ESC 2010 Reviews: Turkey
Playing last in the second semifinal will be Turkey, a country that’s geographically located in both Europe and Asia. By population and area, it is the second-largest country participating in Eurovision (after Germany and Russia, respectively), and they’re currently trying to get into the European Union. All of this, plus the recent influx of Turkish migration to other countries in Western Europe, makes for an interesting dynamic in the context of Eurovision.
As to be expected of a country with a population of over seventy million (approximately the populations of California, Texas, and New York combined), the musical scene in Turkey is pretty varied and diverse. Their Eurovision entries have seen influences of traditional Middle Eastern sounds, pop, ska, and (this year) hip-hop-infused rock.
Turkey entered Eurovision in 1975, but came in last place with “Seninle Bir Dakika (One Minute with You)“, a somewhat vanilla and maudlin ballad. Five years later, they sent local superstar Ajda Pekkan to sing “Pet’r Oil“, a vaguely hidden metaphor about oil production. And in 1987, my favorite “Nul Points” entry ever burned its way into our collective eye sockets: Seyyal Taner and Grup Lokomotif with “Şarkım Sevgi Üstüne (My Song is About Love)“…so much fringe, so little time…
Up until 1997, Turkish entries never cracked the Top Five, and only made it to the Top Ten once. However, Şebnem Paker & Group Etnik broke down that door in Dublin with “Dinle (Listen)“, a beautiful, traditionally-inspired number that took them all the way to third place behind the UK and Ireland in one of the last years that countries were mandated to sing in their own official languages. (Because of this rule, songs in English often had a bit of an advantage, as they were more universally understood, unlike a song in Turkish, which had less of a linguistic reach).
Six years later, Turkey took home its first (and, so far, only) Eurovision victory, with Sertab Erener’s “Everyway That I Can“, another ethnopop song, complete with belly dancing and a rap break. Since then, Turkey’s been almost unstoppable, with four Top Ten finishes, three of which were Top 5. On home soil for the first time in 2004, they sent ska-rockers Athena to carry the flag with “For Real“, a complete departure from the hip-shaking goodness they had won with.
It was the first time that Turkey reached for Rock, but it definitely wasn’t the last. My all-time favorite entry from Turkey was their 2008 offering, alt-rockers Mor ve Ötesi’s “Deli (Crazy)“. Scoring a respectable 7th place (strong, considering it was sung entirely in Turkish), the song made enough of an impression on me that not only have I collected Mor ve Ötesi’s entire catalogue of work, but I’ve actually started to learn Turkish (slowly!).
Turkey, like many countries in the eastern portion of the Eurovision world, tends to take the contest pretty seriously. Since 2003, contestants have been hand-selected by broadcaster TRT to participate, and the network generally picks well-known and well-respected artists. Speculation from local fans generates wildly in the weeks leading up to the official announcement from the Powers that Be, and this year was no different. Some fans claimed that the offer would go to Tarkan, best known for his international smash “Şımarık“. Others said that it would go to Şebnem Ferah, one of the reigning queens of Turkish Rock. Finally, TRT announced that their representatives would be maNga, with their song “We Could Be The Same”.
maNga is actually pretty well-known on the European stage. They recently took home the MTV Europe Music Award for “Best European Act”, an award decided by a public vote (they actually beat Dima Bilan, Eurovision winner for Russia in 2008). They tour heavily, and work hard; lead singer Ferman Akgül recently collapsed on stage during their promotional tour (he’s fine, kids!).
No major Eurovision power is without its controversy, however. Up until recently, Turkey was under the disadvantage of having no allies in the ESC, in terms of Bloc Voting. However, with Azerbaijan in the contest, top scores have flown back and forth between the two countries regularly. Furthermore, Turkish residents in countries like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France have also been voting for their homelands, so while these nations are geographically far from Ankara and Istanbul, their support is generally pretty strong. Because of this support, and the high quality of “We Could Be The Same”, I’m almost positive that they’ll sail through to the finals, and will possibly make it to the Top 5.
But, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to my new Mor ve Ötesi album, just released last week. Yay! 😀