Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 19, 2007

Turkish music on WDR in Germany

Filed under: music,Turkey — louisproyect @ 8:27 pm

I have been meaning to say something about German Radio WDR’s Turkish Language programming, which is about 80 percent music and 20 percent news and phone calls from listeners. You can listen to it from Itunes. Just select Radio from the main menu and then International from the radio menu. Once you are there, select News and Music in the Turkish language from Funkhaus Europa, a nickname for WDR. It is simply some of the most fantastic music on the scene today.

Unlike some “World Music” that has broken through to Western markets, Turkish music is pretty much beneath the radar. To an extent, this is a function of the refusal of some of the major artists, including megastar Tarkan who looks a bit like Prince, to tailor their music to foreign ears. You will never hear Tarkan record with Peter Gabriel or David Byrne, nor will you find him including token English language lyrics in the way that Youssou N’Dour does. This does not mean that Turkish pop music is insular. You can not go for more than 10 minutes without hearing a Turkish version of salsa, flamenco or Greek-style Rembétika (keeping in mind, of course, that there was a very large Greek population in Turkey until the ethnic cleansing of the 1920s.)

One of the most interesting examples of Turkish musical cosmopolitanism was Dario Moreno, a Jew born as David Arugete in Izmir in 1921. He died of a heart attack in Istanbul in 1968 and was buried in Israel against his wishes. With albums like “Granada- Adios Amigos”, “Bossa Nova” and “Calypso” to his credit, you can get a sense of his eclecticism. Here’s Moreno performing “Mustafa” from an old movie. It’s pretty campy but a pure delight in the Carmen Miranda vein.

One of the songs I’ve been hearing a lot on WDR is “Bulamadim” (I couldn’t find you) by Ibrahim Tatlises. Tatlises is a hugely popular “Arabesque” performer, which as the name implies is music in the Arabic style. The Youtube video gives you a sense of the over-the-top histrionics of the Arabesque style, which dominates Turkish television. It is the music of the recent Anatolian arrivals to Istanbul, the poor and devout masses who tend to vote AKP. My wife and in-laws really have very little use for Arabesque, which grates on Kemalist sensibilities.

Much of the music is in the sleek style pioneered by Tarkan, which mixes American rock-and-roll with traditional Turkish harmonies. Here’s an outstanding Tarkan performance on Youtube.

Anybody who doesn’t love Tarkan must have something wrong with them.

Finally, the station features “classic” music from the 1980s, including tunes by Sezen Aksu. In a review of “Crossing the Bridge”, a documentary on Turkish music, I cited an article that discussed her political commitments, as well as her great musicianship:

The release of a new album by one of Turkey’s biggest pop stars has prompted a debate on how far Turks dare go in acknowledging their diverse ethnic and religious origins – especially when rebel Kurds are fighting for their own state and the secular establishment feels threatened by Islamic fundamentalism.

The album by the female singer Sezen Aksu entitled “Light Rises in the East” has sold nearly 500,000 copies since it was launched two months ago.

Accompanied by folk musicians of Greek, Armenian, Kurdish, Arab and Gypsy origin, the singer has controversially attempted to fuse Turkey’s mixed ethnic heritage in music. Newspapers have called the album a political call for unity. Ms Aksu says she is hurt by the thought of “valuable parts of this country being broken into pieces”.

(The Guardian, September 13, 1995)

Sezen Aksu, like Dario Moreno and Ibrahim Tatlises, is well represented on Youtube. I would recommend a look at her performance of “İstanbul Hatırası” (Istanbul Memories), which is from “Crossing the Bridge.”

If you enjoy this music, I urge you to rent “Crossing the Bridge” from Netflix that I reviewed here. Also, tune in WDR Turkish programming on Itunes. I promise you that you will really be knocked out by it.


Here’s advice on how to listen to Turkish radio on the Internet without bothering with Itunes from Marxmail subscriber Lüko Willms:

WDR is directly at <http://www.wdr.de>. Serving the largest of the federal states, WDR is the largest radio and TV station in Germany.

“Funkhaus Europa” is No. 6 of the six radio programmes broadcast by WDR. You can get directly to it at <http://www.funkhauseuropa.de>. From there you can select the various languages used, Türkçe, Serbo-Croat, Italiano, Russian, and Kurdish.

The Turkish programming is on the web at <http://www.kolnradyosu.net> or <http://www.funkhauseuropa.de/koelnradyosunet.m3u>

Listen online to the current programming of Funkhaus Europa: <http://www.wdr.de/wdrlive/radio.phtml?channel=fhe> and select between Real Audio and formats for Windows Media player.

If you like Funkhaus Europa, you might like also Radio Multikulti of Berlin, available at http://www.multikulti.de with even more languages and the live stream at <http://www.multikulti.de/_/beitrag_jsp/activeid=719.html>



  1. Thanks for the tip, Louis. You have one of the most eclectic and informative blogs on the internet. I think I followed a crooked timber link here a long time ago, and I’ve hardly read them since, whereas I check this site every day.

    Comment by Nathan — July 20, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  2. Anybody who doesn’t love Tarkan must have something wrong with them.

    It’s True. I remember the first time I heard his music. I didn’t understand a word of it. But I really loved it. It was something called Sikidim. I didn’t know who he was. I thought he may be an arabic musician. The man is fascinating.
    And Nathan is right too. This is indeed one of the most eclectic and informative blogs on the web.

    Comment by Ajit — July 21, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

  3. For anyone who wants to try online rather than via Itunes, I’m thinking this is the link for the net cast:


    Comment by Chuckie K — July 22, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: