Turkish pop music

Turkish pop music

Music of Turkey
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Turkish pop music had its humble beginnings in the late 1950s with Turkish cover versions of a wide range of imported popular styles, including rock and roll, tango, and jazz. This wide collection of songs were labelled as "Hafif-batı" (light western) music and included a wide range of artists, such as Frank Sinatra to Doris Day, Nat King Cole to the Everly Brothers, from Elvis Presley to Paul Anka.

Turkish artists began to produce English language cover versions of these songs and write their own too, and the first original song of this type is credited to Erol Büyükburç in 1958 for his song Little Lucy,[1] which was released as a 10-inch single known as a taş plak.

With the emergence of 7-inch (45 rpm) single records in Turkey soon after, listening and distribution of this type of media was easier and thus the sound became more popular.[1]


One of the founders of Turkish pop music, Erol Büyükburç
Büyükburç felt that the popularity of this trend would be limited until the Western song lyrics were translated into Turkish, and suggested to composer Fecri Ebcioğlu that he pen some Turkish lyrics to an English tune.[2] In 1962, the first Western popular melody with Turkish lyrics was released, İlham Gencer's "Bak Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş" (Look Once Upon A Time) [3] and the foundation was set for the mergence of a new genre. The modern technique of musical arrangements was also attributed to this era, with Western songs arranged into more oriental sounding motifs for the Turkish ear.

The genre got its name in 1964 with the release of duo Tülay German and Erdem Buri's single "Yarının Şarkısı" (Tomorrow's Song). On the record's sleeve they coin the term "Turkish pop music", indicating that their product was indicative of things to come.

Musicologists document that the first original composition was released in 1967 by Paris trained Timur Selçuk, the son of famous classicist Münir Nurettin Selçuk, called "Ayrılanlar İçin" For Those Departed.[1] The vehicle for Turkish pop was often film, and singers such as Gönül Yazar became icons of the time, though their films were rarely seen outside Turkey.

1970s - 1980s

Turkish pop music became very popular in the 1970s with female stars such as Ajda Pekkan and Sezen Aksu reaching superstar status domestically.

With her song writing talent, Aksu is credited with giving Turkish pop its unique sound, which is emulated across the Arabic countries. It was arguably this sound that changed the face of the Eurovision song contest when Sertab Erener won the Eurovision Song Contest 2003. Today Aksu is considered to be the matriarch of Turkish pop music. In the first half of the 1990s, female singer-songwriters such as Nazan Öncel and Yıldız Tilbe became very popular in Turkey.

The genre took a huge dip in popularity with the emergence of Arabesque music. However, with Aksu backing emerging stars such as Sertab and Tarkan in the early 1990s, Turkish pop came back from the brink. In particular, Tarkan's song Şımarık, which was both written and composed by Aksu, was a hit in Europe and Latin America in 1999.

As in the 1950s, it again took inspiration from newer styles that had emerged, such as hip hop, heavy metal and reggae.

Mainstream pop

Turkish pop music is now everywhere, whether it's the latest from Tarkan, female singer/songwriter Sezen Aksu, or the more radical sounds of the Turkish club underground, like Mercan Dede.

Interestingly, the fusion of sounds work so well that Turkish pop music does not sound as Westernised as Indian or Indonesian pop even though it does include global influences such as technological developments from the west, western harmonies grafted onto folk songs, influences from Arabic music and, of course, American-influenced rap and hip-hop from artists such as Erci-E.

In the early 90s, Turkish gangster rap surged in popularity as artists such as Gokturk "G-Force" Sevinc influenced a younger generation newly exposed to Americas "West-Coast" culture. Gokturk had a string of hits including the #1 single "Istanbul G's" however fell from grace in the mid 90s due to a well publicised falling out with collaborator Erci-E.

Many music critics argue that the surge of Turkstar (Pop Idol) type competitions on Turkish TV has only added to the pop industry's shallow image, and is cited as the reason why underground and reactionary music is becoming more popular.

Notable Performers



Demet Akalın · Bengü · Sıla Gençoğlu
Hande Yener · Atiye Deniz · Candan Erçetin


Murat Boz · Mustafa Ceceli · Emre Aydın
Rafet El Roman · Tarkan · Kenan Doğulu


Mor ve Ötesi · Manga · MFÖ

YouTube views

This is the view numbers official artist accounts in YouTube. Artist accounts are must be specified on notes section.

List of most viewed Turkish pop music videos on YouTube
Rank Artist(s) Title Year Views Notes
1 Soner Sarıkabadayı "Kutsal Toprak" 2013 21,537,877 From PDND Music's official account.
2 Sıla "Yoruldum" 2012 19,128,568
3 Mabel Matiz "Aşk Yok Olmaktır" 2012 19,099,172
4 Gülşen "Yatcaz Kalkcaz Ordayım" 2013 17,493,530
5 Tarkan "Dudu" 2003 16,831,716
6 Murat Dalkılıç "Bir Hayli" 2013 14,225,916 From Murat Dalkılıç's official YouTube account MuratDalkılıçTR
7 Yalın "Olmasa da Olur" 2012 13,999,705
8 Bengü "Yaralı" 2012 11,177,042
9 Demet Akalın "Türkan" 2012 11,100,360
10 Emre Kaya "Teşekkür Ederim" 2013 10,267,494
11 Ayşe Hatun Önal "Çak Bir Selam" 2014 9,377,127 From aysehatunVEVO official account.
12 Gökhan Tepe "Adı Aşk Olsun" 2013 9,148,790 From GokhanTepeVEVO official account.
13 Murat Dalkılıç "Neyleyim İstanbul'u" 2013 8,799,290 From Murat Dalkılıç's official YouTube account.
14 Leyla The Band "Yokluğunda" 2013 7,064,230 From Leyla The Band official YouTube account.
15 Berkay "İzmirli" 2013 6,813,493 From PollProductionWeb official account.
16 Kenan Doğulu feat. Ozan Doğulu "Kız Sana Hayran" 2013 6,750,709
17 Hande Yener "Ya Ya Ya Ya" 2013 5,167,347
18 Mustafa Ceceli "Aman" 2012 4,927,359
19 Mustafa Ceceli "Limon Çiçekleri" 2009 4,832,361 From TurkcePopVideos account.
20 Gülşen "Irgalamaz Beni" 2013 1.028,737 From Gülşen's official YouTube account.
Last update: 16 August, 2014


  1. ^ a b c Turkish pop history
  2. ^ Naim Dilmener A fact revealed in this newspaper report with renowned Turkish pop musicologist Naim Dilmener.
  3. ^ Translations kindly provided by Ali Yildirim.


  • Turkish Music and Artists
  • Crossing The Bridge at IMDB
  • (Turkish) Can Dündar - Hey gidi günler!
  • (Turkish) Recent Turkish Pop Music and Artists

Further reading

  • Dilmener, Naim (2006). Bak Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş: Hafif Türk Pop Tarihi (Look Once Upon A Time: History of Light Turkish Pop Music). İletişim Yayınevi.