Protest Music from Gezi Park

If you walk around the music aisles in a Turkish music shop, you’ll come across a section called Protest Music.  Typically, Protest Music bands are leftist bands with a huge following, especially in high schools and universities.  The music is a crossover between folk and rock and the lyrics are about freedom, repression and uprising, capitalism and the oppressed, and the revolution that never comes.  It’s customary to say anti-American slogans here and there.  The male singers always have a what we call Davidian voice (meaning deep and husky a la Barry White) and the females usually sing nasally with a high pitch.

Group Yorum is one of the most famous and here’s a link to their concert in Inonu Stadium in Istanbul during the summer of 2010 replete with a symphonic orchestra and a choir for their 25th anniversary.  There were about 55.000 in the audience.  Notice how everyone in the audience knows the lyrics.  During their concerts they perform their owns songs as well as universal socialist songs such as Bella Ciao.

But in this case when I say Protest Music I mean something else.  I’m adding some videos below which are all about the protests but would not be filed under this genre.  Maybe it can be said that just like the people, music genres are also uniting to protest against the PM and his government during the Summer of 2013. The lyrics have been translated by myself, apologies to the poets for any lost beauty.

Tencere Tava Havası by Kardeş Türküler
Kardeş Türküler is a brilliant band famous for songs with a modernised Anatolian flavour.  Their name means (Anatolian) Folk Songs of Fraternity and this song is called The Pot and Pan Song.  The band was founded as an offshoot of the Boğaziçi University Turkish Folk Dances Club and they sing in Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Armenian.  Their high quality music has many fans, mostly from the liberals and leftists.

This song is played with pots and pans which are instruments used by housewives every evening at 21:00 to protest what’s going on after the protests of Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul.  There are English subtitles to the lyrics.  Please do not miss the Istanbul cats performing (as themselves) in the video.  The gawky penguins (also performing as themselves) are a reference to self censoring Turkish Media epitomised by CNN Türk showing a documentary about penguins during the first day of the riots.

Çapulcu Musun Vay Vay by Boğaziçi Caz Korosu
Boğaziçi Jazz Choir is the co-ed A Cappella singing group of Boğaziçi University.  I believe they call themselves a jazz choir so as not to be associated with religion but is a cappella as we know it.  They are the first choir to perform A Cappella in Turkey and got quite famous a few years ago with this video of a surprise concert in Istanbul Underground.

The lyrics say:
The gas masks looks reddish (1), the pepper spray is as sweet as honey,
My TOMA (2) is spraying water at me, but eventually a solution will me made.
The people have risen and the roads to Taksim are barricaded.

Are you a looter (3), are you a demonstrator?
The gas masks have various shapes, I’m demonstrating for Taksim
Don’t be lazy, it’s for your rights, a solution will be found.
The people have risen and the roads to Taksim are barricaded.
The gas masks have various shapes, The Gezi Park is as old as yourself,
This pot, this spoon and fork…
A solution will be found, the people have risen, the roads to Taksim are barricaded.
Are you a looter, are you a demonstrator?

(1) I know this sounds silly, they have kept this part from the original love song which would be recognised by locals.
(2) TOMA is an abbreviation for an armoured riot police vehicle.  You’ll see many in the videos in this post.
(3) Looter or çapulcu in Turkish is what the PM called the demonstrator.  In a very clever way, the demonstrators have turned the meaning inside out, being proud of being a looter.  You’ll see that many Twitter accounts have the word çapulcu as an adjective.  

Eyvallah by Duman
Duman is the Turkish Pearl Jam.  They were formed about the same time as Pearl Jam (their original name was Mad Madame) and they were influenced by the Seattle Grunge sound as well as Turkish Folk Music.

Duman have created their own unique sound in Turkish Rock Music especially in the vocal style of their lead singer Kaan Tangoze who also writes their songs.  They are one of the most popular rock bands in Turkey, also known for their political stance critical of the government.  One of their songs about religious corruption in Turkey resulted in a few of their concerts being cancelled due to threats they received from fundamentalist groups.

