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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Unchaining Thoughts

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

Every morning I catch up with the day's news, but today it made me run into a chain of thoughts that I felt like writing down to share with Tarkan Deluxe's readers.

I was reading an article by BBC correspondent Iain Mackenzie about our Western world and the changes future technology will bring (watch out for moving video popping up in paper magazines), another on how parents can answer awkward questions posed by their children, and one about a new study suggesting that people from different cultures read facial expressions differently, when suddenly I was reminded of Turkish popstar Tarkan.

How did reading these current events remind me of a singer so far out of the bounds Britain? In this way: it reminded me of how perceptions of others of other things can be so very different.

In the UK, while news of one of our major music artists even considering taking part in the farcical political show that is the Eurovision song context would be met with ridicule - and it has happened - it doesn't mean it would be met with the same ridicule elsewhere with Tarkan for example, nor would it change how ridiculous it would still seem to most music commentators in this country (like me for one).

Tarkan Should Twitter

Reading about future technological advances also reminded me how the music industry still has a lot to face, and that Tarkan is losing out a great deal by not keeping in step with the times as much as he is in tune with the music. A dead, empty space for an official site is but one charge, and when rumours hit the press mill, Tarkan needs a quick way to get his confirmation or denial out there into the stream of public consciousness.

UPDATE: Tarkan opens official social networking pages (2010) >>

Even Turkish songstress - and Eurovision winner - Sertab Erener has been more cyber-savvy, by following in the footsteps of American celebrities and signing up to Twitter for instance.

TwitterThe truth is at the moment Twitter is a giant experiment; no one knows where it's going. Twitter is certainly changing the music industry - changing music buyers, bands and songwriters. I think it's more significant than Napster, MySpace or iTunes. They were ultimately just changes in the distribution; Twitter, if you let it, will change what it means to be an artist and what it means to be a fan.

Twitter is an asymmetric public address system: from the few to the many and it makes it easy to fire your tiniest casual thought off to thousands of people. Now, artists can have that immediate access to all his or her followers from the phone in their pocket.

In return, followers feel they know the artist in a more direct and powerful way than ever before. It creates a huge loyalty which, through replies to followers, is reciprocated by the artist back towards the fan base - subsequently wielding a greater control over people's perceptions of them.

Like all social/cultural changes with a young bias, it will hit music hard, but technological advances also has it's disadvantages.

Hackers at it Again

In more related news, Leona Lewis, the X Factor singer, has been the latest to fall victim to hackers who infiltrated computer systems and leaked her unreleased tracks to distributed them illegally online. These included "Don't Let Me Down", a collaboration with Justin Timberlake, which was considered as the first release for her second album due out in November this year.

Because of the way networks operate such leaks quickly reverberate around the world, but you also get unpaid volunteers and fans, the artist's unsung heroes, that work to combat the problem and report such sites.

Previous targets include Beyonce, 50 Cent, Eminem, Rihanna and of course Turkey's very own Tarkan.

In 2005, Tarkan's début English language tracks had been stolen and distributed in much the same way. I realised that I had all but forgotten that Tarkan had even released an English language album, before being reminded of it by Lewis' similar misfortune.

The lacklustre impression of that album's European release might well give indications what people in Europe will think of Tarkan singing in English on the Eurovision stage, but what of Tarkan's "American Dream"?

In the wake of rumours about the singer considering taking part in Europe's musical mayhem for 2010 spreading far and wide, has the artist turned his back on the US?

Checking Out of Hotel America?

At the moment it looks like after sabotaging his first English language album, Tarkan has turned his back on America with no interest in coming closer to the US music market; all those rumours of duets and new releases have all become part of an alternate timeline of what could have been - but now never will be.

Of course, it is not easy to break America, and it would be inanely naive of anyone to think that a good album will necessarily break through the network of pluggers and opinion formers that one has to work to get themselves heard in the US. But if anyone from Turkey had the potential to do that on a commercial scale, it was Tarkan.

Political motivations, Islamophobia - call it what you will - but I have always believed that there is another reason why Turkish artists have found it difficult to break foreign markets. It's a reason that should liberate, but conversely limits them - and it is Turkey's own immensity.

Searching for a Dream

The immensity of Turkey, the energy and the zest for life remind me sometimes of America. And as with Turkey, where I spent some time working many moons ago, America shines a light on the entire human condition.

Few other nations really do. Italy reveals truths about Italians, Afghanistan about Afghans, Fiji about Fijians. But America speaks to the whole of humanity because the whole of humanity is represented there; our possibilities and our propensities.

The same can be said of the Turks' unique nomadic history leaving its imprint across half the world and the people it has gathered within its empires throughout the millennia. In Turkey, you learn not only about Turks, but about human fusion.

And no where as in these two places are the perceptions of others so important, or do you get the chance for your music to speak to so many searching for a dream.

It's not difficult to understand that when you work in a market like that, at the first sign of failure elsewhere, you'd be quick to return home.

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

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