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Friday, May 14, 2004

21st December 1997: Tarkan at the Hippodrome

Tarkan's 1997 Concert in the UK [Part 1]

It was 1997 and in the cold month of December Tarkan was finally coming to warm up the UK.

He had released his Ölürüm Sana album that summer, while I was holidaying in Cyprus.

"Have you got the camcorder?" Kemal asked me for the thousandth time, hopping on one foot. My nephew was doing a good impersonation of a pogo stick.

I tried to portray an aura of calm about me. The "big uncle" act wasn't me, but sometimes it worked. "Yes, but they won't let us in with it. Relax, will you!"

"I can't," he answered back, with a terrible grin of excitement. "I can't believe we're going!"

It was night, it was cold and we were standing in an empty car park. Yet, we were acting like kids on a sunny day out.

For the first of his concerts in the Turkish leg of his new album tour, we'd heard Tarkan had entertained 11,000 fans under the rain at the Middle Eastern Technical University stadium in Ankara[1].aAfter a three year wait by fans, they had finally snapped. News reports had described how some 900 male and female fans had fainted and 30 of them had been taken to hospital by ambulance. Stampedes had been imminent.

Tarkan's concert programme had included Adana, Antalya, Izmir and Istanbul and now (at last) with an announcement of a single in the winter, he had begun to tour Europe. We were hoping for a new song, and thought that he may give us a taste of it at the concert. Little did we know that the single in question was the song "Şımarık" from the 1997 album, which was to rise in European music charts across the continent.

He was everywhere. On the television, on the radio, in the magazines, it seemed as if the whole Turkish world was talking about nothing else. So, when news came to us in the UK that Tarkan was actually going to come to the UK for a concert in the West End of London at the Hippodrome, we didn't think twice. We weren't expecting the scenes of the Ankara concert, however. This was the UK after all, where Tarkan was virtually unknown.

We lived approximately 65 miles away from London, and weren't intimate with the capital city. We had bought the tickets and booked a place on the coach that would take us there by phone. All we had to do was drive to London and to the meeting point - a certain car park in the West End of London.

"Where's Gonca?" Kemal asked, taking the video camera's bag from me and checking again.

My uncle's wife and children lived in London. His daughter Gonca (Rosebud) and I were very close, and we had been planning for ages to go and see Tarkan together when he eventually remembered to add the UK to a concert tour. She was going to come with us and as she knew London well, there wouldn't be a problem about finding the meeting place for the coach. It was to be a family affair.

"She's locking up the car," I replied, unrolling the poster I had in my hand.

"You're crazy," Kemal said, looking over (or rather under) my shoulder at it.

I had spied a Tarkan poster advertising the Hippodrome concert outside a shop window, as we were driving to the meeting place. It was a black and white picture of Tarkan in his customary "Oh what's that up there?" pose.

Gonca had looked at me, gave an excited yelp, and stopped the car in the middle of the road. She pushed me out of the vehicle with her voice ringing in my ears, "Don't come back until you get it!"

And I didn't. I sweet-talked the old Turkish lady who was the owner of the shop. Usually, they can't give away the posters until after the concert, but I explained that we had travelled from outside London, and wouldn't be coming back this way. I even offered her money, but she finally took pity on me and gave me the poster for free.

A Tarkan poster advertising the TourI had spied a Tarkan poster advertising the Tour.

"I don't think there are going to be many people coming here," I said, looking around the empty designated meeting place, in which ours was the only car parked.

"Why do you say that?" came Gonca's voice in the darkness, as she came back from securing her car.

"This is the UK hon," I said. "Who here knows Tarkan? There aren't that many Turkish people that are gonna come."

As is the way of such things, no sooner did I say those words, about twenty cars full of people and about two hundred pedestrains began to gather around us. "I didn't think people would go to such absurd lengths to prove me wrong," I grinned, as I saw three coaches pull up, one behind the other. "I thought there would be only one coach, and that they'd have difficulty in filling that up."

Kemal chuckled, locking the video camera's bag. "Looks like Tarkan is known a little, then?"

I laughed. "Yes I should credit people with good taste more often. Didn't think there were so many with good taste, though."

Gonca punched me on the arm. "Come on boys, let's get in the queue. I wanna seat up front."

Kemal and I, because of the age difference between us being so small, grew up like brothers rather than uncle and nephew. I come from a family of seven, and Kemal's father, my brother, had started a family very young, when I was only three years of age.

One Christmas, Kemal's father had presented him with a video camera. Our family is very creative, and my brother knew of our love for films. He thought that the present would be an ideal outlet for our creativity. From that Christmas onwards, Kemal and I had recorded all our doings on tape, and archived them. I had even made video covers for the boxes. We made our first films on a Sanyo 8mm camcorder. Today, my nephew has opened up a small independent film company in the UK, and after some shorts, Kemal has almost finished his second film.

Want to read more about my life? >>

We ran over to the coaches as Kemal took the camcorder out of its bag again.

