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Tarkan in concert, 2011
|Birth name||Tarkan Tevetoğlu|
|Also known as||Tarkan|
|Born|| 17 October 1972 |
Alzey, West Germany
|Genres||Pop, folk pop, adult contemporary, pop rock, dance pop|
|Associated acts||Sezen Aksu, Ozan Çolakoğlu, Nazan Öncel, Wyclef Jean, Tiësto, Miri Ben-Ari|
Tarkan in concert, 2011
|Birth name||Tarkan Tevetoğlu|
|Also known as||Tarkan|
|Born|| 17 October 1972 |
Alzey, West Germany
|Genres||Pop, folk pop, adult contemporary, pop rock, dance pop|
|Associated acts||Sezen Aksu, Ozan Çolakoğlu, Nazan Öncel, Wyclef Jean, Tiësto, Miri Ben-Ari|
Tarkan Tevetoğlu (Turkish pronunciation: [taɾˈkan teveˈtoːɫu]) (born on 17 October 1972), simply known as Tarkan, is a World Music Award winning Turkish pop singer. He was born in Alzey, West Germany, and raised in Turkey. Tarkan has been known for the use of romantic themes in his work and has been nicknamed the "Prince of Pop" by the media. He has released several platinum-selling albums during his career, with an estimated 29 million albums and singles sold. He also produces music through his company HITT Music, which he established in February 1997. One of a few European singers who has managed to span chart success over three continents without singing in English, the artist is also noted for his live stage performances. Tarkan's effect on Turkey has been compared by The Washington Post as analogous to Elvis Presley in the US around 1957 and Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegün described him as one of the best live performers he had ever seen. He has also been listed by Rhapsody as a key artist in the history of European pop music, with his signature song "Şımarık" as a keystone track that moved the genre forward.
Tarkan was born in Alzey, West Germany, to Ali and Neşe Tevetoğlu. The name Tarkan is said to originate from an ancient Turki king or title, meaning bold and strong (cf. Tarkhan). In 2009 it was discovered that Tarkan was in fact his middle name and his first name was Hüsamettin, which means "sword of faith".
His parents were part of the generation of Turkish immigrants who came to West Germany during that country's economic boom. His father's parents boasted a decorated military past as war heroes that fought in the Ottoman armies in the Russo-Turkish Wars, Tarkan chose to cover a song in 2003 by Turkish minstrel Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu as a nod to his roots. In the early stages of his career he was seen sporting a necklace with the crescent and star, the symbol of the Turkish flag, making it a fashion accessory amongst the Turkish youth – as the entertainer Madonna had done globally with the crucifix.
Tarkan has three step siblings named Adnan, Gülay and Nuray from his mother's first marriage, and a brother, Hakan, and younger sister, Handan from her marriage to his father. Although Tarkan was raised in Alzey until the age of 13, his father Ali suddenly decided to move the family back to Turkey in 1986. His father died of a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 49, and was buried in his home village of Rüzgarlı Köy, in the Turkish district of Ikizdere in the Rize Province of the Turkish Black Sea region. His mother later married an architect, Seyhun Kahraman. Tarkan keeps close ties with his family in Turkey and Germany. Other than his native Turkish, he speaks English fluently. Although he still understands German, he speaks little, primarily because he has been living in the USA and Turkey for the last 20 years.
Tarkan has charted both in Europe and in the Americas with his definitive song "Şımarık" (Spoilt/Kiss Kiss/Chanson Du Bisou/Besos). As a result of its widespread success and immediately recognizable sound of Tarkan kissing on the track, "Şımarık" was reincarnated into English as "Kiss Kiss" by Stella Soleil and later Holly Valance (which notched her a UK number one hit), after the composer Sezen Aksu sold the music rights. It has been covered by various artists across the world in various languages. Another successful Aksu collaboration was the hit single "Şıkıdım" (Shake). His entry into the European musical consciousness started a Turkish pop boom in Germany and Turkey in the 1990s, with his European successes signalling that the musical borders between Turkey and Europe, more specifically Germany, were dissolving. Because of his success, he became the prime example of Turkish pop obtaining an audience outside Turkey. Over the years his works have maintained their popularity, with Tarkan's 2007 studio album Metamorfoz selling over a quarter of a million copies in the first two weeks of its release on 25 December 2007.
