Turkey remembers its 'Sun of Art': Zeki Müren
It’s been 24 years today since Zeki Müren, Turkey’s “Sun of Art” died in the Aegean province of İzmir at the state-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) studios, the very institution that had kick-started his musical career half a century earlier.
He was a singer, a songwriter, a composer, a published poet, a performer, an actor, a designer, and an illustrator. He was also a visionary, an innovator, and a revolutionary.
Born in the northwestern province of Bursa’s historic Hisar district in 1931, he was the only child of a Macedonian origin merchant.
While a student at the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts in 1951, he won first place in a contest sponsored by TRT.
But what really changed his career was on New Years of 1951, performing a 45-minute astonishingly beautiful live concert on the radio after a fellow artist called in sick, making him a rising star in the music world.
His 1955 release “Manolya” (Magnolia) was the first Turkish recording to be certified gold.
For his first live concert in 1955, Müren took the stage in typical stage clothes, but over time began designing his own wardrobe, expressing a personal style that sometimes included thigh-high boots, sparkling tights, jeweled capes, miniskirts, and a peacock tail as well as wigs and makeup.
His flamboyant look became known as a symbol of his strength of character and individuality and his theatrical and flashy stage shows in his early career were always unique and revolutionary.
Müren transcended music by beginning an acting career in the 1950s with a role in the film of “Beklenen Şarkı” (The Awaited Song) in 1953.
‘Most glamorous artist’
He would go on to appear in 18 films and took the stage in the Turkish version of Robert Anderson’s stage play “Tea and Sympathy.”
He also published his poems in 1965 under the name “Bıldırcın Yağmuru” (The Quail Rain), designing the book cover himself.
On Sep. 24, 1996, he died from a heart attack during an award program on live broadcast.
Having been chosen as an official State Artist of Turkey in 1991, Müren made over 200 records and composed over 100 songs in the 45 years of his artistic career.
Today, Müren’s legacy lives on through the Zeki Müren Fine Arts Anatolian High School in Bursa, which opened in 2002.
His house in Bodrum became the Zeki Müren Art Museum and his Zeki Müren Scholarship Fund has supported thousands of students over the past 20 years.
His body lies in the Emir Sultan Cemetery in his hometown Bursa’s Yıldırım district.