TURKISH POP MUSIC TAKES SHAPE (*)
As popular music in Turkey began to take primitive shape towards the end of the 1950s, pop music brought a new vision, a popular western concept to the scene. After WWII, as Turkish governments opened the doors fully to American-centered capitalist politics, famous western style singers from southern Europe became popular, followed later on by American music, especially rock'n roll. A certain section of the urban public that listened to French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese pop songs in the 1950s, especially the urban elite college youth, were caught up in the wave of rock'n roll that was sweeping over the world, and started forming rock groups. Yet the southern European pop remained popular as well. Of course, all these western popular styles of music made only a small dent in the popularity of Turkish art music. But the problem was being able to sing this western popular music in Turkish. In an interview with Fecri Ebcioglu in 1967, he said that he had gone to the US in 1958, and seen that all of the immigrant groups living there were singing their popular music in their own languages. Wondering why this had not yet happened in Turkey, he laid the foundations of "Aranjman" music (Turkish-language covers) within one or two years. That is, the lyrics of western pop songs of the period would be translated into Turkish and sung by Turkish artists. This was a new era in pop music. But in the language of the times, it was referred as "Turkish light western music." Though it had yet to turn itself into a true Turkish pop model, this process can be considered the starting point for pop in Turkey.
I also found this period an appropriate time to start a Turkish pop music site. The songs we've chosen will illustrate the forty-five year panorama stretching from that point to the present day. Whatever else pop may have, it has a commercial side. Musicians have begun to find it more attractive than playing jazz, or devoting themselves to jazz or other club music. Even if we can't really call the music of that period pop, someone like Erol Büyükburç was able to walk into the big "gazinos" (musical nightclubs), the main venue for entertainment culture, and displace the stars of Turkish art music to become a top artist. But he was still mostly writing and singing in English. Though few in number, he was also singing rock adaptations of Turkish folk songs.
The first song in this introductory series, a cover called "Bak Bir Varmis Bir Yokmus" (Look, once upon a time...) was sung by Ilham Gencer and his group. It became a great success, and thus deserves to be considered the first Turkish pop song. During this time, Ebcioglu also sang some cover songs that placed him high on the charts. That is, Europe's pop songs hit the Turkish music scene again with Turkish lyrics. But the 1960s were a very important time for third-world countries, as well as for Turkey. Independence movements were rising all over the world. As people started acting on their demands, a trend in all the underdeveloped countries toward creating their own national music based on their folk music drew attention. In Turkey as well, as the ideology of freedom and populism quickly spread during the years following the 1960 coup, we witnessed an increased interest in folk culture among urban intellectuals. In just this time frame, new alternatives were brought to pop and cover music, which was trying to reform itself. True, the western style pop music was still setting the course. But a pop music created from folk songs, drawing on folk musical sources, came to reflect the national sensibility of the period. In this way, our selection "Burçak Tarlasi" (Field of vetch) by Tülay German became the opening sentence to this trend, which signified this nationalist/innovationist opening of the gates, and would later become "Anadolu-pop" (Anatolia pop).
The 1960s were a period of just such an effort in Turkish pop music, and though it comprised a relatively small percentage within the whole of Turkish popular music genres, it gave rise to original singers and songs along two different main directions. Especially the "Golden Microphone Music Competition," held in 1965 by the newspaper "Hürriyet," and the "Inter-High School Music Contest" organized by "Milliyet" newspaper, became launching pad for several star singers and groups to come onto the scene and gain popularity. During this decade, countless groups and singers played important roles in this musical trend. Another feature of this decade was the recording of popular songs in Turkish by several European singers from Adamo to Marc Aryan. We include a few landmark pieces in the 50 pieces making up this site.
For example, we couldn't do without including a classic cover, "Deniz ve Mehtap" (The sea and the moon) by the famous Izmir-born Dario Morena, who lived in France and died very young. We also included Berkan's song "Samanyolu" (Milky Way) which came out in 1966 and was possibly the most unforgettable classic of Turkish pop. Another point worth mentioning is that original compositions written in Turkish now became more popular, even though their style was still that of the covers. That is, composition and lyric production had begun to take root. Names like Baris Manço, Erkin Koray, Mogollar and Cem Karaca, though some of them came in via the competitions, were the shining youth of the late 60s. We included Manço's "Kol Dügmesi" (Cuff button), Koray's "Anma Arkadas" (Don't mention it, friend), Karaca's "Resimdeki Gözyaslari" (The tears in the picture) and the Mogollar's "Dag ve Çocuk" (The mountain and the child) on the site as examples that display the sensitivity of Anatolian-pop. Along with these, Kamuran Akkor's "Ask Eski Bir Yalan" (Love is an old lie), Erol Büyükburç's "Altin Tasta Üzüm Var" (Grapes in a golden bowl) and Beyaz Kelebekler's "Bütün Asklar Tatli Baslar" (All loves start out sweet) were each pop classics that made their mark on the period. One of the latest talents of this period, Hümeyra, was immortalized with her song "Kördügüm" (Unsolvable). Timur Selçuk, for his part, though not really fitting within either of the abovementioned camps of pop, made waves with his compositions set to lyrics by master poets. And of course we included Selçuk's "Ispanyol Meyhanesi" on the site. The last classic of the 60s on the site is "Gel Desen Gelemem ki" (Even if you tell me to come, I can't) by Yasar Güvenir, who is no longer with us today, but made great contributions to Turkish popular western music.
Sources: (*) Orhan Kahyaoglu (http://www.turkishmusicportal.org)