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
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.
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.