"Why did you lock it up in the first place?" Gonca asked, as she saw him struggling with the bag and trying to run at the same time.

"He needed something to do. Excitement," I replied for him. And it was true. We were excited. Even I, although I tried not to show it.

Secretly, I was very pleased about the turn out here, and hoped that the crowd at the Hippodrome would be even larger. This was something we had been waiting for, for a long time.

Kemal finally had the camcorder up and running, as we showed our tickets to a lady waiting at the door of the first coach. I spoke to her in Turkish, but she turned out to be British, a Scotswoman from Edinburgh. She waved us into the coach with a long arm. "They cannae let that in," she said pointing to the camcorder. "They'll tak it at the front and gi' you a ticket forrit."

Kemal's face dropped at the sound of this. "Don't worry," I said, trying to cheer him up, "record us now and the rest we'll record in our minds."

And that was what we had to do.

When we got to the Hippodrome, the word was out that Tarkan was already there but had gone to Planet Hollywood for something to eat. The queue at the door consisted of about a couple of hundred fans only.

Gonca wanted to go, too, but I stayed put. "I am not gonna charge around the West End screaming for Tarkan like a madman," I said, and even Kemal agreed with me. Gonca felt a little put out, but the crowds soon began to form.

The queue ended up becoming one of the longest I had ever seen, and Gonca decided that she was glad we had stayed where we were. I would look behind me now and again to check the line's progress, only to see the queue gradually take up the whole street upon which the Hippodrome stood. It finally got so long that we couldn't see the end of the queue, it just tapered off into the night.

The people waiting were of all races and colours. I was truly surprised, and more so when the I kept hearing the fans singing Tarkan songs to keep away the boredom of waiting. Half of the voices I heard were in English.

I could hear a band of giggling girls from behind talking about how they had seen Tarkan outside Planet Hollywood, and he had given her his earring. "If I die and go to Heaven," I heard her say, "it would be like this."

Once the doors opened and we went in, and they took our camcorder and duly gave us a numbered ticket for it, we looked through the Tarkan paraphernalia for sale which was on display. I bought a hardback book which had a collection of Tarkan photos and sayings. Kemal bought a Tarkan pillowcase for his little sister, who had been too young to come with us, and Gonca bought almost everything in sight. She had to give all her items in at the front booth, too, as we couldn't carry it all.

The Hippodrome at that time was made up of a huge dancing floor, and was a four storey building, with the other floors encirling the walls in an open plan. From each floor you could look down on to the dancing floor below. Half of that floor had been raised into a stage. All the sound equipment was there. All that was missing was the music....and Tarkan of course.

At first we couldn't agree on where to stand. I wanted to go up to one of the other levels and watch from there, but Gonca looked at me open-mouthed. "This isn't the theatre honey!" she cried. "We have to be at the front!!! I have to see him up close!"

So we went as close to the front as possible. I thought that after a while we could move to one of the other floors, but the number of people which filled the arena that night would make that impossible. However, only after did the music begin did I fully appreciate what Gonca had meant.

It was a long wait, our growing excitement and anticipation making it seem longer.

Intially we chatted amongst each other, Kemal and Gonca excitedly pointing at the equipment, the lighting, and trying to guess where Tarkan would appear from. I was still reserved, calmly looking around at the filling chamber, scrutinising the different faces and voices. I saw a lady presenter and a cameraman on one of the floors above me. I recognised her from one of the Turkish TV channels. Still to this day I do not know why, I waved at her. She saw me and waved back. I felt as though I was in some kind of dream.

I began to chat with people standing next to me. A girl I had never seen before gripped my arm. "When will it start," she cried, breathless and her blue eyes shining bright. "Do you think he'll see me from here?"

"I could always lift you up on to my shoulders," I said jokingly.

"Oh would you?" she said, happily. I felt she was about to climb at me at any moment.

"I don't think so," Gonca replied, over hearing us. "If he is gonna lift anyone, it will be me!"

Kemal and I laughed, and it was cut short by a loud DUR-DUR-DUR-DUR ... DUH! It was the opening rift to the song "Ölürüm Sana", and a crescendo of screams rose in the air. The body heat was intense, and I could feel the atmosphere lift immediately. It was as though some great jet of hot air had appeared from beneath us and had carried us upwards....and the man hadn't even appeared on the stage yet!

And then suddenly there he was! This little-big man in a black and silver suit, with dark sunglasses covering his eyes and a microphone clinging to the side of his face like the hands of a lover.

The scream pitch went one decibel higher. Hands rose up in the air. Everyone was reaching for him. He stood there, moving to the beat of the music, as though he were all alone and we had just accidentally walked in to his own private room. A chant began...


The show had begun.

End of part one | Read part two | << Other Tarkan articles >>


1. At the beginning of the concert, Tarkan had slipped on the wet stagefloor and fell, giving the media something to talk about afterwards (as if the music wasn't enough). Tarkan had stood up and continued, however, even though he later said it was one of the most embarassing moments of his life. back

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