When the Tevetoğlu family relocated to Turkey, Tarkan began to study music in Karamürsel at high school, before being accepted at the Üsküdar Musiki Cemiyeti Academy in Istanbul. After his family moved to Istanbul in 1988, he began to prepare for University entrance exams in 1990, but had a difficult time in Istanbul with little money, and worked in low-paying jobs including a stint as a wedding singer. Music legend has it that just as he was preparing to return to Germany, he met Mehmet Söğütoğlu, chairman of the record company İstanbul Plak. Produced by Söğütoğlu, his debut album Yine Sensiz (Without You Again) sold 750 thousand copies after its release in December 1992. For the album he had teamed up with then little known songwriter-composer Ozan Çolakoğlu, who later co-produced his albums. Tarkan's debut provoked mixed feelings among Turks. But it seemed that young people in Turkish cities who were satisfying their hunger with new sounds from Westerns acts such as Michael Jackson and U2 were looking for their own home grown idol. Being considered rebellious by traditionalists for his lyrics and his style of dress (particularly his earrings) only made him more attractive to the young. Although his debut album was not extraordinary when compared to other pop albums of the period, what distinguished Tarkan from the earliest days of his musical career was this unique style and image.
|“||It happened maybe for the first time in the world of [Turkish] music, that "slang" words were used in songs and the brave young man began to draw attention as much with his songs as with his green eyes.||”|
The success of Tarkan in the early 90s was seen by some as a sign of growing admiration for Western music, and the artist's real success came two years later. Collaborating with Turkey's "little sparrow", prominent producer and songwriter Sezen Aksu, Tarkan's highly anticipated second album Acayipsin (Oh – You're Something Else) sold more than two million copies in Turkey and 750 thousand copies in Europe. Such high European sales were a first-time feat for a Turkish performer. Aksu wrote two songs for the album, the radio friendly "Hepsi Senin Mi?", which was later relicensed as "Şıkıdım" (Shake) for the European market, and a pop-rock number "Şeytan Azapta". "Hepsi Senin Mi?" incorporated shaky Turkish rhythms and lyrics of pure slang, and in the video to the song Tarkan slanted his body to the rhythmic melody of the song while displaying a naked chest. This was considered to be bold and daring in the newly opening but still conservative Turkish music industry. Building on his taboo-breaking and rebellious image, the video to "Şeytan Azapta" incorporated scenes from the tour that followed, where dancers would strip Tarkan naked on stage. This erotic persona was enhanced by the artist posing naked and semi-naked for the most popular Turkish magazines of the period, including becoming the first male to make the front cover of the domestic edition of the Cosmopolitan (Cosmo).
In 1994, he experienced a dip in the newfound celebrity status the album had generated, when he made a live broadcast gaffe on the private Turkish TV channel ATV's anniversary celebration during an interview. When asked how he was on live television, his response was "Çişim var, ağabey." ("I've gotta pee, man.") He was publicly criticised for the comment and only after performing traditional songs on another TV special did he endear himself again to the nation.
In part to remove himself from media scrutiny, Tarkan moved to New York, US in 1994 to complete his education at Baruch College and learn English. During this period he filmed a video to another song from his second album, "Dön Bebeğim", in New York. Again Tarkan stripped for this project, but this time he wasn't alone. Sharing a bed with a female American model for the slow love song, the opening scenes of the video show the two naked and simulating the aftermath of a love scene. Unused sex scenes from the video are still aired on celebrity entertainment programmes from time to time in Turkey. While in America, he met the Turkish founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegün, who had seen him perform in Istanbul at the ATV anniversary concert during which he had made his speech gaffe. Tarkan has described Ertegün as his mentor in music and business. Ertegün, who died in December 2006, had long been preparing Tarkan for an American career, but Tarkan restarted his English debut album several times.
