16/01/2009

Turkish Rock

Ataturk's regime in the fledgling Turkish state, constituted a highly illiberal era for the country where no aspect of public or private life failed to come under the scrutiny of the state.

The 'immortal leader' (as he is referred to in the 1982 Constitution) once stated that "The capacity of a country to change, is demonstrated by its ability to change its music"

According to my unusually critical guide to country by Rosie Ayliffe "he set about exacting just that, by prohibiting the distribution of Arabic-language musical films, and by banning music sung in minority languages from the radio... Genuine folk and Western classical music were decreed to be the oddly-twinned musical destinies of the country. Accordingly, musicologists fanned-out across Anatolia during the late 1920s, charged with the responsibility of collecting, archiving, and recording material that would flatter the racially-based vanity of nationalist ideologues".

Although such policies did incalculable harm to minority cultures and the classic styles enjoyed at the time - their success was limited. Today, 'Arabesque' music - a melancholic Arabic style which drops the classical maqamat in favour of more poppy western scales - is still widely loved.

However, thanks to Ataturk's equation of simple Turkish folk with the bombast of the Western Orchestra - Turkey's taste in music has always been an eccentric mix of traditional 'Halk', and the latest fads transported from the west. Thus, Turkey has replicated the pulse of British, American, Latin American and Jamaican youth through punk, reggae, hip-hop - and even the rock ballad.

Nowhere in ex-Ottoman lands but Turkey, could you enjoy Bulutsuzluk Özlemi's Sözlerimi Geri Alamam.

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