Grup Yorum is a music band from Turkey known for their political songwriting. Grup Yorum (Yorum means interpretation or comment in Turkish) has released twenty three albums since 1987. Some of the group’s concerts and albums were banned over the years, and some of the group members were arrested and also tortured. Yorum remains popular and their albums continue to sell well in Turkey and internationally. Yorum has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece and Syria.
The group publishes an art, culture, literature, and music magazine entitled Tavir, sample issues of which are available on the group’s official website, and several group members manage a cultural center in the Okmeydanı neighborhood of Istanbul called İdil Kültür Merkezi.
In 1985, 4 friends at Marmara University formed Grup Yorum. Influenced by the Latin American nueva cancion movement, they combined Turkish and Kurdish folk music and topical song with a left-wing perspective.
They have sung about capitalism, imperialism, and the Turkish government’s policies. One track is about the clearing of poor neighbourhoods to make way for expensive skyscrapers. Another track is about the Soma mining massacre, where 301 miners were killed due to the health and safety issues. They also sing in Kurdish, and were the first band in Turkey to sing in Kurdish when the language was banned many years ago. As a result of this, their albums were shot at with live ammunition by police during a raid.
The group composition has been in a constant state of change since the group’s inception, and its members have continuously experienced political oppression including over 400 arrests and trials (approximately 400). Their albums have been seized by police and their concerts banned, but despite this Grup Yorum has been one of the top selling groups in the history of Turkey. The band gave their 25th anniversary concert on 12 June 2010 in İnönü Stadium, home to sports club Beşiktaş J.K.. The concert was attended by 55,000 fans. Starting in 2011, Grup Yorum began an annual series of free concerts entitled Tam Bağımsız Türkiye, the first two of which attracted 150,000 and 250,000 fans respectively.
Whilst the group is mostly known for the songs it creates, they have also produced a film in 2012 named “F-Tipi” (F-Type). F Type is a film about the experiences of political prisoners in F-Type prisons following the simultaneous “Return to Life Operation” in 19 prisons on 19 December 2000. The film was developed by Grup Yorum and made up of 9 short films made by 10 directors (Hüseyin Karabey, Ezel Akay, Reis Çelik, Aydın Bulut, Barış Pirhasan, Mehmet İlker Altınay, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Vedat Özdemir). The film premiered on Wednesday 19 December 2012 at Atlas Cinema, and on December 21, 2012 it entered cinemas in Turkey with 69 copies.
The film, which was released for 14 weeks, was viewed by 75,643 people. One of the film’s directors, Ezel Akay, said that the film had been subjected to censorship by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality even before the film was released. Despite payment being made, film posters were not hung in the subway, wall posters were removed one by one, and people who were hanging the posters were detained. The film screening in Samsun was cancelled following the threatening of the cinema owners by police and supporters of MHP (The Nationalist Movement Party). The film was shown in many countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France.
In 2017, all the Grup Yorum members in Turkey were arrested and jailed. Towards the end of the year, they released their latest album “İlle Kavga” (meaning “struggle no matter what”), and their album cover shows instruments that were smashed up by police during a raid in 2016 on the cultural centre where the members were once again arrested and jailed.
In 2018, 6 Grup Yorum members were placed on the wanted list of the Turkish government. These 6 members are currently on the grey list, meaning that they have a 300,000 Turkish Lira bounty on their heads.