Sunday, 8 February 2009

Sezen Aksu - Introduction

Sezen Aksu is the undisputed queen of contemporary Turkish music. She has shown considerable bravery in linking traditional Turkish styles with western music and in tackling subjects that the authorities would prefer to have overlooked. In the 1970s she became the first Turkish woman to write and publicly perform her own songs. Since then she has built up a massive following, singing about everything from environmental issues to the ongoing civil war with the Kurds to painful emotional truths.

Sezen Aksu was born and educated in Izmir on the romantic and nostalgic Aegean coast of Anatolia. During her school years, she took lessons in painting, music and theatre. Whilst studying at the Aegean University she released her first composition, including lyrics. This first song, 'Kaybolan Yıllar' (Lost Years), became a hit that touched thousands of people's hearts and marked the beginning of her professional career.

Her background and upbringing, surrounded by prominent specialists and teachers in Turkish Music, became vital in her work. She has always composed songs that appeal to everyone and that are influenced and inspired by the rich and colourful Anatolian cultures of her childhood. Literature, cinema, poetry and theatre remain close to her heart.

Even in her early lyrics, she promised to be an explorer of vast horizons and abysses of emotions she were to lean over. On the burning depth of her voice, she made us feel since the beginning, that a long journey awaited us. Beyond her lyrics, it was her voice that had the intensity. She was looking into our eyes with a genuine self-confidence that we were not familiar in the pop scene. She was the little warrior who did not want to be disturbed as she sang her songs. This young girl had come with a halo over her head. She always knew how to refuse what she did not want. Perhaps, we first fell in love with her uncompromising sincerity. She was not like any other person we knew.

Sezen is the singer, performer, lyricist and composer of over 600 of Turkey's most popular and frequently performed songs. She also composes for many other artists. She has subsequently become a legend in Turkey. Her modest personality and unlimited generosity in sharing her memories, longings, heartbreaks, pain, love and happiness with her audiences have made her the 'Sweetheart' and 'Little Sparrow' of every household in Turkey. Sezen Aksu’s beautiful music accompanied by her powerful, warm, touching voice have practically been the soundtrack of many Turkish people’s lives for more than 30 years. Having sold over 40 million albums throughout her career, Aksu is the ultimate figure who shaped Turkish pop music.While many of her contemporaries in pop music have their names remembered nostalgically in family conversations, Sezen Aksu's has become a legend, growing bigger as we speak. Her ballads about unrequited love and broken hearts made her a household name in 1970s and 1980s.

Her live concerts in Turkey and across Europe are sell out performances and she remains in every sense an entertainer, one that ranks amongst the great names of modern music.
Few artists have Sezen Aksu's talent for composing such diverse music with such Universal appeal. The complex, colourful and rhythmic melodies of Turkey blend seamlessly with the modern beats of popular music yet skilfully neither is compromised. An artist who has the ability to write chart topping hits such as 'Kiss Kiss' and the genius to create poetry in songs that will be sung forever, familiar tunes rendered new and more profound under her mastery.

In her songs love is a fiery riot; affection is a boundless generosity. Sezen keeps writing the poetry of entrancement. The unique color of her voice tempts the listener to great loves, great sacrifices and great uprisings. The sadness of a vulnerable little girl and the defiance of a woman resisting confinement, blend in her voice. Sometimes she is the romantic poet of the streets, sometimes the naughty girl of the neighborhood. It is as if she reminds us that freedom is possible. She speaks from a world where baring one's self until he/she becomes an open sore, is a virtue.

When we listen to her, we realize she has felt the same; she has been through the same path of emotions with each one of us. The vigor of her emotions that at times embarrasses us, her stubborn pursuit of a 'better and better' musical sentence and beyond all else, her loyalty to her self being in all circumstances along the way, make her unique.

Sample listening:


“Poems To Be” (

Poems To Be consists of 197 lyrics selected from over 400 pieces Turkish pop diva Sezen Aksu wrote between 1975-2006. These songs have claimed their place in the lives and memories of three or four consecutive generations in Turkey. The aim in editing them in a volume is to bring out the poetry in these lyrics. Sezen Aksu’s songs have always flirted with poetry, often they are poetic, and sometimes they are downright poems. Her lyrics represent the expanse of Turkey to full extent, in them we encounter a unique blend of rich diversity, including motifs from both the long bygone and contemporary urban tunes to those of far Anatolian corners. Poems To Be is a book about love, our passions, break-ups, submissions, disappointments and newfound hopes. It shows us how fragile we are as humans, but also how we have the power to tend to our wounds and live on. An abridged version of the book is being prepared for publication in other languages.

Burn me up, burn yourself, burn all that there is
Just a spark’s enough, I’m ready for this
Kiss me or touch me, kill me if you will
One should die for love, only then love is

I took you inside me all in one breath
My heart’s arrested; my breasts caught in a cage
We’ll be consumed together in the same flame
Just a spark’s enough, I’m ready for this
One should die for love, only then love is
Wear me out missing you; wear me out with your love
No love is worse than having loved and lost
Hurt me if you will, as much as you can
When you’re here it’s not enough, but neither is it when gone

Lord, oh Lord, Lord, oh Lord I walk into the fire
Lord, oh Lord, I grow with grief, I grow with love

Sezen Aksu
Translated from Turkish by Bülent Somay


1 comment:

Panos Agiakatsikas said...

Wonderful introduction, I hope Greeks and not, only start to listen and find out of her!