Turkish pop music
Sorry for the delay this week. I’ve been looking for a Turkish friend with a middle school sibling I can interview and write about on this blog. My original plans fell through, and I had a bunch of tests this week, so it’s taken me a little while. Today is Thanksgiving. I was surprised as anyone to find out that Turks do not, in fact, celebrate the Mayflower’s arrival at the shores of Massachusetts, but in an act of solidarity with my family and friends in America, I’m playing hookey today.
The weather got bitter cold today and the forecast is predicting snow. I’m looking forward to being in a snow-covered Istanbul. I feel like Topkapı Palace will look especially grand in the winter. If it does snow, I’ll make sure to get some pictures for you.
This is nearly my last post! After this one, I’ll be posting about my interview with a middle schooler, and then the next one won’t happen until after we’ve met in person (probably in February). I’ll be sad to not be in regular contact with all of you, but I’m thrilled for the opportunity to see you all when I return.
On last week’s comments
Reading your comments, I was so gratified to see that my post challenged the way many of you think about headscarves. Since it was relatively recently that I stopped understanding them in an oversimplified way, it is obvious that your comments show that you are thinking in a way that is far beyond your age. There’s a stereotype about Americans being Islamophobic that I often encounter. While it’s an unfortunate and inaccurate way to characterize the huge and diverse population of America, the fact remains that Islamophobia is a big problem in the US. It makes me hopeful to read comments from middle schoolers who are fighting this problem by simply not making negative assumptions about people based on their religion.
Ms. Kelly added a lot to the conversation in her comment last week. I added bold to some sentences that especially stood out to me:
In 2010 Oregon lifted its ban on teachers wearing religious clothing at school. In 2013, Quebec bans public sector workers from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols in public. Are you aware that some Orthodox Christians also wear scarves, long sleeves and long skirts for the purpose of modesty. Islam does not make Afghanistan more oppressive; the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam in Afghanistan makes the country more so.
What I really love about teaching is the different cultures that are represented in the public schools. I have taught several female Muslim students who wear their headscarves, because they follow the principles of Islam, and also have fathers who want them to be engineers and astronauts. I have three friends who converted to Islam, who choose to wear their headscarves. They are strong females who husbands treat them as equals. This is a complicated issue.
The preserving of individuals freedoms, should be what is first and foremost. I hope that people understand this: Every woman who wears a hijab is not persecuted; and not every woman who wears a hijab is free.
I found it interesting that many of you thought America was doing a poor job of preserving freedom of religious expression. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I wonder what sorts of events or policies have given you that impression.
I had never heard of the book Molly mentioned, Does my Head Look Big in This?, but it looks like an interesting first-hand account of what it’s like to be a teenager wearing a headscarf in a predominantly non-Muslim society.
Turkish pop music
I haven’t talked much, if at all, about pop culture in Turkey. In today’s post, I’d like to show you a little bit about modern music in Turkey.
American pop music seems to be popular all over the world, so my trip to Turkey hasn’t provided an escape from Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke, or Lady Gaga. However, the music scene in Istanbul offers a great deal more than just DJs or cover bands playing American music, though those are around too.
The music I hear most often in Turkey is Turkish Top 40 – a collection of the most popular Turkish pop music. Though I’m not well-versed in these artists or songs, I can’t leave my house without hearing the same familiar tunes.
Aşk Yok Olmaktır is the number one song in Turkey right now. I’ve never chosen to listen to it, but it’s often stuck in my head because I hear it everywhere. When you listen to it, you’ll notice the tune and singing style is different than American music, but it still fits into the modern pop genre. Turkey has a long heritage of combining elements of Turkish folk music with European and American rock/pop music. One of the oldest examples of this is a genre called “Anatolian rock,” an unmistakable style which was born in the 1960s.
Erkin Koray is the so-called king of Anatolian Rock. His music is equally inspired by psychedelic rock of the time (from the US and UK) and Turkish folk music. Many young people still listen to music by Erkin Koray and other Anatolian Rock artists of the time. There are lots of bars around Taksim dedicated to this kind of music, but they still consider it “oldies,” the same way we’d regard The Beatles or the Beach Boys. I think Erkin Koray’s pretty neat.
Like all pop music, most of the themes in Turkish pop music revolve around love or dancing or partying, but some music takes more political angles. During the Taksim protests, more music was written that reflected the ideals of the young activists: more personal liberties, less religion in government, and more involvement from the citizens in the political process. A Turkish rock band, Duman (meaning ‘smoke’), recorded a song that became the unofficial anthem of the Taksim protests. The lyrics are written as a sarcastic “cheers” or expression of thanks to the Turkish government and police, who attacked protesters with pepper gas, batons, and other forms of brutality. The title of the song, Eyvallah, means ‘thank you.’ The translation below isn’t totally accurate, but the words still reflect a popular sentiment among many Turkish citizens during the protests.
There’s a whole lot of music that’s completely free of modern or European/American influences that, surprisingly for me, is extremely popular among young people. Around Taksim, which is a haven for people in their late teens and twenties, there is a strong presence of especially Turkish, Balkan, Kurdish, and Gypsy folk music. Upon my first visit to İstiklal Avenue at night, I was struck by how connected young people were to centuries-old music of their different heritages. It seems Turks in our generations are just as likely to learn how to play bağlama (a plucked string istrument), clarinet, kemançe (a type of Turkish/Persian violin), or tulum (Turkish bagpipes) as they are to learn how to play guitar. Here’s a group of young people performing Turkish folk music on authentic instruments on İstiklal. The quality of the video isn’t great, but this is something you can see on İstiklal any night of the week: young people playing folk music while passersby sing along, do folk dances, and maybe toss a couple liras in an open instrument case.
It made me think of young people in America. What are our folk traditions? How do we connect to our past, or do we even do this through music?
For me, these are hard questions to answer. Sometime in the more recent part of my 22 years of existence, I’ve noticed young people becoming increasingly interested in bluegrass and other forms of traditional American music, but I feel like it’s a larger part of the youth experience in Turkey.