I type on my keyboard as I listen to the most played song in Turkey, “Sen Olsan Bari” by Aleyna Tilki.
I once again think of how much I hate this song. There’s something in Tilki’s voice and in the beat of the song that annoys me. I pause the song, feeling ashamed of the crime I’ve committed by listening to it and walk towards the kitchen to prepare myself some coffee.
“Sen olsan barii, sen olsan barii, ooo sen olsan barii, sen olsan bariiii!”
I repeat the chorus in my head as I’m pouring milk into my mug. “Stop it!” I have to instruct my neural pathways to stop this song from spreading like a virus inside my precious brain, which has neither time nor energy to perceive this nonsense.
However, the song never stops. It’s everywhere. In the car, at school, at the shopping mall… There’s no escape from Aleyna; there’s no escape from “Sen Olsan Bari”.
Aleyna Tilki, born on March 28, 2000, is considered to be Turkey’s musical genius of the 21st century. I have to admit that I respect her. I respect her because, despite the fact that we’re both 17, she’s already achieved financial independence and is considerably famous.
This leads me to two very important questions:
- What am I doing with my life?
- What does she owe her success to?
I think that the second question would be interesting to discuss in this blog post.
When I first listened to Tilki, I didn’t take her seriously. She was becoming more and more popular throughout the year, but her work simply didn’t appeal to me.
I started to realize how great of an impact she had on Turkey when I visited a small village in Eskişehir. I asked some girls, who were playing hopscotch, about their favorite artist, and they replied with the name I was most scared to hear:
After I saw the glow in their eyes when they talked about how much they loved her and her music, I was amazed by Tilki’s influence. Three of the girls sang her song, not missing a single line. How could’ve Tilki reached out to the 8-year-old girls of a small village in Turkey, which a few people probably know of, that could barely afford cell phones or the internet?
Tilki, started her music career when she was 14. She was rejected numerous times from Turkey’s Got Talent, but after she finally got accepted and performed, the jury found her voice to be unique.
At 16, she produced her first song with Emrah Karaduman, a somewhat known musician, and everyone started listening to her music.
Okay, her voice may be decent, however, I believe that there are two other factors that lead to her success.
First of all, her music is smartly constructed. The melody is unlike the usual Turkish song, but rather an adaptation of electronic music to Turkish pop. My generation is highly influenced by the American culture, so her songs could be seen innovative to the sense that they consist of elements from both Turkish and American music, satisfying the taste of her audience. Also, the lyrics rhyme and the chorus is repeated in various pitches, which allows Tilki to permanently record the song to our memories.
Secondly, her image sells. Having Balkan genes, she’s blonde, unlike most Turkish people. She’s like a beautiful big sister, which probably makes her even more admirable from the perspectives of the 8 year-olds I met in Eskisehir. Also, unlike most artists in the music industry, she’s pretty young. She’s an energetic soul in an industry that is dominated by middle-aged artists whom our moms used to listen to when they were pregnant to us. These traits enable her to stand out in the crowd and appeal to the dynamic population of Turkey.
However, her music videos have been regarded controversial due to the way she dresses and the way she dances. Turkey is still a pretty conservative country. Considering this fact, when Tilki, 17, wears a crop top and tight jeans, dancing seductively to the beat, we shouldn’t be surprised by the hate she gets. (Now thinking of it, my grandma wouldn’t probably approve of her.) I believe that Turkey is still in the adaptation phase to Western trends, and it could take quite a while for Tilki’s popularity to spread among older generations.
All in all, although I felt quite offended when my favorite Turkish pop artist from the 60’s, Ajda Pekkan, announced that Aleyna Tilki could be the next “Ajda”, I have to admit that Tilki is good at what she’s doing. Since I’ve actually spent the time writing a blog post on her, she’s probably pretty good at what she’s doing.
She may have, in fact, started a new era in the Turkish music industry, while I was busy solving SAT practice tests.
“Sen Olsan Bari”:
Warning: Highly addictive