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Turkish Daily News 09.09.2001 42365
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Ferhat Tunç: Irreplaceable Figure of Protest Music

• Ferhat Tunc does not like politics. But he says: 'The point is not to like or dislike politics. Since life is a part of politics, we have to live with it ... In this sense, I don't think that art can be abstracted from politics and treated differently'
• 'The first songs of Ferhat Tunc very intensely reflect their "protest" character. I started this job by protesting'
• 'As an artist, it is insufficient to sing, we also have to develop the sensibilities of the people. I believe that it is necessary to raise the awareness of society and the sensitivity of the people'
• 'Taken as a whole, I think that the artist has to do what the conditions of the country where he lives require'


My Munzur, my wind, love and song
Come and rescue me
Save the wet winged birds driven away by each rain
It is known, it is ice cold outside
But for peace, fraternity and love
Still every season is spring
Every season is still spring
Every Season is Spring
--Ferhat Tunc

Ferhat Tunc is an artist who immediately identifies with his audience and sings in this way. He is not angry at all ... He takes the stage with a smile ... His first meeting with the audience is through an encounter that wants to embrace humanity ... But perhaps he is "very angry" at an incomplete or unfair news article and the rule of mediocrity which he opposed ...

If you wonder what kind of person Ferhat Tunc is, let me tell you that he is a Pisces. He likes sports and swimming in particular. He likes the sea a lot. "When I go to Ankara I miss the sea in Istanbul a lot," says Tunc. "Even though I was not born and did not grow up in Istanbul ..." He plays billiards very well and we learn that he even participated in tournaments. He plays the baglama (a plucked instrument with three double strings and a long neck): "As someone who has been composing songs for 20 years, the baglama is my main instrument, but I also play the guitar and wind instruments," he says. He likes homemade food, especially if it comes from Tunceli. He likes reading books, especially historical ones which help him analyze the past and make predictions for the future.

Ferhat Tunc is not only a very emotional but also a very sensitive person. He has internalized the social reality which he experienced. He channels his feelings into music, which may be one reason why people tell him that his songs are for the most part about pain and death. "I lived through such events, and I am someone who tries to convey his experience," says Tunc.

He is someone who does not look back on what he did and always strives to go forward. Each one of his songs has a story. "Compared to the past, I can say that I am a more objective person who looks at the world from a broad perspective. I can say that I have changed so much that I cannot be compared to who I was only five years ago," says Tunc, ready to criticize himself and to share the regrets, mistakes, happiness and pain in his simple life.

Tunc is at peace with himself for having lived with integrity even as he was thrown into the rude stream of reality from his fine world. And how does he make his songs? In his own kitchen! Everything in his life has a place in his music and the orchestra with which he has worked for four years has become his family.

He cannot stay for too long in Germany, it is as though he is genetically attached to the soil and water of his native Tunceli. If they tell him that he will stay in Frankfurt until the end of his days, he would rather die; but back in Tunceli, he enjoys his roots there. He could even establish a new life in a small village and improve his knowledge of the Zaza language, which is spoken in that region.
It is strange how rebellion and acceptance, discipline and ease merge in him. You feel the expression of pain and problems in his songs ... And the longing for nature, love, affection or a woman.
The following is the Turkish Daily New's interview with Ferhat Tunc:

TDN: How did your artistic venture start?

TUNC: I was not academically trained in music. I was born in Tunceli. The people in that geographical area narrate historical events through dirges and songs. The dirges to this sad history deeply affected me and I started to sing since I had a good voice.

In 1978-79 when social opposition was strong in Turkey, I was a child. After completing high school, I had to move abroad to join my family. I had first conceived of this as a temporary stay. Yet after the military coup in 1980, we ended up staying abroad. I coincidentally met an American reggae artist called Daniel Sumers in Frankfurt. He found my music interesting and we started to work together. I can say that my professional music career started in this way. The musical experiments with Sumers, three Germans and one Greek helped to build my music and character.

This experience helped me to get out of the monotony of my music hitherto and taught me to embellish my work with cultural motifs about plurality and multiplicity. The knowledge that I acquired developed further during my education at a college affiliated with Mainz University.