The lyrics say:
Bring it on: the pepper gas, bludgeons, sticks, and the best of the kicks,
Attack me with no frills, my eyes burn but I’m not subsided, I’m no less.
I said: I’m still free, I’m still right up, I’m still a man; tell me, will I give up?
Bring it on: the pepper gas, bludgeons, sticks, and the best of the kicks,
Bring it on: the slap on the face, the grudge on the lips.  Cheers to you all.
Raise your hands in defiance, have no fear.
The squares are ours, the fields are ours.
We said: we’re still free, we’re still right up, we’re still men; tell me, will we give up?
Bring it on: the pepper gas, bludgeons, sticks, and the best of the kicks,
Bring it on: the slap on the face, the grudge on the lips.  Cheers to you all.

Oy Oy Recebum by Marsis
Marsis is a band that takes its name from the summit of the Kaçkar Mountains in the Black Sea region of Turkey.  They write and perform Black Sea Rock Music using some traditional Black Sea instruments such as kemenche and sing them with a Black Sea accent (which sounds like an American speaking Turkish).

Oy Oy Recebum is a joyful remake of Oy Oy Emine, a very popular love song arranged many times before especially by soccer fans.  This time it’s been altered for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister.

The lyrics say:
You said you’d do as you like, you would tear this down and sell that
Were you blind oh my dear Recep?  Why didn’t you see us?
We said stop but you hit us anyway, calling us bandits
We said stop but you hit us anyway, callus us looters
One day oh my dear Recep, those looters will come after you.
The world will turn upside down, come to the sound of Gezi (Park)
Did you think the people are a herd of sheep? Oh my dear Recep, one day they will stampede over you
You said this and you said that, your promises were never kept
Look over here my dear Recep, can you count how many we are?

Güya by Nazan Öncel
Nazan Öncel is a popular singer-songwriter known for her melancholic style and her appropriate use of Turkish slang in her unique style of highbrow Turkish pop music.

The lyrics say:
You could’ve listened to me once, you might even have trusted me,
Ask me once, what do I want?  Hold on, maybe I’m right.
You branded these looters and drunkards, how did you know?
Forget about this crap, come to your point.
Come to see us in Gezi (Park) and say something nice for a change.
So you are with me I hear, you like me I hear.  What lies!.
So things are going well I hear, life is rosy I hear.  What lies!
We’ve been battered, pushed around and scolded up to now,
Emek’s been (1) demolished, so have our dreams. What’s next?
So I’m such and such I hear, he’s so and so I hear.
I’m OK the way I am.
Take away your hoodlums with batons

(1) A historic cinema theatre that was demolished after protests

Everyday I’m Chapuling
This is a remake of the song called Party Rock Anthem (Everyday I’m Shuffling) by LMFAO.  This text is from the about section of the video:

The accompanying “Everyday I’m Çapuling!” video is designed to disarm the word by showing protesters engaged in non-looting activities that aim to counter Erdogan’s use of the loaded term.  PM Erdogan refused to listen to protesters’ demands at Taksim Gezi Park. Instead, he called them çapulcular (looters).  The Turkish word “çapul” has many meanings, including pillage; rage; plunder and booty to spoil; foray; root; and maraud.  In the video, it is a reference to Erdogan’s description of protesters as “looters.”

Enjoy the Teargas by Rebel K
A cover of Depeche Mode’s unforgettable Enjoy the Silence made into a Kemalist love song for Mr. Prime Minister. It’s already in English so no translation needed here. Rebel K is Kivanch K, a local music producer and a DJ.

Make sure you check out the accompanying photoshop art of the PM by bobiler.org.

Asi by Ozbi
I could not find much information on Ozbi, but he seems to be a politically minded young urban rapper kind enough to celebrate the secular holidays of atheists together with the religious holidays of muslims, yet calls himself a rude badass in a duet with Laneth, another rapper.  His poetic style reminds me of the west coast rappers after the Rodney King riots in LA.