In July 1997, the hit song "Şımarık" kick started promotions in Turkey for his third studio album Ölürüm Sana (I'd Die For You). This album took a total of three years to complete. Tarkan collaborated once more with Aksu and music engineer Çolakoğlu for the album, which would go on to become his highest grossing album and win the artist his first music industry award for his song "Şımarık". In Turkey alone, Ölürüm Sana sold 4.5 million copies. However, it was only an indication of things to come.
Signed by the French branch of recording label PolyGram (now Universal Music) after the single "Şımarık" was released in Europe in 1999, Tarkan reached number three in places like Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and Germany. The song also reached number one in Belgium. He was awarded a gold disc at the Cannes Midem Awards. As the first artist of Turkish origin to sell 500,000 albums in France, in an interview for CNN he said: "It feels wild, you know, because in the beginning I never thought it was going to really happen. It's all in Turkish, you know, and nobody understands a word. But I think it's a groove. It's the kisses that are universal."
Following the success of the single, Tarkan released a compilation album for Europe entitled Tarkan. He won a World Music Award in Monaco for its rapid sales. He released two more singles in Europe under the Universal ticket: "Şıkıdım" and "Bu Gece" ("Tonight").
Tarkan travelled throughout Europe and Latin America to promote his music. Appearing in Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Russia, he gave a total of eighteen concerts in seventeen European cities. In Latin America the album provided Tarkan with a strong fan base, especially in Mexico and Argentina, where Universal Music funded a promotional tour at the end of 1999. However, this visit had to be postponed until the second week of March 2000, because Tarkan was called up for military service, which he had suspended to allow for studies in New York. In 2000, the self-titled album was released in the USA with a Universal Latino ticket. Sales went platinum in Latin America.
This album was also to mark an end in his successful musical partnership with Aksu and temporarily end friendly relations between the two artists. A copyright dispute erupted between Tarkan and Aksu over the track "Şımarık", which ultimately blocked the singer's chance to release an English-language version of the song. The music was initially credited as composed by Aksu, Tarkan and Çolakoğlu, but Tarkan later admitted in a 2006 interview that this had been done without Aksu's consent, who was the true copyright owner. During the dispute, Sezen Aksu released the publishing rights instead to other artists, including Holly Valance.
At the height of his fame in 1999, Tarkan was called up for military service, which had been legally deferred since 1995. The deadline for commencement had ended in 1998, but due to contractual obligations abroad after the success of his compilation album he did not return to Turkey to do his military service. The media discussed whether Tarkan should be viewed as a deserter and stripped of his citizenship; even the Turkish parliament discussed the issue. After the August 1999 earthquake shook Turkey, the 28-day military service was passed, which allowed for a very short term of service provided that those covered by the law paid $16,000 for the benefit of the earthquake victims. Tarkan returned to Turkey in 2000 and took advantage of this law, completing his service in twenty-eight days. Before entering the army, he gave a return concert in Istanbul, the benefits of which were donated to an earthquake victims' fund. Of his time in military training, he said:
|“||It was January and snowing like crazy. It was tough; the food was terrible. Eighteen months of my life for nothing? I thought my own dreams were more important.||”|
In January 2001, Tarkan joined a global brand and became the first Pepsi spokesperson in Turkey. This preceded the release of his album Karma and for the first time two singles in his domestic market in the same year: "Kuzu Kuzu" ("Like A Lamb") and "Hüp" ("Whoop"). Although Karma was not released worldwide, it was distributed in large shipments to Russia, where he had become the largest-selling non-Russian pop star. A million copies shipped to other areas of Europe, including Denmark. His so-called Karma-era style projected an image totally different from his earlier persona, with regard to both music and looks. His appearance – tight trousers, loose, unbuttoned shirts or tight T-shirts – and his new hairdo set a trend among young Turkish men, who started to copy his looks. According to hairdressers, his Kuzu Kuzu hairstyle is still the most frequently requested style in the salons of Turkey. During this time he met Michael Lang, co-organiser of the Woodstock Festival, who became his international manager. According to Lang,
|“||Tarkan is a great singer and his performance is great. His current success is only the beginning in my opinion. He'll be a star in five-year's time and he will not fade away. Know this, he is here to stay. He has an indescribable charisma.||”|
—Michael Lang, Hürriyet
This period was not free of scandals, either. In 2001 researcher Dr. N Aysun Yüksel published a book titled Tarkan – Yıldız Olgusu (Tarkan – Anatomy of a Star), which was withdrawn from bookshelves by a court order after Tarkan's lawyer Süheyl Atay sued the writer. According to the court's decision the book published personal information and copyrighted photos of the artist, and violated his good reputation. Another scandal broke out when the video for the single "Hüp" was released. The Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council considered banning the video, directed by Ferzan Özpetek, from television broadcast, as some viewers complained that the scene in which Tarkan kisses actress Sinemis Candemir was too "explicit" and "pornographic". The case was reported through Europe by the BBC. There was no ban, and fans had their say by voting it the video of the year in 2001 at Kral music station's video awards.
