebook page and also through their burgeoning local reputation. Despite all three being busy with more studying (Graphic Design, German Literature and Sociology respectively), they’re already working on album two, and have started playing their first live gigs in clubs around Istanbul. “The aim is to play many more shows,” Ogun says, “including university festivals here, and hopefully in Europe and the UK one day.”

That elusive keyboardist must be only just around the corner.

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Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.