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Internationally acclaimed Turkish ska/punk rock band Athena -- also benefiting from the lack of similar album-recording local bands -- quickly became one of the best-selling rock bands in the country. Their success story, however, doesn't depend solely on their singularity in the industry. Strong adaptations of Turkish folk songs, good working knowledge of their instruments, the charismatic relaxed frontman, and their strong bond with sports games added up to a couple of great songs and their quick rise was inevitable.
Athena's origins date back to the end of the '80s. Founding brothers Gokhan and Hakan Ozoguz were already blown away by the likes of Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth. Recording demos and playing small local venues, they ended up releasing a thrash album in 1993. However, nobody including the band, consider One Last Breath Athena's debut album. Starting in 1994, the group played weekly club performances which in turn led them to tailor their musical style and make it more suitable for entertaining a crowd. The change in their music was drastic. As their debut ska album was very new for the Turkish audience, they had difficulty finding a label to release it. However, when Holigan hit the streets in 1998, the album was hot and the single of the same name was an instant hit. Reaching the football stadiums, "Holigan" was sung by hundreds of thousands of people. The rest of the album included covers with original lyrics, rearrangements of some Turkish folk tunes, and a few original songs. Athena hit the road after the release of Holigan, playing various cities in Turkey, and they even opened for the Rolling Stones in Istanbul.
The next album, Tam Zamani Simdi, came in 2000. Following in the footsteps of their debut, the album contained a number of crowd-pleasers, but on the other hand, there were also some dark moments (which would increase in the following years). "Her Sey Guzel Olacak," "Yasamak Var Ya," and "Ask Mesk Yok" were some of the high points of the album. With Tam Zamani Simdi, Athena were also brought to the attention of the infamous German festival Popkomm. After playing the festival alongside the Beastie Boys, they were called to Germany for a three-gig mini-tour, during which famous German ska band the Fritz opened for them. Also in 2001, Pork Pie Records included Athena on their World of Ska compilation album with "Devam...Bosver," from their debut. Things were happening quite fast for Athena, and the Turkish National Basketball Team requested the group write a song for them. The song, "12 Dev Adam" (meaning "12 Giant Men"), was played a couple of times during every group game and also in the play-offs, and the Turkish team came in second that year; the European press mentioned the song quite a bit, praising it in helping to fire up the team and encourage them to play better. The song was included in a later release of Tam Zamani Simdi.
Athena's released their third album, Her Sey Yolunda, in 2002. Although the band confessed that it was their most difficult album to write, the reviews were great. Lead single "Opucuk" was another hit for the band, and along with "Beyoglu," it found a place in the Asian Ska Compilation. They also took part in the 2003 artists' movement against the American war in Iraq, and continued to play local gigs and festivals like H2000 and Rock'n Coke. In 2004, they were asked to represent Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest. Accepting the offer, they wrote three songs which were then televoted by people: "For Real" was chosen to enter the contest. Athena came in fourth at Eurovision 2004. The maxi-single For Real was released in Turkey, Greece, and Germany.
The fourth effort from Athena, Us, was released in Turkey and Germany in 2004. Even the lead single, "Durmaz Insan Hayvan Olunca," had critical lyrics in which the band strayed away from their happy sound with a couple of almost Duman-like moments. The album also contained the three songs written for the Eurovision Song Contest. Athena toured Turkey and Germany that year. They also visited Holland and Russia for summer festivals. Even though the band was busy playing around the world, they recorded a new album. The self-titled Athena was released in 2005. As Turkish rock was becoming a bigger and bigger part of the mainstream media, and a lot of talented bands were emerging, Athena found a way to update their sound. Harder and faster, their self-titled album pleased die-hard fans and also attracted a new generation of young followers. A tour of Turkey followed the release of the album, and a single, "Her Sey Yolunda," was included in Electronic Arts' Fifa 2006 video game.
In 2006, Athena released the EP It featuring the cover of Nirvana's "Breed" retitled "Kopek." The band released an album for football team Fenerbahce's Anniversary celebration in 2007. Also that same year, Pork Pie released a new three-CD ska compilation named United Colors of Ska and Athena were again included. After a gig with Exploited in Istanbul, the Ozoguz brothers decided to take a break and move to London. Athena played the Popkomm Festival (that year in Berlin rather than Cologne) once more in 2008 together with Mogollar and MFÖ. ~ Vefik Karaege
- Istanbul, Turkey