This song is called Rebel and is dedicated to Abdullah Cömert, the 22 year old protestor who passed away during the protests in Hatay.  He died of disputed causes; some say a stray bullet, some say police violence.

The lyrics say:
Hey, I’m on my way to the resistance. A bag, a cloth and a mask with me.
I’m awake, I walk on till some cops stop me with their TOMA (1)
I rise up, I feel alive and free
I see my liberty, I’m alone but with many in this fight
Shoot me, do not blink because I’m a rebel, I rise up without holding on to my dreams
Pull the trigger, do not blink because the press fed with money will clean you up anyway.
Don’t be afraid, hold your hand steady. You’ll donate your badge when you get rich.
Your sins will be forgiven, you’ll get your heaven, your mullahs will find a way.
Know why you’re here.
I refuse the existence of this government because they insulted my freedom.
They wanted a monarchy and dictated every word.
They took revenge from others while putting my life in danger.
I ran to the streets because they lied and I heard,
They walked away free but I was the victim.
I screamed out my freedom they called me an anarchist.
I’m free, I can be an anarchist or the people as I wish.
I’m my own king, so go ahead and kill me. Do not shake, do not hesitate.
To care is to hope.
If I were a government official I’d wait for the stale bread at the end of the month.
What your bosses do is fool the others, make them believe in fate and send them away.
I don’t believe it, make me believe with your bullets.
Threaten me with death and make me a part of society.
If you’re under pressure, put the gun against my head you worship the US dollar.
It’s easy to be strong when you have the means.
While you bend over for money and become a hero you call gays sinners.
I don’t like being depressed and to whine.
C’mon pull the trigger stop fidgeting.
I learned to speed on the streets, c’mon pull the trigger and stop fidgeting.

İnsan İnsan by Fazıl Say
Fazıl Say, the most famous pianist, composer and protestor from Turkey has composed this song to the lyrics of a traditional alevi poem called The Man, The Man written by Muyhiddin Abdal who is believed to have lived in the 16th century.  We saw Mr. Say among the protestors with his gas mask and goggles a few times.  He has also vigorously tweeted during the protests.

In April of 2013 he was convicted of insulting religion and inciting hatred for merely retweeting an Omar Khayyam poem making fun of religious hypocrisy.  A new draconian law which vaguely describes insulting beliefs proposed by the governing AKP was used for the verdict.

Be prepared to get goosebumps as you listen to this amazing song:

The lyrics say:
That which they call a man, now I know
That which they call a soul, now I know
The seeker finds it in himself
Those left outside still look for it.
That which is in the believer’s heart, the faith, now I know. (1)
That which divides one stand of hair into forty,
That which bridges the gaps,
That which is led by the wise,
The noble way act, now I know.
With the attributes, I’ve become a man.
I’ve been accoladed through might,
I’ve been one with God (2)
To be a guest in this world, now I know.
Muhiddin (3) says God is almighty, he appears in everything.
That which is evident, that which is hidden, (4)
That which is an ornament, now I know.

(1) The poem, like many Sufi poems, is about searching for God. In the Sufi tradition, God is manifested everywhere in nature, but primarily inside the seeker. This has always been considered blasphemous by more traditional Sunni interpretation of Islam.
(2) To be one with God is to find God in oneself. Misunderstood by more pious Sunni muslims as equating oneself with God and reprimanded.
(3) Muhiddin is the poet’s name.  Poets of the troubadour tradition included their names in the last stanza of the poem like a signature.
(4) In Sufi tradition, one is not supposed to show overt signs of piety, piety is in oneself between the person and God. The more important decrees of Sufism are not about praying, fasting or other deeds that can easily be seen by others but self restraint and being humble.

As I was writing this post I came across many other songs about the Taksim protests.  Here’s a list of a lot more for those interested, thanks to hikmeth for the tip.  Enjoy the music!

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