Arts and Culture

Mabel Matiz: Sound of Gezi in Turkish Pop

Monday, January 30, 2017

Today, I want to introduce you to the rising star of Turkish pop music, Mabel Matiz, and explain why I think his music represents the soul of Gezi Park protests

In last three years, Mabel made a big journey from being an unusual sounding alternative musician to one of the most played artists in the mainstream music industry in Turkey. No, he didn't lose anything that makes him Mabel in the process, he brushed it even more, became more polished but still stayed true to himself and that's why we love him. 

When he covered "Aşk Yok Olmaktır" (Love Means Annihilation) by Yıldız Tilbe in his 2013 album "Yaşım Çocuk" (I'm Children Year Old), no one could resist his version. Yet, Mabel is much more than a one-hit singer. He carried his success, as well as the culture of Gezi Park protests in his lyrics and videos, to his 2016 album "Gök Nerede" (Where is the Sky?") where he made another cover, this time for Nazan Öncel's "Bir Hadise Var" (There's an Incident), but stood more as an independent artist with very strong songs of his own, among which "Gel" (Come) and "Ahu" (Gazelle/Beauty) as well as my favourite party tune "Fena Halde Bela" (In Deep Trouble) must be noted. 

Mabel is an interesting case in the middle of the Turkish mainstream music. He has highly poetic lyrics in contrast with fabricated phrases of many pop songs, a queer aesthetics in his visual artwork in a country where Ottoman style masculinity is being reinvented and he is outspoken about social issues, including LGBTI rights, that only a few top singers dare to address in Turkey. Of course, all of these carve a niche for Mabel in the super normative PowerTurk or Kral Pop world. 

"Old master! We grow flowers in our mouths. Let us open and you'll see. Let us open and you'll see!" exclaims Mabel in his totally Gezi song "Geziyorum Dünya İşte" (I'm Wandering Around, It's Just the World) that he wrote with writer Sinem Sal. In the same song he uses a queer slogan "Yasak Ne Ayol?" "What's Forbidden, Ayol*?) directed at the undemocratic demonstration bans all around Turkey in the aftermath of Gezi, and here's a picture I took of Mabel in 2014 Istanbul Pride with the banner "Velev ki İbneyiz?" (What If We Are Faggots?), being totally unapologetic about his stance.

The performance that I translated below are from three different genres. The first one was sung by many, but mostly known by late Zeki Müren, our most known gay singer who sang Turkish Classical Music. The second is from one of the most prominent Turkish rock band, Duman. And the last one is from late Ahmet Kaya, whose Kurdish origin might still cause trouble near nationalist circles when you want to listen to his folk music. Embracing all these heritage and making them his own without losing his original track and character is what makes Mabel so Gezi for me. 

So, let's get to hear how it sounds. And, as always, I'm looking forward to hearing your feedbacks about my translation and the whole piece. 

Here is Mabel's wonderful performance

Come, don't drag my heart
Through the mud, pretty, please!
Don't pick the thorns
Instead of roses, pretty, please!

Can't tell you to go, can't tell you yo stay
You are a bud, can't tell it's a rose
I love a lot, but can't tell it
Don't ask, pretty, please

Your love is breath, your love is life
Your love is thrill to me
My heart is a young shoot
Don't break it, pretty, please

Can't tell you to go, can't tell you yo stay
You are a bud, can't tell it's a rose
I love a lot, but can't tell it
Don't ask, pretty, please

http://sarki.alternatifim.com/data.asp?ID=78472&sarki=Ne%20Olursun&sarkici=Zeki%20M%FCren

I brand my scar as if I bleed
I burn inside but I still hide it
You can't call the shots when it's me only, your strength won't do it

I jump into death as if I run
I steamroll but I still get up
Your strength won't be enough for me and only me
You can't call the shots, your strength won't do it

Don't look so grief-stricken, no one will see it
He sings in his heart but no one hears it

I didn't look back as if I was running
My tears run deep inside of me
Your strength won't be enough for me and only me
You can't call the shots, your strength won't do it

http://sarki.alternatifim.com/data.asp?ID=226003&sarki=%D6yle%20Dertli&sarkici=Duman

Neither you are Leyla nor am I Mecnun
Neither you are tired nor am I
In a heavy hearted evening, we drank and got drunk, that's it

It's always later that I come to my senses, always later, later
It's always later that I come to my senses, always later
It's always later that I come to my senses, always later, later
It's always later that I come to my senses, always later

Neither you are a cloud nor am I the rain
Neither you are haughty nor am I
In a sorrowful evening, we keep silent and still, that's it

It's always later that I come to my senses, always later, later
It's always later that I come to my senses, always later
It's always later that I come to my senses, always later, later
It's always later that I come to my senses, always later

http://sarki.alternatifim.com/data.asp?ID=1654

*LGBTI News Turkey might help you understand what ayol means: Ayol is an exclamatory word associated with femininity and taboos and can mean “well”, “hey”, “wow”. The word itself has been in use in colloquial Turkish and underground LGBTI culture, however, its full and current appropriation by LGBTI organizations is a recent phenomenon that started with the Gezi Resistance in May 2013. One of the first uses was in a banner “What’s forbidden, ayol!” during protests on Istiklal Avenue in Taksim, Istanbul. “Ayol” has been appearing as graffiti across Turkey since then. “Resist ayol” was used as a twitter hashtag for 2013 Pride Week. Its importance is rooted in the fact that though “ayol” was used by LGBTI organizations, it has been accepted and appropriated across groups in the Resistance. One explanation for its popularity can be found in the feeling that the word transcends and frees traditional gender roles and power relations; it imparts a sense of freedom…

For further articles you can visit our author's blog: http://evgeyi.blogspot.com.tr

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