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Tarkan in concert, 2011
17 October 1972
Alzey, Rhineland-Palatinate, West Germany
P?nar Dilek (m. 2016)
HITT Production |
Tarkan Teveto?lu (Turkish pronunciation: [ta?'kan teve'to:?u]) (born 17 October 1972), known as Tarkan, is a Turkish pop singer. He was born in West Germany and raised in Turkey. He has released several platinum-selling albums during his career, with an estimated 29 million albums and singles sold. He also produces music through his company HITT Music, which he established in February 1997.
One of few European singers who has managed to span chart success without singing in English, he is also noted for his live stage performances. Tarkan's effect on Turkey has been compared by the Washington Post to that of Elvis Presley in the US around 1957 and Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegün described him as one of the best live performers he had ever seen. He has also been listed by Rhapsody as a key artist in the history of European pop music, with his signature song "mar?k" as a keystone track that moved the genre forward.
Tarkan was born in Alzey, West Germany, to Ali and Ne?e Teveto?lu. The name Tarkan is said to originate from an ancient Turkic king or title, meaning bold and strong. In 2009 it was discovered that Tarkan is his middle name and his first name is Hüsamettin, which means "sword of faith".
His parents were part of the generation of Turkish immigrants who came to West Germany during that country's economic boom. His father's parents have a decorated military past as war heroes who fought in the Ottoman armies in the Russo-Turkish Wars.
Tarkan has three step-siblings named Adnan, Gülay and Nuray from his mother's first marriage, and a brother, Hakan, and younger sister, Handan from her marriage to his father. Although Tarkan was raised in Alzey until the age of 13, his father Ali decided to move the family back to Turkey in 1986. His father died of a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 49 and was buried in his home village of Rüzgarl? Köy, in the Turkish district of Ikizdere in the Rize Province of the Turkish Black Sea region. His mother later married an architect, Seyhun Kahraman. Tarkan keeps close ties with his family in Turkey and Germany. Other than his native Turkish, he speaks English fluently. Although he still understands German, he speaks little, primarily because he has been living in the U.S. and Turkey for the last 20 years.
Tarkan has charted both in Europe and in the Americas with his definitive song "mar?k" (Spoilt/Kiss Kiss/Chanson Du Bisou/Besos). As a result of its widespread success and immediately recognizable sound of Tarkan kissing on the track, "mar?k" was performed in English as "Kiss Kiss" by Stella Soleil and later by Holly Valance, which became a UK number one hit, after the composer Sezen Aksu sold the music rights. It has been covered by various artists in various countries and languages. Another successful Aksu collaboration was the hit single "k?d?m" (Shake). His entry into the European musical consciousness started a Turkish pop boom in Germany and Turkey in the 1990s, with his European successes signalling that the musical borders between Turkey and Europe, more specifically Germany, were dissolving. Because of his success, he became the prime example of a Turkish pop performer with an audience outside Turkey. Over the years his works have maintained their popularity, with Tarkan's 2007 studio album Metamorfoz selling over a quarter of a million copies in the first two weeks following its release on 25 December 2007.
When the Teveto?lu family relocated to Turkey, Tarkan began to study music in high school in Karamürsel, before being accepted at the Üsküdar Musiki Cemiyeti Academy in Istanbul. After his family moved to Istanbul in 1988, he began to prepare for University entrance exams in 1990, but had a difficult time in Istanbul with little money. He worked at low-paying jobs, including a stint as a wedding singer. Music legend has it that just as he was preparing to return to Germany, he met Mehmet Sö?üto?lu, chairman of the record company ?stanbul Plak. Produced by Sö?üto?lu, his debut album Yine Sensiz (Without You Again) sold 750 thousand copies after its release in December 1992. For the album he had teamed up with then little known songwriter-composer Ozan Çolako?lu, who later co-produced his albums. Wrote one critic: "It happened maybe for the first time in the world of [Turkish] music, that "slang" words were used in songs and the brave young man began to draw attention as much with his songs as with his green eyes."
