Pasha of the Turkish Classical Music: Zeki Muren and Performativity

Zeki Muren was a legendary Turkish Classical Music composer and singer who was born in the 1931, right after the Turkish Republic was officially formed. Coming from a middle-class family, he was a standard Turkish citizen with a tremendous singing voice. He was first discovered by his elementary school teachers and until 1991, the year he was honored as the “State Artist”, he had published 25 albums and played in 18 movies. Turkish people named him as the “Sun of Art” and the “Pasha” of Turkish Music because of his compelling voice.   In 1950, he ranked 1 st in the TRT Istanbul Radio’s competition (the only station that existed in that era) and gradually he became a well-known radio star in all Turkey.

topuklu-ayakkabılı-ve-mini-etekli-zeki-müren_576891With the emergence of the televisions in Turkey, he started to perform live on TV and shot music videos for his recordings. In most of these visual context, he appeared as a controversial artist  in a feminine way with his nails polished, his  glorious hair style, heavy make up and wearing huge rings. He was also a cross dresser. Most of the time he wore shiny dresses with sparkling diamonds, lacework and flower ornaments. His golden hair was done in certain feminine style and his eyebrows were thin and gentle. The gestures and the dance moves he performed on the stage were mostly regarded as ‘womanly’.  This was of course an out-of-ordinary style for Turkish people who were not even familiar with the terms like homosexuality and gender roles. Although they were not sure about how to react and recalled his style as ‘abnormal’, the Turkish community started to change their ideas about the relation between sex, gender and performativity. As Judith Butler states, the gender of a person is dependent on how he wants to perform it.She also mentions that gender cannot be determined sharply as male and female like black and white, there exists limitless shades of grey and each tone is performed in a certain way by all human beings. Despite all the controversies, Turkish people respected Zeki Muren with all their heart and because of his contributions they became aware and accepting of the idea of homosexuality and different gender roles. With his contributions, Zeki Muren had given many other transgender, homosexual artists the opportunity to be openly accepted by the Turkish society. He will always be remembered for his incredible talent and distinguished style.

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