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Queer singer tries to create house for dialogue in Turkey

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Istanbul, Turkey — In early August, Fatih Karaca, higher often called Mabel Matiz, stood on stage in Istanbul. As the primary chords of one in every of his most well-known songs, “Alaimisema,” an outdated Turkish phrase that means “rainbow,” started to swell, he spoke to the sold-out crowd.

“Humans are creatures that are very susceptible to excluding the other, to alienating the other, to becoming hostile, to excluding what they do not know,” Matiz mentioned. “But underneath all that, I think we all know that we are the same deep down.”

Matiz is aware of this intimately. Despite his queer id, Matiz is beloved by followers throughout the political and non secular spectrum. He says his music creates an area the place folks in Turkey can discover controversial matters — an area ever-rarer in a politically and culturally polarized nation.

“I have worked hard to create music that can share a common point with everyone,” Matiz instructed Al-Monitor.

He was born in 1985 in a small city in southern Turkey. A solitary baby, he says music was his “savior,” a approach to discover the broader world and a type of expression. When younger he had a stutter, however when he sang, it disappeared.

When he moved to Istanbul within the early 2000s to check dentistry, town teemed with youthful power. Many have been hopeful that the election of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) authorities in 2002 would result in a extra liberal surroundings, because the celebration then espoused a extra open stance on rights for minority teams, together with LGBTQ folks.

In 2008, he began a web page on MyArea, then a well-liked social media web site, below the pseudonym Mabel Matiz. Mabel was a reputation from a personality in a guide by Buket Uzuner, “Kumral Ada Mavi Tuna.” Matiz was derived from the traditional Greek phrase for “drunkard.”

Within two years, Matiz was probably the most widespread names on Turkey’s MyArea. Listeners and producers have been taken by his fusion of pop, rock, and Turkish folks. His lyrics wove collectively folklore and poetry with city tales.

“My songs can talk about anything. They could talk about a story in a village or the back streets of Berlin, they could talk about a love affair or a more spiritual, divine kind of love,” he mentioned.

In 2011, the underground success of his first album, “Mabel Matiz,” allowed him to pivot full-time to music. Now, Matiz has 4 albums, over 2 million month-to-month listeners on Spotify, and his YouTube movies get greater than 5 million views.

But in the intervening time, Turkey has seen a dramatic rise in homophobia, because the AKP seeks to shore up its conservative base.

Last week, Turkey’s largest-ever anti-LGBT rally passed off in Istanbul, with indicators that referred to as queer folks “perverts.”

“In the last two years, the government has ramped up the anti-LGBT [stance],” Kenan Sharpe, an instructional who research Turkish popular culture, instructed Al-Monitor. “It’s become a specific policy of theirs, this culture war they’re trying to start.”

Following the Gezi Park protests of 2013, the federal government has hardened its rhetoric towards LGBTQ folks, lots of whom joined the protests.

In 2021, Erdogan mentioned there was “no such thing as LGBT” folks in Turkey. Pride marches have been banned since 2015.

“The LGBTI+ community is under great pressure,” Matiz said. “What happens every year at Pride saddens me.”

Despite the more and more hostile local weather, on July 1 — simply days after police violently cracked down on this 12 months’s Pride occasions — Matiz launched his controversial current hit “Karakol” or “Copshop,” gaining greater than 17 million views to this point.

The video depicts a younger man leaning on Matiz’s knee as Matiz sings that his coronary heart has been “put in the police station,” and his love put in a grave. He compares his lover to forbidden fruit.

The track and video have been met with an outpouring of each reward and outrage. The head of Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog RTUK reportedly referred to as tv stations, demanding they not air the clip.

Despite that, Matiz was happy that the track bought folks speaking.

According to Ozan Korkmaz, Matiz’s supervisor, censorship has didn’t scrap the track’s affect because it impressed uncommon and necessary conversations.

“I think it is very, very critical to make people think about it, talk a little, feel something different even within themselves, by throwing something new at them from time to time,” Korkmaz instructed Al-Monitor.

As he works on a fifth album that’s slated to be launched in early 2023, Matiz says he’ll write extra songs exploring comparable themes.

“I’m not afraid,” he mentioned. “There is no room for such fear in my life or my head.”

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