El Michels Affair Share a Playlist Primer on Turkish Funk

Leon Michels’ new LP Yeti Season drops this Friday via his label Big Crown Records.

If it seems like hip-hop has been pulling samples from a much wider—and less familiar—net of influences in recent years, and you may have artists like Leon Michels and his ensemble El Michels Affair to thank. Introducing audiences for some of the genre’s biggest names—including Beyoncé, JAY-Z, and A$AP Rocky—to the sounds of funk, soul, and jazz heard around the world, the group has also been seen playing alongside Freddie Gibbs and Madlib for the pair’s Tiny Desk performance, and opening for members of Wu-Tang Clan before recording their own take on 36 Chambers a decade ago.

Most recently, though, EMA have fallen into the specific wormhole of Turkish funk and psychedelia, which seems to have powered their latest release together, Yeti Season. Seemingly born out of some fateful record store purchases—as well as the guidance of music gurus like Madlib who pointed them in the right direction—their latest record incorporates these elements from a specific place and time (mostly the 1970s, it seems). With the record dropping this Friday, we asked Leon Michels to share a playlist of several of these influences to give us a better understanding of where the record’s roots lie. Stream the playlist below, and read on for Michels’ commentary.

Baris Manco, “Lambaya Puf De”

This song was my gateway drug into Turkish funk/psychedelia. Found this in a record shop in Istanbul while on vacation with my wife and got hooked.

Shahdom Shabpareh, “Prison Song”

Discovered this song from the Nas record that Kanye sampled. I consider this one a perfect piece of music. The rapid-fire trumpets, the warble in the recording, the vocals…love everything about it. 

RD Burman, “Title Music (Shalimar)”

I bought this record when I was twenty. It was the first Indian record I bought and the most money I’d ever spent on record at the time. RD Burman was like the Morricone of India: prolific soundtrack composer that made incredible record after incredible record.

Erkin Koray, “Estarabim”

The first guy to combine American rock ’n’ roll and Turkish folk. This one is my favorite of his.

Kouroush Yaghmaei, “Gole Yakh” 

Yakh Eothen from Now Again Records first turned me on to Kouroush. Beautiful music from Iran. 

Ozedemir Erdogan, “Gurbet”

Ozedemir Erdogan was the “jazzer” of the Turkish music scene. One of my favorite songs to come out of Turkey during the ’70s 

Esmerey, “Ayilik Olsa Bile”

This was also a record I discovered while record shopping in Istanbul. 

Selda Bagcan, “Ince Ince”

Prolific singer/songwriter/producer Selda Bagcan has made a lot of killer records. All her music is a treasure trove for producers looking for samples.  

Thepporn Petchubon, “Fang Jai Viangjan”

There are so many good comps of Thai soul music out right now. I love the horn melodies and use of echo/delay in this one.

Madlib, “Dancing Girls Theme”

The way Madlib flips Indian records on Beat Konducta Vol. 3 &4: In India was a big inspiration for Yeti Season.


We won’t spam you. Promise.