The success of Tarkan in the early 90s was seen by some as a sign of growing admiration for Western music, and the artist's real success came two years later. Collaborating with Turkey's "little sparrow", prominent producer and songwriter Sezen Aksu, Tarkan's highly anticipated second album A-Acayipsin (Oh - You're Something Else) sold more than two million copies in Turkey and another 750 thousand copies in Europe. Such high European sales were a first-time accomplishment for a Turkish performer. Aksu wrote two songs for the album, the radio-friendly "Hepsi Senin Mi?", which was later relicensed as "k?d?m" (Shake) for the European market, and a pop-rock number "?eytan Azapta". "Hepsi Senin Mi?" incorporated shaky Turkish rhythms and lyrics of pure slang, and in the video to the song Tarkan slanted his body to the rhythmic melody of the song while displaying a naked chest. This was considered to be bold and daring in the still conservative Turkish music industry. Building on his taboo-breaking and rebellious image, the video to "?eytan Azapta" incorporated scenes from the tour that followed, where dancers would strip Tarkan naked on stage. This erotic persona was enhanced when the artist posed naked and semi-naked for the most popular Turkish magazines of the period, and he became the first male to make the front cover of the domestic edition of the Cosmopolitan (Cosmo).
In 1994, he experienced a dip in his celebrity status after he made a gaffe during an interview on a live broadcast marking the anniversary of the private Turkish TV channel ATV. When asked how he was on live television, his response was "Çi?im var, a?abey." ("I've gotta pee, man.") He was publicly criticised for the comment and only after performing traditional songs on another TV special did he endear himself again to the nation.
In part to remove himself from media scrutiny, Tarkan moved to New York in 1994 to learn English and complete his education at Baruch College. During this period he filmed a video to another song from his second album, "Dön Bebe?im", in New York. Again Tarkan stripped for this project, but this time he was sharing a bed with a female American model for the slow love song. The opening scenes of the video show the two naked, apparently in the aftermath of a love scene. Unused sex scenes from the video are still aired on celebrity entertainment programmes from time to time in Turkey. While in America, he met the Turkish founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegün, who had seen him perform in Istanbul at the ATV anniversary concert. Tarkan has described Ertegün as his mentor in music and business. Ertegün, who died in December 2006, had long been preparing Tarkan for an American career, but Tarkan restarted his English debut album several times.
In July 1997, the hit song "mar?k" kickstarted promotions in Turkey for his third studio album Ölürüm Sana (I'd Die For You). This album took three years to complete. Tarkan collaborated once more with Aksu and music engineer Çolako?lu for the album, which became his highest grossing album and won him his first music industry award for his song "mar?k". In Turkey alone, Ölürüm Sana sold 4.5 million copies.
Signed by the French branch of recording label PolyGram (now Universal Music) after the single "mar?k" was released in Europe in 1999, Tarkan reached number three in places like Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and Germany. The song also reached number one in Belgium. He was awarded a gold disc at the Cannes Midem Awards. As the first artist of Turkish origin to sell 500,000 albums in France, in an interview for CNN he said: "It feels wild, you know, because in the beginning I never thought it was going to really happen. It's all in Turkish, you know, and nobody understands a word. But I think it's a groove. It's the kisses that are universal."
Following the success of the single, Tarkan released a compilation album for Europe entitled Tarkan. He won a World Music Award in Monaco for its rapid sales. He released two more singles in Europe under the Universal label: "k?d?m" and "Bu Gece" ("Tonight").
Tarkan travelled throughout Europe and Latin America to promote his music. Appearing in Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Russia, he gave a total of eighteen concerts in seventeen European cities. In Latin America the album provided Tarkan with a strong fan base, especially in Mexico and Argentina, where Universal Music funded a promotional tour at the end of 1999. This visit had to be postponed until the second week of March 2000, because Tarkan was called up for military service, which he had suspended to allow for studies in New York. In 2000, the self-titled album was released in the U.S. with a Universal Latino label. Sales went platinum in Latin America.
A copyright dispute erupted between Tarkan and Aksu over the track "mar?k", which ultimately blocked the singer's chance to release an English-language version of the song. The music was initially credited as composed by Aksu, Tarkan and Çolako?lu, but Tarkan later admitted in a 2006 interview that this had been done without Aksu's consent, and that Aksu was the true copyright owner. This dispute ended their successful musical partnership and friendship. During the dispute, Sezen Aksu released the publishing rights to other artists, including Holly Valance.
