Pop music has a nearly 60-year-old past in Turkey. However, it feels like the hype of pop is fading nowadays, and I can say that the quality of new songs going down is a big reason for this. But there are some who are still around to give us some taste of quality pop. Question is, how did we get to where we are now in the industry?
Pop music started to form in Turkey when arrangements (another article that mentions this era: https://www.turquazz.com/music/popular/being-a-modern-asik-in-turkey/) became popular. The first arrangement was “Bak Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş”, which Fecri Ebcioğlu wrote Turkish lyrics to the melody of Bob Azzam’s “C’est Ecrit, Dans Le Ciel” in 1963. Before Ebcioğlu wrote the lyrics, Turkish Pop was just an attempt of Erol Büyükburç in releasing “Little Lucy” and that was it. Some say “Bak Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş” was the beginning of Turkish Pop. I remember finding this song on my family’s old cassettes in the 2000s and playing it on repeat when I was a kid.
In the ‘70s, with the debut of Ajda Pekkan, who is known as the “superstar” of Turkey, as well as Barış Manço, Sezen Aksu, Kayahan, Tanju Okan, İlhan İrem, and many more, Turkish Pop gained the momentum it needed. The decision to compete in Eurovision also had a huge impact (https://www.turquazz.com/music/popular/turkeys-eurovision-adventure/).
The ‘90s were the golden age of Turkish Pop. Too many artists made their debut in those years to count, but the most important ones were Tarkan, Yonca Evcimik, Sertab Erener, Nazan Öncel, Hakan Peker, Yaşar… After Ajda Pekkan, Tarkan gained the title of “Megastar”, and his star never faded out, like Pekkan.
Turkish Pop was initially pop mixed with Turkish Folk, which was called Pop Folk. The transition to pure pop happened with Sezen Aksu’s song “Hadi Bakalım”, and Yonca Evcimik’s song “Abone”. The ‘90s were the cassette era of Turkish Pop, and the highest grossingcassette was also Yonca Evcimik’s “Abone”. Music videos and stage performances were also more popular, and lots of radio stations and music channels were established. Some of the composers carrying that era were Onno Tunç, Aysel Gürel, Atilla Özdemiroğlu, Uzay Heparı, Garo Mafyan.
Like the ‘80s, a lot of artists couldn’t last until the 2000s. Most important debuts of the 2000s were Hande Yener, Hepsi, Nil Karaibrahimgil, Gökhan Özen… Hande Yener brought new life into Turkish Pop when she established Electronic Pop.
In mid 2000s, digital pirating spread a lot, and this was the end for many musicians; the number of albums or songs that could be released decreased with time.
In today’s Turkish Pop, my personal favorite would be Bedük with his electronic style, and another mentionable name would be Edis. Aleyna Tilki is in the game for the title of next pop star, but I don’t think she will be as big as Tarkan or Ajda Pekkan. I believe the reason why there isn’t one big star anymore is that music became much more accessible like everything else with technology and social media, so one person can’t stand out like before. Another reason is how musicians focused more and more on what sells, and it brought us to a point where it doesn’t sell as it used to be. That is why most people prefer listening to old Turkish Pop rather than new releases. I would love to see some new artists taking over the flag with quality pop music, and I’m hoping to see myself mistaken if a new pop star is born, the one we have been waiting for, for years.