On the Fringes of Fame
Apart from those holidaymakers to Turkey who bring back specimens of Turkish pop music, and Holly Valance's brief chart success with a raunchy cover of his "Kiss Kiss", Tarkan is virtually unknown in the UK. However, as a news journalist working in Istanbul, I have come to witness first-hand the love affair between the Turkish people and Tarkan.
I have also been following the news monitor at Tarkan Deluxe for about a year now, and I have to say it admirably tries to steer away from the gossipy and polarised nature of most of the news trail that follows Tarkan.
It is no understatement to say that Tarkan polarises the Turkish press.
Tarkan and His Fans: Poles Apart?
But now the star seems to have polarised his fans, too. His English album was released to a divided fan base, with Tarkan's move away from Turkish music disappointing his domestic fan base in April this year. Even some Turkish DJs, whom Tarkan had hitherto supported, stole demo recordings of four English songs and distributed them illegally on the Net before the release of the album. Exact reasons for the leaks were never given, though arguably it could be read as a hit out against mass commercialism in the Turkish pop industry, or simply following the latest global piracy trend. But they were also publicly critical of the songs, and effectively banned all airplay of them from Turkish nightclubs. The Istanbul club scene began to ignore Tarkan.
Tarkan was angering more than just DJs, however. It was a blow to his gay fan base in Turkey, who hold/held him as an icon (delete as appropriate reader), when in March this year he confessed to a Turkish magazine that he was "not gay and never had been". However, the furore over this in Turkey reached its zenith a few months later when the Turkish press reported that the singer, in an interview for the Bulgarian Eva magazine, went so far as to allegedly "condemn" homosexuality as "a mental illness, which could be cured with psychotherapy". It seemed Tarkan had done a complete U-turn from his previous liberal stance.
The reports even roused gay right groups in Turkey to release press statements condemning the singer. When a Turkish reporter raised the question of the Eva interview at the end of his July Izmit concert for this summer's Avea sponsored tour, Tarkan behaved out of character and had the reporter removed by security officials, angrily stating that such questions were "out of step".
Contacting Roslava Kumanova, the Features Editor for Eva Magazine who interviewed Tarkan, she informed me that the interview was an original report conducted with the singer. On being told what the singer's domestic press said, it is obvious that Tarkan's words were grossly misinterpreted. What was interesting were the comments Tarkan made about the photographs with 'naked men' (amounting to one picture, as the others were fully clothed or with swimwear), which had been stolen by a Turkish New York removal man in 2001, explaining that he had been on a nudist beach and was with women, who were not in the frame.
Yet, from Tarkan's bedroom secrets to rumoured reports of Tarkan appearing and then not appearing at the Turkish Grand Prix (again) to whether his recent skin tattoo was "real or not" (worried fans can calm themselves - it was a non-permanent one), Tarkan will always be news in Turkey, in one form or another.
But what may next make the news is Tarkan's musical choices. Even though Turkey has not been very receptive to his English works, he has still released "Start the Fire" as a domestic single, in a hostile music market which is completely album orientated. The Turkish version includes six tracks, a mixture of the German CD and 12-inch releases, and has been on sale in Turkey since the end of August.
In an industry where sales are everything, is this a correct choice, musically or financially?
It also seems that for Tarkan to choose the German music market as his bouncing platform on to the larger music scene, may mean that it will only relegate him to the fame that comes from Europop trash. However, with German concerts in October and November and another event on German programme TV Total scheduled for October 7, 2006, it seems that Tarkan is determined to raise his musical profile in Germany. But is sticking to the trashiest (and possibly most racist) music market in Europe and touring Eastern European countries enough? When was the last time a German music artist made it big in America or the UK? Who cares about successful concerts in Bulgaria or Romania?
Does this mean that Tarkan has limited himself to remain on the fringes of fame forever? Will he only be a niche for an exclusive market outside of his domestic one?
Nothing is certain - yet.
Tarkan's Final Curtain
Though one thing is certain. At his concerts, the music artist has always left the crowds baying for more. The star that always plays a final encore, he knows how to whip the crowd into a frenzy before bowing out on a high, never missing the opportunity to say thanks for the support of his fanatical fan base.
Possibly the best type of promotion for this unique singer is his concert performances.
At least in respect to orchestrating spectacular live events in tribute to the fans, he never disappoints.
The views in this article are those of the author alone.
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