After becoming the face of Pepsi in Turkey, Tarkan also became the official mascot of the Turkish national football team for the 2002 World Cup. He recorded the football song "Bir Oluruz Yolunda" ("United For You"), which became an anthem for the fans.
His EP/hybrid album Dudu (Woman) was the first to be released by his own label HITT Music, in the summer of 2003. It was the first album of its kind to sell over a million copies in Turkey, while the title track won Tarkan a "Song of the Year Award" in Russia. Because his successful creative partnership with Aksu had ended over the ownership of "Şımarık", he worked with singer-songwriter Nazan Öncel on both Karma and Dudu. Öncel's own Yan Yana Fotoğraf Çektirelim album was published under the HITT label. He also released his own perfume line entitled "Tarkan" at the start of 2004.
Although musically a continuation from Karma, image-wise Dudu presented different visuals from the 2001–2003 period. Sexuality became secondary in terms of fashion and concerts were toned down to become intimate affairs. The new image portrayed a more laid back Tarkan sporting shorter hair, and wearing less glamorous designs. It was a declaration that glitz and sex were no longer a necessary tool to sell his works. Indicating his desire to show different sides of his personality, "It's not important how sexy I look or whether I dance sexy," he said of his new look.
In 2005, Tarkan finally announced that his English language album was ready after over a decade of effort. The plans for Come Closer began in 1995, when media mogul Ahmet Ertegün encouraged Tarkan to break into the international market. Eventually, he managed to break through without the aid of an English language album with "Şımarık", but Tarkan's manager, Ahmet San, entered Tarkan into contractual obligations that would hinder further success in Europe. In the framework of a larger agreement with Ertegün's Atlantic Records, Tarkan had tied his artist's rights to a French publishing company, Jonathan Productions, in which San owned shares. The contract specified that Tarkan could not release his own works without the company's permission. Once "Şımarık" hit the international stage, Tarkan was virtually blocked from releasing anything, as Charles Ibgui, the director of Jonathan Productions, stated in a letter sent to the artist's then domestic label İstanbul Plak: "neither Tarkan nor his producer Mehmet Söğütoğlu can without our permission release any album in any language anywhere in the world". This dissolved the relationship between singer and manager San. Consequently, Tarkan later commented in a newspaper interview that San had "destroyed his American dream" and the English album "had been scrapped". The delay to the initial incarnation of the English album had also been delayed due to disagreements with Ertegün concerning the concept of the defunct album. Ertegün preferred something more American in style, while Tarkan insisted on including many Turkish elements.
On 10 October 2005, Tarkan finally released his debut English language single "Bounce" in Turkey. Come Closer was released in parts of Europe on 7 April 2006, by the Universal Music label. The album features such songwriters as Lester Mendez, who co-wrote Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes"; Brian Kierulf, who produced songs for Britney Spears; and singer Wyclef Jean, with who Tarkan recorded the song "Aman Aman". "Bounce" was released in Germany a few days after the release of the album. The German version of the single included an oriental remix, as well as a hip-hop version featuring American reggaeton singer Adassa. A second single, "Start the Fire", was released in August; it included a remix by Turkish DJ Mousse T. A music video for the Mousse T. version was also produced prior to the single's release.
