History of Anatolian Rock

Turkey is a somewhat young country- it was formed in 1923 after the end of World War II. 50 years later, Turkish rock, also know as Anatolian rock, emerges. Turkey has a long history of state-sanctioned music that is politically funded and trained by the academy belonging to the state, and Anatolian rock was one of the first mainstream musical movements to challenge that. In the 60’s through early 80’s, musicians were inspired by the export of Western rock groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Yes, and Led Zeppelin to Turkey. Turkish musicians took western rock and added traditional elements like Ashik poetry and traditional instruments, most notably the bağlama. Art is of course not created in a vacuum. Much as rock music in the United States was a rebellion against traditional sounds and often involved calls to revolution or cultural subversion, Turkish rock emerged as a form of rebellion to a very conservative state. In 1960 there a coup against the government which the opposition claimed was overly influenced by Islamists. A country-wide debate took place on the separation of religion and state. Civilian rule was restored five years later. By 1971, the situation between the right, capitalists and fascists, and left, the democrats and communists, and including many Kurds, became dire. The right had ascended to power through holding a majority of assembly seats and used this power to reorganize the government and punish political dissidents. Political violence erupted in the 70’s, with over 5,000 casualties from 1976-1980.


Encyclopedia Britannica

Insight Turkey


Our Project

The association of music with the state from Turkey’s inception inherently politicizes Turkey’s music. The Anatolian rock movement specifically captures a tumultuous period in Turkey’s history where there are two very distinct political sides, the right and the left, being expressed. We plan to analyze songs from a sampling of artists on both sides along with apolitical rock to determine if there are any differences or similarities in discourse, themes, or musical stylings between these groups. We selected the artists though finding the most popular artists online who were active in the period 1960-1980 that performed Anatolian rock. Once we found our artists, we chose the most political album in the period from that artist in order to maximize the hits of the specific tags we were looking for. We chose to analyze albums as a whole in order to grab content that was not explicitly political but surrounded the important political themes. Themes that could be of interest include forms of address, religion, the Kurds, poverty, love, economic policy, and oppression of speech and ideas.


To the University of Pittsburgh, the lovely souls in Computational Humanities, our project leader Andrew Nitz, and Dr. David Birnbaum.