Fazil Say, Turkey's most famous concert pianist, is no stranger to controversy. But he has rarely ruffled as many feathers as he did recently, when he launched into a searing attack on one of Turkey's most popular forms of music.
"Arabesk music is a reflection of the arabesk life-style," he wrote on his Twitter feed mid-July. "It is a weight on the shoulders of intellectualism, modernity, leadership and art.”
“It is full of unethical lies,” the 40-year-old Say also posted. He ended one Twitter post in capital letters. “I AM ASHAMED OF THE TURKISH PEOPLE'S LOUSY ARABESK SPINELESSNESS.”
While there is no mistaking the passionate tone of Say's complaint, the content is liable to baffle outsiders, who might wonder how music can be an obstacle to modernity, let alone be unethical.
But Turks recognized the posts immediately as a salvo in a long-running culture war – one that stretches back to the founding of the Turkish Republic, when secularists used the catastrophe of the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to refashion Turkish identity from scratch.
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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.