The Passion of Tarkan
"My mouth literally waters and my knees go weak," Rebecca explains, a young girl from Kent, England and a Tarkan addict since the age of seven. "We had gone to Turkey on a holiday and he was playing everywhere," she explains. "I grew up with him, and I can't get him out of my head."
Born Tarkan Tevetoğlu in 1972 in Alzey, near Frankfurt Germany, to mirgrant Turkish parents, Tarkan has brought a sexuality and passion to Turkish music unheard of before, and was the first true 'Pop Idol' of his country. Arguably, he is Turkey's biggest export and their first international popstar, with such musical hits as "Şımarık" (Kiss Kiss). A song which rose high in most European music charts, most recently it was covered by Holly Valance, which earned her a number 1 slot in the UK charts. Not only did Ms Valance choose this song with which to debut her pop career, but the song also holds the accolade of being one of the most covered songs in musical history.
"It's not just his music," explains another fan, Ayisha from Iran. "It is his everything, his looks, the sound of his voice when he sings. He is like moonlight, he reaches everyone, everywhere at the same time in the same way."
Many "wannabe" and "would-be" copies have sprung up over Tarkan's 13 years in the music business, but none have managed to compete with Tarkan's success. He is loved across the globe. As his international manager Michael Lang (creator of the 60's Woodstock Festivals) describes it, "He is the only thing here [in Turkey], there is no competition."
"You have to hear him live, to understand the phenomenon," stresses Maya, a wealthy and successful Indian businesswoman, from Bombay. "I go to at least two Tarkan concerts when he tours, and my husband nearly had him down as a cause for divorce." Maya laughs and rolls her dark eyes. "I wish," she says.
Tarkan's sexuality and the effect he has on his fans has been the subject of numerous articles, research papers and books. Even Italian film director Ferzan Özpetek, who directed Tarkan's Pepsi sponsored music video for the song "Hüp" in 2001, has seemingly worked his iconic status into the role by making the singer resemble another iconic image - Jesus (see pic above). Dr Yurdakul of the Istanbul University attempts to explain the singer's universal attraction, "It is because we see him as love personified and love is a language that translates well in any tongue. He speaks with his body. His dance is a tactile love-affair between his hands and his body, if body language were magic, than Tarkan would be a greater magician that Houdini, if it were an art form, then we would call Tarkan Michaelangeo."
"You have to hear him live, to understand the phenomenon"
A Work Of Art
A Turkish David*, Tarkan truly is a work of art moulded from sexual fire and passion, who on stage does not distinguish from the girls or the boys. "The stage is not my private bedroom," he has been quoted as saying to Ayse Arman a female journalist, "I want both sexes to be affected by me."
And he does just that. His performances on stage provoke the love-crazed fans to go wild. He is a love provocateur that transcends all boundaries. Through his music, the shackled break free of their chains. "He is the human love scent for me," explains Korean-American Mai, "one whiff of him and it is sunny out all day."
"He is so different," expressed Sandra, a Japanese fan who re-discovered Tarkan after the 2002 World Football Championship. "I knew he was the one for me." She holds up a photograph that she took with Tarkan, his green eyes gleam out from the glossy picture. "I will have a tattoo done of this," Sandra giggles, "somewhere, I can't tell you where. But it will be a small one."
"He is like the moonlight," describes a fan,
"reaches everyone everywhere in the same way."
Is it only Tarkan's body language and his live performances that create such a passion for him? Or are Tarkan's own private passions the key? Clues to deciphering Tarkan's own version of love might be found in a recent interview. When asked about his favourite love song, Tarkan named an old Turkish Classical Music piece called "Bir Bahar Akşamı" (One Spring Evening). "It is about a May to December love between an older man and a younger girl. The words and imagery are so innocent," he was reported to say, "going back to a more innocent era." Somewhat surprising for a man that oozes sex from every pore, but then again Tarkan, who blends sex and innocence together, is a man full of surprises. His worldwide chart success with "Şımarık" was unexpected, and most music critics feel that it was a one-off.
Many fans, on various fan forums dedicated to him, discuss his silence in Europe since his 1999 and 2000 releases. They have wondered why he didn't expand upon his success. Plans for a release of an English crossover album in the autumn of 2004 has been mentioned, but this has been an album 8 years in the making. Tarkan himself is quoted to have said, "The time is not yet right. My biggest fear is failure, but I know I have a bigger obligation to my fans."
The obligation Tarkan mentions is a very real one to the singer. He sees it is an unwritten covenant between him and his public. In every album that he has ever released he has penned a special message to the converted. He once spoke of the relationship between the fans and himself as a union akin to the stars in the sky and the phosphorescence in the sea - the fan and the idol so far away from each other, yet so intertwined within each other - like one shining light.
Subsequently that passion, which Tarkan has evoked from fans across the world, has made certain that they haven't forgotten him, even if it seems that the European music market has. Fan sites about him still continue to pop up all over the Internet, though most current news and information available about Tarkan is either in Turkish or hard to obtain.
"I learnt Turkish, to be able to understand what he was saying," Rebecca from Kent explains. "Now I want to become a translator for Turkish people and work either in London or Istanbul. Tarkan is like that," she smiles, her blue eyes shining, "he simply changes your life."
* David is a statue depicting the Biblical story of David and Goliath, carved by Michaelangelo a 16th century artist. It epitomises beauty.