Turkish rap coming out of two Istanbul districts have different themes: Study

Turkish rap coming out of two Istanbul districts have different themes: Study

Seda Nur Başpınar – İSTANBUL
Turkish rap coming out of two Istanbul districts have different themes: Study

An academic study conducted at Boğaziçi University on the popularity of Turkish rap music has found that there are different themes and listening habits in two separate working class areas in Istanbul, the district of Bağcılar and the Sulukule neighborhood of the Fatih district.

The rap artists in Sulukule are politically critical and stern, while the youth in Bağcılar are eager to rise to fame quickly, according a postgraduate thesis by Umut Mişe, a research associate in the prominent Turkish university

“The urban transformation in Sulukule has made the region’s rap music more critical. The neighborhood youth is living a cultural activism, so the lyrics in their rap has a critical tone,” said Mişe.

But the situation in Bağcılar’s rap production and consumption is the complete opposite. The singers in Bağcılar see rap as a way out of their socioeconomic hardships.

Bağcılar rappers want to rise to fame as soon as possible. Saying that these young people have only one target, Mişe noted, “They want to record a song, upload it on social media, be famous quickly and then move out of Bağcılar.”

Hataylı Bela, which means “Trouble from [the southern province of] Hatay” is the most famous rap band in Bağcılar. In Sulukule, it is Tahribad-İsyan (Rebellion for Destruction).

Having spent six months in Bağcılar and Sulukule for his thesis, Mişe stressed three problems which the two regions have in common.

“Poverty, lack of education and the use of drugs are common problems of both places. Nearly all of the people between the ages of 16 and 25 have not finished school.”

Sulukule is known as the one of the oldest Roma settlements in the world. Romani people came to the neighborhood in 1054 from India. The hub of entertainment and night life of the city in 1950s and 1960s, Sulukule recently witnessed the demolishment of more than 600 buildings due to the urban renewal, being replaced with some skyscrapers instead.

According to Mişe, this urban renewal has transformed Sulukule’s youth to become tougher.

“Sulukule rappers around the ages of 25 conduct workshops where they teach the juniors of the neighborhood the soul of solidarity,” he noted.

When asked how he was welcomed during his visits to both regions, Mişa underlined the warm atmosphere he witnessed in Sulukule.

“I directly went to the area. They welcomed me warmly.”

“I contacted them mostly via social media. When we came face to face, they thought of me as someone who will make them famous. The first thing they asked me when they saw me was, ‘When will we be able to perform a concert?’,” he added.

The birth of Turkish rap dates back to the 1990s when the Germany-based Turkish rap group Cartel, whose members are mainly children of Turkish immigrants who went to Germany to find work during the 1960s, released its first album. The band sold around 500,000 records officially and more than 1.5 million pirate copies.

Turkey, culture,