At the height of his fame in 1999, Tarkan was called up for military service, which had been legally deferred since 1995. The deadline for beginning his service had passed in 1998, but due to contractual obligations abroad after the success of his compilation album he did not return to Turkey to do his military service. The media discussed whether Tarkan should be viewed as a deserter and stripped of his citizenship. Even the Turkish parliament discussed the issue. After the August 1999 earthquake shook Turkey, legislation was enacted that allowed those covered by the law to pay $16,000 for the benefit of the earthquake victims in return for shortening their military service obligation to 28 days. Tarkan returned to Turkey in 2000, took advantage of this law, and completed his service. Before entering the army, he gave a return concert in Istanbul as a benefit for an earthquake victims' fund. Of his shortened time in military training, he said: "It was January and snowing like crazy. It was tough; the food was terrible. Eighteen months of my life for nothing? I thought my own dreams were more important."
In January 2001, Tarkan became the first Pepsi spokesperson in Turkey. This preceded the release of his album Karma and for the first time two singles in his domestic market in the same year: "Kuzu Kuzu" ("Like A Lamb") and "Hüp" ("Whoop"). Although Karma was not released worldwide, it was distributed in large shipments to Russia, where he had become the largest-selling non-Russian pop star. A million copies shipped to other areas of Europe, including Denmark. His so-called Karma-era style projected an image totally different from his earlier persona in respect to both music and looks. His appearance - tight trousers, loose, unbuttoned shirts or tight T-shirts - and his new hairdo set a trend among young Turkish men, who started to copy his looks. According to hairdressers, his Kuzu Kuzu hairstyle is still the most frequently requested style in the salons of Turkey. During this time he met Michael Lang, co-organiser of the Woodstock Festival, who became his international manager. According to Lang: "Tarkan is a great singer and his performance is great. His current success is only the beginning in my opinion. He'll be a star in five-year's time and he will not fade away. Know this, he is here to stay. He has an indescribable charisma."
In 2001 researcher Dr. N Aysun Yüksel published a book titled Tarkan - Y?ld?z Olgusu (Tarkan - Anatomy of a Star), which was withdrawn from bookshelves by a court order after Tarkan's lawyer Süheyl Atay sued the writer. According to the court's decision the book published personal information and copyrighted photos of the artist, and violated his good reputation. When the video directed by Ferzan Özpetek for the single "Hüp" was released, the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council considered banning it from television broadcast, as some viewers complained that the scene in which Tarkan kisses actress Sinemis Candemir was too "explicit" and "pornographic". The case was reported through Europe by the BBC. There was no ban, and fans voted it the video of the year in 2001 at Kral music station's video awards.
After becoming the face of Pepsi in Turkey, Tarkan also became the official mascot of the Turkish national football team for the 2002 World Cup. He recorded the football song "Bir Oluruz Yolunda" ("United For You"), which became an anthem for the fans.
His EP/hybrid album Dudu (Woman) was the first to be released by his own label HITT Music, in the summer of 2003. It was the first album of its kind to sell over a million copies in Turkey, while the title track won Tarkan a "Song of the Year Award" in Russia. Because his successful creative partnership with Aksu had ended, he worked with singer-songwriter Nazan Öncel on both Karma and Dudu. Öncel's own Yan Yana Foto?raf Çektirelim album was published under the HITT label. He also released his own perfume line entitled "Tarkan" at the start of 2004.
Although musically a continuation from Karma, in terms of image Dudu presented different visuals from the 2001-2003 period. Sexuality became secondary in terms of fashion and concerts were toned down to become intimate affairs. The new image portrayed a more laid back Tarkan sporting shorter hair and wearing less glamorous designs. It was a declaration that glitz and sex were no longer a necessary tool to sell his works. Indicating his desire to show different sides of his personality, he said of his new look: "It's not important how sexy I look or whether I dance sexy".
