In its history of half-a-century, Turkish pop music has always had close ties with Western tunes. When music from the West found its way into its modern culture, the Turkish pop music emerged rather in a mediocre way with simple conversions of popular Western tunes. They were entertaining but swam on the surface, distanced from the folk tunes of Anatolia.
Yet, in late 1960s and early 1970s, the people of Anatolia began moving toward metropolitan areas and they brought along their traditions, lifestyles and music. That's how Anatolian folk tunes began making their way into popular music, blending with rock formation, and creating a brand new genre, Anatolian pop/rock.
The pioneers of the genre that came to be called Anatolian pop/rock were two singers, Tulay German and Alpay. . In 1964, at that year's Balkan Melodies Festival, German established the arrival of a unique type of music with her highly acclaimed single "Burcak Tarlasi" (The Vetch Field).
The Golden Microphone lights a spark
The 1970s brought a sharp increase in the number of new bands, but this time with a different style. Another source of motivation had emerged. The Golden Microphone contest, sponsored by the daily Hurriyet which began in 1965, became the springboard for the rise of new bands and their quest to reach out to Anatolia. This contest was mainly a tour of Anatolia, allowing people not living in the big cities to be exposed to pop music, which in turn inspired many young musicians to create highly original songs.
The Golden Microphone contest was an attempt to guide Turkish music in a new direction: in a statement put on the record sleeve of the collection of the contest songs, it was proclaimed that the contest "has been organized in order to give a new direction to Turkish music through applying the rich techniques and forms of Western music and using Western musical instruments."
The instant popularity of this new Anatolian pop/rock music was connected to the fact that the music now was being separated from elite artists. The judges of the Golden Microphone contest consisted of the audience at the concert, the public. The musicians had to cater to the taste of the audience; and that meant including more Anatolian folk tunes in the songs. This was enough to light a spark.
The Golden Microphone was a milestone in the history of Turkish pop music. Through the years, the contest served as a vehicle of success for many singers and musicians in a deadlocked period. Among those who claimed their fame through this contest were Cem Karaca, Selcuk Alagoz, Baris Manco and Asim Ekren.
A recent book on Anatolian pop/rock
One thing that the popular singers had in common in the 1970s, despite the differences in their music, was that they were well-educated, came from the upper-middle class and big cities. They had mastered Western music in form and content, they had performed it without much creativity but rather as regurgitation, and finally they had come to embrace unity with Anatolia, both musically and culturally. Some names like Humeyra, Fikret Kizilok and Esin Afsar were openly taken from renowned folk poets like Asik Veysel and Yunus Emre.
Throughout the decades, Anatolian pop/rock evolved into a different form, although many names have been long forgotten, a few cult names like Cem Karaca, Erkin Koray and the band Mogollar keep the era alive. The 1990s signaled the revival of the genre with names like Nekropsi, Cemali, Fuat Saka and Zugasi Berepe as the best examples.
A recent book by music and movie critic Cumhur Canbazoglu, “Kentin Türküsü: Anadolu Pop-Rock” (The Folk Song of the City: Anatolian Pop-Rock) sheds further light on the history of the genre. In this work, a product of years of research in an arena where it’s nearly impossible to access resources, Canbazoglu offers the most detailed analysis to date for a new generation who do not have much insight into the emergence and impact of this genre in Turkish pop music. The book is in Turkish, but if you’d like to get a taste of a crucial genre in Turkey’s pop music, get the CDs of some of the promising new young names and a few of the classics.
Suggested online video links
Alpay – Eylulde Gel
Cem Karaca – Bu Son Olsun