In Turkey, musicians in the sights of conversation

Published on : 25/06/2022 – 07:56Modified : 25/06/2022 – 07:53

Istanbul (AFP) – Her low-cut outfit and her feminist remarks deprived her of the stage. With her bare shoulders and tattoos, pop singer Melek Mosso is everything Turkish conservatives who are trying to take back the country’s musical life hate.

With the approach of the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for June 2023 and which promise to be perilous for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamo-conservative party, the AKP, everything is good to flatter the most conservative fringes of the electorate.

Concerts canceled, festivals banned: many Turkish musicians have been unable to take the stage in recent months due to behavior deemed “inappropriate” or because they sing in a regional language.

The town hall of Isparta (center), where Melek Mosso was to perform in early June, gave in to a conservative group who accused him of an “immoral” attitude and were moved by his dress. But his calls for women to dress and speak freely were equally targeted.

The singer denounced those who “question her morality” and promised that sooner or later she would return to sing in Turkey’s rose capital.

At the end of May, the AnadoluFest music festival in Eskisehir (center) was also banned by the governor after calls from an Islamo-conservative group which protested that “girls and boys are camping there together” and denounced ” inappropriate scenes due to the presence of alcohol,” according to local media.

“These prohibitions are unacceptable”, Judge Recep Ergul, of the Professional Union of Authors of Musical Works, who is concerned to see these circles trying “to shape society” by seeking to control culture.

“Enemy of Turkey”

Along with pop singers or idols, those who sing in minority languages ​​in Turkey are particularly targeted.

Thus, the artist of Kurdish origin Aynur Dogan, just like Niyazi Koyuncu, who sings in the languages ​​of the Black Sea, or even Metin and Kemal Kahraman, musicians of Zaza origin (Kurdish community speaking Zazaki), saw their canceled concerts.

All were deemed “inappropriate” by the AKP town halls of the cities where they were due to perform.

Apolas Lermi, whose repertoire draws on the traditional melodies of the Black Sea, has drawn the wrath of local officials after showing his solidarity with a Greek musician, Matthaios Tsahouridis, accused by Turkish nationalist circles of making “hostile” remarks to Turkey”.

Turkish singer Apolas Lermi, in Istanbul on June 7, 2022 Yasin AKGUL AFP

In May, a concert by Mr. Tsahouridis was canceled at the last minute by the football team of Trabzon (north-east), Trabzonspor, which had initially invited him to celebrate his title of Turkish champion.

Mr. Lermi then refused, out of solidarity, to go on stage.

“A politician accused me on Twitter of being an enemy of Turkey, a separatist”, deplores the singer who, in addition to a lynching suffered in the media and on social networks, saw two of his concerts canceled last minute by organizers, including one by the AKP town hall of Pamukkale (west).

These repeated cancellations were condemned at the end of May by the bars of 57 cities.

“These arbitrary decisions discriminate against languages, cultures, lifestyles and genders. (…) We reject these archaic prohibitions,” they lamented in a statement.

“Stop that!”

Bans also struck at the end of the academic year on “spring festivals” organized on campuses, causing an outcry on social networks and a surge of solidarity with the musicians targeted.

At the beginning of June, an impressive crowd thus converged on Sishane Square, in Istanbul, for a concert by Melek Mosso authorized by the opposition town hall.

Singer Melek Mosso on stage in Shishane Square in Istanbul, June 1, 2022

Singer Melek Mosso on stage in Shishane Square in Istanbul, June 1, 2022 Yasin AKGUL AFP

“They are trying to scare us and keep women out of public life. But we are not going to let them do it,” said Ezgi Aslan at the foot of the stage, who came “on purpose” to show his solidarity.

Culture Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy refutes these accusations.

“We support art and culture. Our ministry is paving the way for festivals more than ever,” he told private television.

But these bans contribute to tarnishing the image of President Erdogan among young people.

“Cancelling festivals or banning artists… Stop that!”, recently launched the mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu, one of the figures of the opposition.

“A free environment for art and culture is an elixir of youth for society. We will produce it in abundance,” he promised.

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