If you ever want to become an international lightning rod, just say something nasty about women as a gender. Racist comments are bad, but sexist comments will land you in an even deeper trench because there are a hell of a lot more women in the world than members of any race. Unfortunately, many cultures still don't give the ladies the attention they deserve. We were still surprised to hear Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan badmouthing the fairer Turks, even considering his previous history of making head-shaking statements.
"You cannot bring women and men into equal positions," he said, presumably while listening to Quiet Riot. "That is against nature because their nature is different."
Although our efforts to get a hashtag #NotAllMiddleEasternLeaders started didn't go so well, we gathered a short list of many, many Turkish music performers that have found success despite their nature being so different.
We'll be honest: Turkey is not the only place where women are held down, in terms of music just about anything. İdil Biret was such a radiating talent that even Turkish leaders nearly 45 years ago couldn't ignore it. They passed a special resolution to allow the piano prodigy to train at the Conservatoire de Paris from which she went on to perform with the London Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Leningrad Philharmonic, you name it. Between serving as a judge at esteemed piano competitions and playing headlining concerts, she managed to find time to record the entirety of Brahms and Chopin's discographies.
You can argue that pop music often results in the reinforcement of stereotypes and may be a negative thing for women overall, but it also gives women such as Sezen Aksu a platform that they might never have gotten. Aksu was one of the driving forces behind the rise of Turkish popular music during the '70s and promoted the nation's entry into the Eurovision Song Contest during that era. She didn't lose any acclaim over the years either: Her 2005 album Bahane is the bestselling album by a female performer from Turkey ever (albeit only the no. 6 bestselling effort overall for the nation).
Yıldız Tilbe gets special credit for being one of the bestselling pop stars in Turkish history without entirely dropping the background it comes from, often saluting the nation's folk history in her lyrics and keeping traditional instruments on hand for her performances. Unfortunately, despite her role in boosting female profiles in music, she's a major offender when it comes to dropping racially-tinged comments, generally aimed at Israel, going as far as to praise Hitler for his actions against the Jewish people. More raw members of the Justice and Development Party (of which Erdogan is a member) showed support for her comments.
You can't keep a good performer down, even when they're in prison. Although this is more often applied to rappers such as Tupac Shakur and Ol' Dirty Bastard, Deniz Seki might be up to the level of the former. Seki, despite her pop vocal abilities, is known foremost for an affair she had with an established clarinet player. Adding onto that, she was sentenced to six years of prison during 2012 for trafficking cocaine. That hasn't stopped her from getting to no. 2 on the Turkish charts with her hit "İyisin Tabi." So, just so we're clear: Rick Ross has never trafficked any narcotics. This Turkish pop star has.
Nükleer Başlıklı Kız
Yes, female musicians in Turkey are involved in more genres than just pop. One great example is Nükleer Başlıklı Kız ("Nuclear-Headed Girl"). It's a group mainly made up of Billur Yapıcı (male) and Tansel Tuna (female). The best part, and we don't mean to include all American bands in this generalization: Tuna is the guitarist and Yapıcı is the vocalist. Women have beautiful voices yada yada but we're tired of guys trying to claim that gals are only fit to play bass or drums in bands, therefore we love seeing a woman handling the axe.