The album was not a breakthrough success. It was released only in a few European countries and Turkey, and Tarkan appeared on several television shows to promote the album in Germany, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Russia. The promised world wide tour effectively only included a few Central and Eastern European countries, Azerbaijan, Russia, Austria and Germany. Worldwide release was postponed and domestic sales did not approach the success of his previous albums, with only 110,000 copies sold in Turkey.
This period, like others, was stamped with scandal. A Turkish music pirate, well before the official release, leaked four stolen demo recordings from the debut English album onto the internet. Thousands of copies were downloaded illegally before the album's official release. The leaked songs garnered considerable airplay in dance clubs in Turkey, before Tarkan's management took legal action against DJ's playing them.
Tarkan released another Turkish language album on 25 December 2007, which was comprised almost solely of his own work. Called Metamorfoz ("metamorphosis" in English), seven of the songs were written by Tarkan, three other songs were collaborations with long-time engineer and producer Çolakoğlu. The album sold over 300,000 copies in the first two weeks of its release. Tarkan also became the most downloaded artist at TTNetMüzik, a digital music provider where his songs were made legally available in a digital format at the start of January 2008. Out of nearly two million tracks that were purchased after six weeks downloading, nearly 100,000 of those acquired were Tarkan songs, making him the highest grossing single artist at the music portal.
Unlike the public's reception, the critical response to Metamorfoz was lukewarm. Most music critics found the album musically lacking from Tarkan's previous albums, though not all.Ecevit Kılıç, columnist for Sabah newspaper, hailed Tarkan on his return and called him the "Orhan Pamuk of music", saying that Tarkan, just like Nobel-awarded Pamuk, always does everything his own way, despite all the attacks he has received from the press. Tarkan received congratulations from the chairman of the Turkish Language Association for his lyricsmanship by using correct language, traditional idioms and sayings in his lyrics, showing it was said a good example to Turkish youth in preserving the culture of the Turkish language. Besides the sales success, Tarkan also produced the third highest viewer rating with his New Year's Eve performance on TRT television channel, generating a total of 1 million YTL income for the television from sponsors.
Tarkan released his eighth album, Adimi Kalbine Yaz, on 29 July 2010. The album received highly positive reaction from critics and also his fans all around the world. It sold more than 300,000 copies one week after its release and the singles of the album topped the music charts of Turkey.
Tarkan is undoubtedly one of the most popular singers in Turkey. In addition to his record-breaking album sales, he is known for staging concerts that draw tens of thousands of people. In 2004, at the "Karadeniz Ereğli Love, Peace and Friendship Festival" approximately 700,000 people watched his concert, while in 2006 authorities reported almost the same numbers. "I've never seen such a sight before. I'll never forget this picture as long as I live," he said after the 2004 festival. In 2006 he also performed in Eastern Thrace, in front of an audience of 50,000.
His popular image has been courted by several companies; he became the face first for Pepsi, then for two Turkish telephone companies, Turkcell and Avea. His 2003 tour was sponsored by Opet and he shot three television advertisements for them. Tarkan's popularity can also be measured by the fact that he became the first Turkish singer to require personal security guards. His bodyguard is Levent Ağaoğlu, the founder of Legend Security. Ağaoğlu's company is also responsible for the security of Tarkan's house in Istanbul, and the office of his production company HITT. His bodyguards escort him during his personal travels as well.
|“||He's a great dancer, he moves beautifully, and he has the magic that all big hit artists share, which is the ability to get an emotion across through a recording.||”|
—Ahmet Ertegün, Washington Post
In recent years, Tarkan has gained international recognition beyond his parents' native Turkey. He is popular in Eastern European countries like Romania and Bulgaria, and in Russia, where he has performed extensively. In 2006 He gave his first Middle Eastern concert in Dubai in front of 9,000 people. He is also known in Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, the UK and the US, mainly among the Turkish diaspora. His popularity in the United Kingdom, although Tarkan has never charted there, is also evident from the success of his Wembley Arena concert, given in London, on 13 April 2008, where he was interviewed by BBC radio prior to the event.
