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.


18 thoughts on “TÜRK POP MÜZİĞİ

  1. It’s interesting how they use music in so many different ways! Listening to a few of the pieces, I can’t help but wonder how different these songs must be from the popular ones we always hear in English. I cannot tell what they mean, but all that really matters is the sound. Do bands in Turkey go on tours around the country, or has music just made its way into their everyday lives?

  2. It’s so odd how the vocals and lyrics are so different to the pop songs here, yet the tune and music is pretty similar in a way. I could definitely imagine the first music video being very popular- the rythym was so upbeat and “happy” I suppose 🙂
    My favorite is probably the Aşk Yok Olmaktır, although I enjoyed watching the last one as well. Oh! And I loved listening to the different sounds of the instruments in the second and third video! Are any of these Turkish instruments played in popular American songs?
    Thanks for this post. I’m so glad you did one on music!


  3. One thing I did notice was that in Eyvallah, during the chorus it said Eyvalllah! Eyvallah! The triple l in the first Eyvallah is a typo, right? I liked the music for Eyvallah better, but the singer wasn’t as good as some of the others.

  4. It’s cool that Turkey uses so many instruments and music all over the country! Overall they all sounded “major” and upbeat.
    A lot of people will think it’s strange that I don’t listen to music (except when I listen to myself playing piano), but it’s usually kind of distractin, evenif it sounds nice.

  5. Ugg. I hate pop music. American pop music, that is. Always blaring and screaming in my face. I predict that, in America at least, in a few years pop singing will be so altered and auto tuned that it will be unrecognizable as a human voice. Who needs to be a good singer when the computer can perfect everything? Who needs to think up songs when committees can write them for you? It’s an extension of the American ideal, everything done for you by computers, even what is supposed to be hip and independent.

    • so computers will learn to sing? I hope they can learn sarcasm next….

      I’ve noticed that American pop sounds a lot different than music in other countries. Actually I’ve only ever heard a few languages, but comparing Chinese music to English, the mood of the songs contrast greatly.

  6. I do remember a lot of places we went, (restaurants and such) always had tvs installed and they were always playing turkish pop music videos. I don’t listen to pop that much but I like lots of different types of music. At home i listen to rock but I am in a bluegrass band with a few of my friends where I sing and play bass. I’m also part of a classical youth orchestra where I play violin. I was wondering what other genres are big right now in turkey.

  7. Wow, the pop songs in Turkey can be pretty catchy especially the Aşk Yok Olmaktır song. I kinda like it! What I wanted to know is the rap music different from American rap songs, if there even is rap music in Turkey?

  8. It’s pretty cool that some of the pop songs in Turkey are similar to songs in America. I like the tune in Aşk Yok Olmaktır because it’s catchy. It’s interesting to know that Turkey has lots of music genre to look for. Thanks for telling us more about their pop culture!

  9. These styles of music very strongly remind me of the music of Ahmad Zahir, who is well known for being the “Afghan Elvis”. He was VERY popular in Afghanistan in the 60s, and he would take popular American songs (example: “Those Were the Days, My Friend”, or “Ring of Fire”) and write new lyrics. He was eventually assassinated by the government for not writing songs promoting them, but anyway, yeah. I’ve always been fascinated by pop music from other countries, so thank you for making this a post!

  10. It’s fascinating that the themes are the same, but sound almost completely different. I like the tune of the music in Istanbul better, personally. This may be strange, but reading this reminded me of a conversation my friend had with me, about the differences in themes between Japanese and American pop music. The difference we found was that American pop songs are often about love, parties, and honestly, some other things a bit deeper into that topic. Japanese pop songs are often about feelings and solving your problems.

  11. I never thought Turkish people would listen to a combination of Turkish and American pop music. Does everyone who listens to the American music understand English? It would be cool if I was fluent in two languages, so I could listen to music in both languages and understand it all. Thanks for the post.

  12. This music is actually pretty good, but i honestly don’t like that first one so much. Its not like i would look for a way to shut it off if it was playing, but as you said I wouldn’t search for it to listen to it. That could just be the fact I don’t understand it or it isn’t familiar, but still. . . I think it is definitely possible that in america people might look at older music as maybe a connection to the past. Maybe a reminder of what was. Personally I will listen to just about anything, but don’t really keep tabs on band names, band history, music history etc. One of the things I find really interesting is that young people will play instruments on the street frequently and people will stop to sing and dance along.

  13. Hi!
    My reply is late.:( Does Ms. Kelly check the blogs for any other people who might have posted late?? American music and many other musics around the world are becoming highly consisting of, how should I put it…., Synthetic instruments. Sometimes I might hear a guitar on the pop radio like 105.1 FM but not too frequently. I’m also surprised at how many people don’t really listen to ’90’s alternative. I guess that’s kind of my favorite music.:)

  14. the music they listen to is way different from the music i listen to. do the adults and the kids listen to the same music then?

  15. The really popular song is kind of similar to American songs–not in style, but in theme. It seems like Turkey has a much richer music history than America (partially because America is an extremely young country, of course) and they are more connected to it than we are to the little music history we have.

  16. Interesting. I find it interesting that they like very different music from the normal American music, probably because they hear it more often.

  17. Personally, I like all kinds of music. The turkish music, besides the language, sounds real similar to pop music i hear, even though i don’t listen to that too much. I like how into music everyone seems to be! I love music, but not everyone I’m around shares that passion. (parents, possibly…) =) I’m glad older kinds of music are widespread like that. Listening to the same music all the time gets kind of boring. =)

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