TDN: How do you define your music?

TUNC: I am someone whose roots are in folk music, and that is why I did not find it very hard to adapt to it. The media and press then developed a different definition of folk music, but this was not received very well in Turkey. The first songs of Ferhat Tunc very intensely reflect their 'protest' character. I started this job by protesting.
At a time when anti-democratic practices were rampant and there was much suffering in Turkey, I stood up in the middle of Istanbul to cry freedom. I cannot forget how I talked about democracy and freedom at a time when such words were not mentioned in Turkey. I expressed the violation of human rights through songs to the audience in the Emek Theater who had filled the hall. This had a large impact. I think that the authorities in Istanbul were surprised to hear something like this from me. Ferhat Tunc then started to encounter prohibition.

TDN: You don't only make music, and are also interested in human rights. Why did you choose such a stance when you could have comfortably made your music?

TUNC: I didn't want to be just a singer, I also wanted to be a human rights defender, especially because the conflicts and difficulties that I observed during my visits to Diyarbakir had a deep impact on me. I believe that it is not possible to know the reality of the Southeast sitting in Istanbul. It is the same thing as talking about Turkey from Germany. Artists and intellectuals have a big role to play in raising social awareness. As an artist, we ought not only to make songs but also to develop the sensibilities of the people. I believe this is absolutely necessary in order to raise the consciousness and awareness of the people.

TDN: Is music universal?

TUNC: A number of our friends in Turkey say that they compose universal music. But I have yet to hear really universal music in Turkey. We cannot abstract ourselves from developments in other parts of the world. If we are part of the world, we should correctly assess the developments in music.
There are foreign singers that I too like. But they have started to use our music techniques very intensely. They were influenced by Eastern music and started making music with our instruments. It is unfortunate that just the opposite is done in Turkey. The people who are part of the popular music craze adapt styles that have been abandoned in the West
TDN: Would it be correct to say that music styles imitate each other in a global world? What is the place of popular music in the world?

TUNC: It seems like a common culture is emerging. I of course cannot say that this can be realized very soon. It is not an independent kind of music, it is based on consumption and on meeting economic needs. Turkey has still to complete its development in the economic and social fields and we can say the same for culture. Turkey is today trying to become part of the West but I see a kind of imitation in this effort.
Especially during the past 10 years, Turkey has become removed from its essential values, culture and music. It is of course not possible to say that pop is part of Turkey's musical tradition. It was imposed.
But I know that Turkey has a very rich cultural heritage. I think the legacy of different cultures, beliefs and languages will also affect music. If this is perceived accurately, I believe that an immortal style that will catch on not only in Turkey but all over the world will emerge. This is why I don't adapt such attitudes and do not even pay much attention.

TDN: Were your love affairs reflected in your music? Did you compose a song for a woman with whom you were involved?

TUNC: I don't know, perhaps I was influenced by a very beautiful woman. I am probably very emotional. I have been impacted in some ways. Perhaps I even fell in love. But let me not say anything more, in case people understand ...

TDN: What does love mean to you?

TUNC: I cannot say that I agree with the classical definition of love. Love and affection have to do with sharing. This is love. It continues as long as people can share. Love ends when sharing ends.

TDN: How do you look at women in Turkey and their situation today?

TUNC: I believe that social freedom is a precondition of the freedom of women. I am not a supporter of a cut and dry distinction between men and women. It is true that women are more oppressed in the Southeast because of the continuation of a feudal structure. Yet there is unbelievable progress in comparison with Turkey's condition 10 years ago.
I experienced this in my native town. I would like to stress that women are more free and comfortable compared to the past. The woman's question is very important for Turkey. I believe that this problem can only be resolved when the system changes, and then only partially. I have written very beautiful songs about women.

TDN: Is there a song that you like so much that you even cry as you sing it?

