Muhtar Cem Karaca (5 April 1945 - 8 February 2004) was a prominent Turkish rock musician and one of the most important figures in the Anatolian rock movement. He is a graduate of Robert College. He worked with various Turkish rock bands such as Apa?lar, Karda?lar, Mo?ollar and Dervi?an. With these bands, he brought a new understanding and interpretation to Turkish Rock.
He was the only child of Mehmet ?brahim Karaca, a theatre actor of Azerbaijani origin, and ?rma Felekyan (Toto Karaca), a popular opera, theatre and movie actress of Armenian origin. His first group was called Dynamites and was a classic rock cover band. Later he joined Jaguars, an Elvis Presley cover band. In 1967, he started to write his own music, joining the band Apa?lar (The Rowdies), his first Turkish-language group. The same year, he participated in the Golden Microphone (Turkish: Alt?n Mikrofon) contest, a popular music contest in which he won second place with his song Emrah. In 1969, Karaca and bass-player Serhan Karabay left Apa?lar and started an original Anatolian group called Karda?lar (The Brothers).
In 1972, Karaca joined the group Mo?ollar (The Mongols) and wrote one of his best-known songs, "Namus Belas?". However, Cahit Berkay, the leader of Mo?ollar, wanted an international reputation for his band, and he left for France to take the group to the next level. Karaca, who wanted to continue his Anatolian beat sound, left Mo?ollar and started his own band Dervi?an (Dervishes) in 1974. Karaca and Dervi?an sang poetic and progressive songs.
In the 1970s, Turkey was dealing with political violence between supporters of the left and the right, separatist movements and the rise of Islamism. As the country fell into chaos, the government suspected Cem Karaca of involvement in rebel organisations. He was accused of treason for being a separatist thinker and a Marxist-Leninist. The Turkish government tried to portray Karaca as a man who was unknowingly writing songs to start a revolution. One politician was quoted as saying, "Karaca is simply calling citizens to a bloody war against the state." Dervi?an was ultimately dissolved at the end of 1977. In 1978, he founded Edirdahan, an acronym for "from Edirne to Ardahan"; the westernmost and the easternmost provinces of Turkey. He recorded one LP with Edirdahan.
In early 1979, he left for West Germany for business reasons, where he started singing in German language, too, namely since autumn 1980 first a lyric of Nazim Hikmet - K?z ocu?u (in English: Little girl): Cem performed the German verses alternating with his friend, manager, arranger and bandleader/musician Ralf Mhnhfer attending Cem on grand piano solo or by the band Anatology singing the song in Turkish-language.
Turkey continued to spin out of control with military curfews and the 1980 Turkish coup d'e;tat on September 12, 1980. General Kenan Evren took over the government and temporarily banned all the nation's political parties. After the coup, many intellectuals, including writers, artists and journalists, were arrested. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Karaca by the government of Turkey.
The state invited Karaca back several times, but Karaca, not knowing what would happen upon his return, decided not to come back.
While Karaca was in Germany his father died, but he could not return to attend the funeral. After some time, the Turkish government decided to strip Cem Karaca of his Turkish citizenship, keeping the arrest warrant active.
Several years later, in 1987, the prime minister and leader of the Turkish Motherland Party, Turgut zal, issued an amnesty for Karaca. Shortly afterwards, he returned to Turkey. His return also brought a new album with it, Merhaba Genler ve Her zaman Gen Kalanlar ("Hello, The Young and The Young at Heart"), one of his most influential works. His return home was received cheerfully by his fans, but during his absence Karaca had lost the young audience and acquired only few new listeners. He died on February 8, 2004 and was interred at Karacaahmet Cemetery in the skdar district of Istanbul.
(1) It was released again with different cover, sort of songs and songs in 2003. (2) It was released again as compact cassette and CD in 1994 and with different cover after Cem Karaca's death)
He has also appeared as a guest artist on several recordings.