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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rock the New Year

Analysis by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

Should Tarkan do rock?

This time last year Tarkan had just released his sixth studio offering in Turkish, and had polarised his home nation's music industry by hiding his vocals behind disco-glam-fused electronica - a contemporary pop sound almost completely stripped clean of Turkish motifs.

Spring boarding from his new album, the artist has been criticised on a whole range of issues from miming to plagiarism in 2008, issues that have plagued major artists such as Britney Spears and Coldplay, too, this year.

Now, with the artist revealing that a new album might be in the works for spring 2009, fans and critics alike are speculating once again what shape it will most likely take.

It is this correspondent's opinion that Tarkan should take a leaf out of British singer Leona Lewis' book - should the rumours be true - and go for a harder, rockier edge in any future pop proceeding.

This would benefit the Turkish pop star in various ways, in which I shall try to outline blow.

Musical Respectability

There is no doubt that rock music is a dominant form of popular music in the world, but rock's mainstream development has been slow in Turkey - although it has been changing.

It might not have become the soundtrack to Istanbul's streets yet, but Turkish mainstream musical trends are becoming more perceptive to rock music, as indicated by the emergence of Turkish subsidiaries to well known US music brands - MTV, Billboard and Rolling Stone - pushing what could be loosely termed as a "rock agenda" to covertly change the traditional musical taste of Turkey.

"My Istanbul" by rock band Mizan

If any further indication was needed, Turkey's Eurovision song entrant was from a popular rock band this year, while the Turkish Billboard charts in Turkey have recently divided its main top 40 into pop and rock, and MTV Europe Awards winner Emre Aydin is firmly from the rock side of town. Moreover, having some 40,000 die-hard Metallica fans gather in Istanbul in 2008 to hear the band perform live, shows that Turks like their music hard.

Tarkan, with his 2007 record, had found some of these sources turn against him, but with a rock agenda of his own, the artist might be able to get the respectable print media on his side - not to mention the music listening Turkish youth.

Revitalising Youth

Album cover of Hava NarghileTurkish rock, however, isn't the new boy in town. He's just getting more exposure at last, and has always had a history of revitalising youth.

Initially in the 1960s, Turkish rock was a sound trend known as Anatolian rock music, created by musicians that had began to explore social and political themes.

Artists such as Cem Karaca and Barış Manço were blending traditional ballads and verse forms of folk music with rock from abroad to revitalise the youth of their generation. At the same time a progressive type of rock was being developed by other artists such as Erkin Koray, whose tracks combined imaginative lyrics with instrumental virtuosity featuring lengthy solo improvisations typical of western rock.

Although these artists had large followings, they felt the need to diversify into more traditional works to endear themselves to a wider audience, because rock in Turkey always played second fiddle to other more popular genres. The 70s, 80s and 90s saw the genres pop and arabesque battling for the mainstream soul of Turkey, which was at the crossroads of some multi-paradoxes: while half the nation listened to strictly Turkish traditional music, the other half had set their radios to the Shadows, Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.

This is not so strange to understand, if we can get to grips with the conundrum that Turkey spells to a foreign observer - a Muslim country, where the daily life is no less modern in practice than in Italy, with a conservative family life and business ethics still at the hands of a somewhat oriental capitalism.

Singing with the Sound of Today

Its youth of today is more in tune though - as rock from abroad assimilated other forms to produce jazz-rock, heavy metal, and punk rock, and the disco-influenced rock of Madonna was kept in line by the post-punk "new wave" music of performers such as Laurie Anderson, Talking Heads (led by David Byrne), and the Eurythmics — so too did the music consciousness of Turkey grow.

By the 1990s rock music had incorporated grunge, rap, techno, and other forms, and this wasn't lost on the modern sounding Turkish rock genre that can be heard today, and with its star in the ascendancy in Turkey, it wouldn't be a bad idea if Tarkan took a leaf out his own home nation's history books, either.

Fusing a heady mix of oriental-sensual pop and hard-edged rock might be the explosive mix the Turkish music industry is looking for to blow away the cobwebs of yesteryear and greet the future with an orgasmic glow, while continuing to endear Tarkan to the wider public.

He has already proven he can do rock, with such tracks as the raw "Biz Nereye" from his 1994 A-Acayipsin album and his polished 2007 "Çat Kapi" having already flirted with the genre.

But - like the rocksters of old - what Tarkan will end up doing, however, is anybody's guess.

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
Read more Mark Mayhey articles on Tarkan >>

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