While his song "Şımarık" has been sampled by various artists in these countries, the lucrative film industry in India has also poached several Tarkan hits, including "Şıkıdım", "Kuzu Kuzu" and "Dudu", for various Bollywood films. His "Kış Güneşi" song has been chosen as one of "The Unforgettable Hits of Turkish Music" by Hürriyet newspaper. Tarkan also has many fans in Iran. In conjunction with the release of Metamorfoz, Tarkan became the first Turksh artist to have a mp3 player named after him. German manufacturer of storage products and audio devices TrekStor joined up with Tarkan for their mp3 player series i.Beat. Packed with special features, the digital player was titled the i.Beat Emo Tarkan edition.
The dark side of Tarkan's popularity comes with the media, particularly with the paparazzi. On 29 December 2007, Tarkan gave an interview to Taraf, explaining how the Turkish paparazzi terrorised him when he was leaving the studio of TRT, the national television channel, where he was recording his New Year's Eve concert. Upon leaving the building a group of 10–15 paparazzi, angered by Tarkan's refusal of answering their questions, started to smack and kick his car, shouting offensive words, and blocked his way with their vehicles. When the singer's car finally managed to take the road, they followed him to his home, where other media personnel were already waiting for him to arrive. The mass of paparazzi blocked the entrance to his house, and thus the singer was forced to flee to a hotel and spend the night there. He gave the interview to Taraf in the hotel and published the newspaper article on his official website, aiming to direct attention to the dangerous behaviour of the Turkish yellow press. Tarkan has had similar dangerous clashes with the paparazzi before: in May 2007 he was forced into a street pursuit on the road to Mount Olympos near Antalya. That time his angry comments about journalists' behaviour were printed in almost all newspapers.
In February 2008, the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) commenced a drive to persuade Tarkan to swear off fur after being spotted wearing fur on the cover of his 2005 album, Come Closer, which featured a coat with a fur lined collar. PETA encouraged its members to send personal email messages to Tarkan and his management, in the hope the artist would set an example for his many fans by quitting the use of fur. Tarkan is well known for his humanitarian efforts towards stray animals, and publicly announced he had regretted wearing the fur lined coat and would join an animal rights' movement.
|“||Men [spread these rumours about my homosexuality]! Definitely. It's because I destroy [the image] they try to show off as manhood!||”|
Tarkan does not like to talk about his personal life, which has partly fueled the "is he-is he not gay" discussion, and the subject of his relationships often fills the front pages of Turkish newspapers and magazines. In 2001, when Tarkan was moving houses in New York, a worker stole what the domestic media tried to portray as compromising photos which suggested his homosexuality, but were simply photos with other men in swimwear in a public nude beach.
In special interview to Hürriyet, Tarkan contested the widespread assumption that he was gay. Tarkan subsequently gave fewer and fewer interviews and television appearances, limiting himself to a small number of trusted journalists. In 2006, he claimed that his relationship with the media had gone wrong.
In a rare interview in 2006 he said, "There's a trust crisis between me and the media. I'm fed up with being forced into arguments, that all my words are twisted around. I don't want to do it any more. It's no fun any longer. They are aiming right for my head ... When I go to America, I'm so jealous of their talk shows. There are no such things in Turkey. Who shall I talk to in Turkey, in which talk show? Plus, they would film me in ridiculous places and I would end up being shown as someone I'm not. And in the end, the topic will always come back to the same question: 'Are you gay? Are you bisexual?'"
He was together with female lawyer Bilge Öztürk for 7 years until they amicably split in 2008. The artist has been quoted in the media several times as regarding the institution of marriage to be outdated, stating he would only get married if he had children for their benefit. Tarkan owns a ranch-like property in Polonezköy, Istanbul, where he cultivates fruit trees and keeps animals. Tarkan also owns a flat in Murray Hill, New York City, worth approximately 5 million dollars, according to the Turkish press (the flat was sold on 29 June 2010 for $1,475,000).
In February 2010 during a drug raid police officials found narcotics in the singer's house. In September 2011 he admitted before court that he had been using drugs, he however claimed that he never paid for them.
List of awards Tarkan has won during his career:
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