I would go living in lights

I would go living in lights: August 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't bother with Tarkan

For the longest time, Turkish music, for me, was a source of bafflement. The landscapes here are amazing, the food is the best I've ever had, the language is a maze of poetic possibilities, the population generally so attractive that it feels like they must be cheating somehow. A few months in Turkey had all but convinced me that I'd found my way to some sort of bizarre paradise where I could live, semi-legally and potentially forever, sipping Efes in the sunshine. So why was their music so awful?

I spent hours, literally hours, trawling Google for answers. I typed things like good turkish music and turkish rock best. Forums, blog posts, YouTube, all led me to the same warbly Arabesque folk singers and nasal men horking out tiresome love lyrics.

I celebrated my sixth month in Turkey last Friday with a visa run. Six months hardly makes me an authority on the Turks and their Turkish Mysteries, never mind their music industry, but I can happily announce that half a year did manage to kick my appreciation for the latter up a few notches.

(I don't mean to be too negative here, but I still find the worst of Turkish music much more aurally offensive than the worst of American music. Which is saying kind of a lot. I think Nietzche had it right: "we hear strange music badly"; a lot of what American radio stations play is garbage, but it's familiar garbage, not as jarring to my Yankee ears as its Turkish equivalent.

For the record, and this seems like as good a place as any to mention it, the title of this post refers to a particular hatred of mine, Tarkan. Listen to him if you must, but don't say I didn't warn you).

Anyway, I'm happy to announce that not all is doom and gloom over here. Have a listen to the fruit of my (ongoing) investigations.

Luxus - Zin Magazin

A seven-person Istanbul-based group playing upbeat gypsy music. I've seen them somewhere between three and a million times.

Duman - Aman Aman

Alternative rock.

Ceza - Önce Kendine Bak

Like a lot of Turkish rappers, he writes lyrics about Turkish immigration to Germany... which is a story for a whole different blog post.

Bomba Etkisi

Another group from Istanbul, great live- reggae and swing. Here they're playing on Istiklal Street, as the majority of local acts do from time to time.

Yaşar Kurt - Ruhum

Probably my favorite Turkish song, soft and sad.

Sakin - Denek Hayatım

A great song about the 2004 train derailing near Eskişehir which killed over 100 people. Give it until 2:15; it picks up.

Happy listening.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

23; still childish

Saturday was my first day as a 23-year old. I spent most of it sprawled out in bed, feeling like I'd been run over by a truck (note for parents: I was up late reading to the elderly and vaccinating orphans). When I finally emerged into the living room, clutching at my head and keeping to the shadows, my flatmates were already sitting there, slightly more bright-eyed than I was, having drunk less vaccinated fewer orphans.

We have nicknames now, apparently, which is convenient for my anonymity-preserving, blog-writing purposes. Why we have them is a bit of a mystery to me, but I now live with Big Daddy, Shotgun, and Walking Dead (Turkish, Turkish, and Irish, respectively). Someone passing by the door and hearing us addressing one another might assume it's some kind of gang lair or drug den when in fact it is a sunny, wholesome flat full of joy and the banter of earnest, pure voices.

Not being in top form, we spent most of the day slumped on the couches, talking, moving as little as possible. Walking Dead, an English teacher, was correcting his students' exams, a process punctuated by frequent laughter as he graded some of the less competent answers ("after dinner, you should do the orchards," he would read gleefully. "Hah!"). Marking papers, I think, is a great ray of light in the life of an English teacher, and must go a long way toward making up for the delight we foreign clowns provide the Turks with our humorous attempts at communication. Walking Dead reckons there are too many Çs and Şs; for my part, I have an uneasy relationship with the Turkish verb.

I've gotten better about speaking Turkish, though. Not at speaking Turkish, unless you count a vastly improved range of local obscenities (courtesy of Big Daddy and Shotgun, who feel strongly that this aspect of my education should not go neglected), but... well, I've finally managed to guilt myself into saying things. Trying. My conversation is still peppered with a great many bilmiyorums and anlamadıms ("I don't know" and "I don't understand"), but my average sentence length has doubled and I can say many impolite things. Off to a good start, I guess?

The hapless victims of my first serious attempts at speaking generally fall into one of two camps. A not insignificant number react like the breakfast sandwich lady on İstiklal, shawled, pattern-skirted, who smiled widely at me and said "İranlı mısın? Alman mısın? Türkçen çooook iyi!" ("Are you Iranian? German? Your Turkish is so good!"). She was exaggerating, of course, but I am not one to turn down a compliment. Others are like Shotgun, who will probably read this and take exception to my portrayal of the exchange, but who's milking the cow here, me or him? Anyway, I'd stuttered out a few sentences when he poked me in the ribs and said "çocuk gibi! Hahahah!" ("like a child"). This was less than reassuring.

As a point of potential interest to my fellow language learners, he's since restored some portion of my dignity by clarifying that he didn't mean to say that I'm roughly as eloquent as an infant, but rather that my voice gets higher when I speak Turkish. It's true. In fact, since I started paying attention, I've realized that nearly everyone's pitch gets higher once they leave their native language. Why is this? Something to do with the effort to pronounce foreign words correctly is my theory, kind of like how accents are tougher to detect when someone's whispering. Any ideas?

Labels: , ,