TUNC: Yes, the song that I wrote for Metin Goktepe, although I did not know Metin. I never forget the wail of his mother Fadime at his funeral. This inspired the song.
When I sing this song on stage, I weep. I wish that we were not living in a country where we had to sing such songs. It is unfortunate that we still sing them. I have been singing my song called "The Prisoners of Freedom" for 17 years. Turkey still has a prison problem. I wish that we did not have these problems and did not have to sing these songs. I wish that we could do things that need to be done ...

TDN: We know that you sing not only Turkish but also Kurdish songs and encounter some problems. Do you know Kurdish?

TUNC: I have been singing in Turkish for years. I think and sing in Turkish, and I am not bothered to be so doing. I must also say that I like Turkish. The language that a person talks is the most important one for him.
Kurdish is a very beautiful language, but I haven't been able to think and sing in Kurdish because I don't know the language. There are some Kurdish songs that I have sung only to oppose the extant ban. These songs are sung at weddings and other ceremonies. They were banned. Some changes are taking place in Turkey and I wanted my songs to be an indicator. I believe that positive developments will change people's perspective on life and the future. Turkey has gone through major difficulties. I believe that it is very necessary for people to raise their morale through cultural activities. Let me say clearly: I did not sing many Kurdish songs. I have a few songs in the Zaza language because I am a Zaza.

TDN: What is most important to you when you make clips?

TUNC: Since I wanted the clips to reflect reality I started to make social clips. A new style thus emerged. No one can bear to see a historic place like Hasankeyf disappear. Artists and intellectuals have to be particularly sensitive. I made the clip of "Dur Ben Olem" (Let Me Die) which was in my album "Her Mevsim Bahardir" (All Seasons are Spring) in Hasankeyf. The clip reflected very well the region and its problems. I believe that an artist has to do his duty with respect to the condition and reality of his country.

TDN: What would you like to do for your music to last?

TUNC: Everyone wants his music to be permanent, but I think differently. I want to express the problems, the cry and the reality of this country. I believe that this is permanent. Perhaps the next generations will learn from these songs what path Turkey's transformation followed. I can say that I am different in this sense. As an artist, I acted differently, had a different style and always expressed pain and problems. My biggest longing of course is to make an album comprising the languages spoken in this geographical area. I can say that I have taken the first steps.

TDN: What is your stance as an artist?

TUNC: I do what I know. I don't work to make money. I express my experience through music. The expression of one's perception in a unique way is not very acceptable in Turkey.

TDN: What does Ferhat Tunc think about Turkey's accession to the European Union?

TUNC: Turkey should seek to get out of its mold and open to the world. Artists always support such developments. I can say this from my perspective. I believe that getting close to Europe will not do harm to Turkey. Such a union that would be realized without making concessions from our values, culture and reality would contribute very much to Turkey from a social and economic perspective. I long for a Turkey in which prohibitions are banned.

TDN: As you know, political stability once again became controversial in Turkey after the economic crisis. What do you think about political stability?

TUNC: You have to want to solve a problem. It is then very easy to find a solution. It is important that people understand the problems correctly and be courageous in finding solutions. It is unfortunate that all governments in Turkey have been enslaved to the backward feelings and angry consciousness of society. People are power hungry.
No one is trying to bring Turkey forward and get rid of its negative image. Parties in Turkey have to get rid of their taboos even if they are social democrats. It is not possible to say that a solution is pending in Turkey so long as these reactionary and traditionalist policies based on denial are in force. It is not possible to say that this government is following a very consistent policy. As an artist, I don't believe that the country can make progress with these policies. I believe that only social democratic policies can help Turkey make progress. This is the same all over the world.

TDN: Ferhat Tunc's Internet site shows that he is well acquainted with technological developments. Perhaps you also have things to say about the rapid progress of technology and genetic progress ...

TUNC: I believe that humane feelings will gradually disappear in a virtual world and conflict and war may come on the agenda through "virtual impositions." I believe that the clash between technology and human beings will grow in the future. I find these developments very scary. I believe that there will be different developments in the future. Genetic engineering will probably have made much headway in 30-40 years. I believe that everything will accelerate more in the next century. I believe that genetic developments will create new opportunities. But I nevertheless believe that music and art are most permanent.

  Kaynak: Turkish Daily News

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