In 2005, Tarkan announced that his English language album was finally ready after over a decade of effort. The plans for Come Closer began in 1995, when media mogul Ahmet Ertegün encouraged Tarkan to break into the international market. He had managed to break through with "mar?k" and without the aid of an English-language album, but his manager, Ahmet San, entered Tarkan into contractual obligations that hindered further success in Europe. In the framework of a larger agreement with Ertegün's Atlantic Records, Tarkan had tied his rights as a performing artist to a French publishing company, Jonathan Productions, in which San owned shares. The contract specified that Tarkan could not release his own works without the company's permission. Once "mar?k" hit the international stage, Tarkan was virtually blocked from releasing anything, as Charles Ibgui, the director of Jonathan Productions, stated in a letter sent to the artist's then domestic label ?stanbul Plak: "neither Tarkan nor his producer Mehmet Sö?üto?lu can without our permission release any album in any language anywhere in the world". This ended the working relationship between Tarkan and San. Tarkan said that San had "destroyed his American dream" and the English album "had been scrapped". Tarkan's disagreements with Ertegün concerning the concept of a proposed English-language album has also caused delays. Ertegün preferred something more American in style, while Tarkan insisted on including many Turkish elements.
On 10 October 2005, Tarkan released his debut English-language single "Bounce" in Turkey. Come Closer was released in parts of Europe on 7 April 2006 by Universal Music. The album featured such songwriters as Lester Mendez, who co-wrote Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes"; Brian Kierulf, who produced songs for Britney Spears; and singer Wyclef Jean, with who Tarkan recorded the song "Aman Aman". "Bounce" was released in Germany a few days after the release of the album. The German version of the single included an oriental remix, as well as a hip-hop version featuring American reggaeton singer Adassa. A second single, "Start the Fire", was released in August; it included a remix by Turkish DJ Mousse T. A music video for the Mousse T. version was also produced prior to the single's release.
The album was a limited success. It was released only in a few European countries and Turkey, and Tarkan appeared on several television shows to promote the album in Germany, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Russia. The promised world tour included only a few Central and Eastern European countries, Azerbaijan, Russia, Austria and Germany. Worldwide release was postponed and domestic sales did not approach the success of his previous albums, with only 110,000 copies sold in Turkey.
A Turkish music pirate, well before the official release, leaked four stolen demo recordings from the debut English album onto the internet. Thousands of copies were downloaded illegally before the album's official release. The leaked songs garnered considerable airplay in dance clubs in Turkey before Tarkan's management took legal action against DJ's playing them.
Tarkan released another Turkish-language album on 25 December 2007, which was composed almost solely of his own work. Called Metamorfoz ("metamorphosis" in English), seven of the songs were written by Tarkan, three other songs were collaborations with long-time engineer and producer Çolako?lu. The album sold over 300,000 copies in the first two weeks of its release. Tarkan also became the most downloaded artist at TTNetMüzik, a digital music provider where his songs were made legally available in a digital format at the start of January 2008. Out of nearly two million tracks that were purchased after six weeks, nearly 100,000 of those acquired were Tarkan songs, making him the highest grossing single artist at the music portal.
Unlike the public reception, the critical response to Metamorfoz was lukewarm. Most music critics found the album musically lacking in comparison with Tarkan's earlier albums. Ecevit K?l?ç, columnist for Sabah newspaper, hailed Tarkan on his return and called him the "Orhan Pamuk of music", saying that Tarkan, just like Nobel award recipient Pamuk, always does everything his own way, despite all the attacks he has received from the press. Tarkan received congratulations from the chairman of the Turkish Language Association for his lyrics by using correct language, traditional idioms and sayings in his lyrics, showing in the association's view a good example to Turkish youth in preserving the culture of the Turkish language. Besides the sales success, Tarkan also produced the third highest viewer rating with his New Year's Eve performance on TRT television channel, which generated a total of one million YTL income for the station.
Tarkan released his eighth album, Ad?m? Kalbine Yaz, on 29 July 2010. The album received highly positive reaction from critics and also his fans all around the world. It sold more than 300,000 copies in the first week after its release and the singles of the album topped the music charts in Turkey.
His popular image has been courted by several companies; he became the face first for Pepsi, then for two Turkish telephone companies, Turkcell and Avea. His 2003 tour was sponsored by Opet and he shot three television advertisements for them.
His song "mar?k" has been sampled by various artists in these countries, and the film industry in India has also used several Tarkan hits, including "k?d?m", "Kuzu Kuzu" and "Dudu", for various Bollywood films. His "K Güne?i" song has been chosen as one of "The Unforgettable Hits of Turkish Music" by Hürriyet newspaper.
In February 2008, the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) began a campaign to persuade Tarkan to swear off fur after he wore a coat with a fur-lined collar on the cover of his 2005 album, Come Closer. PETA encouraged its members to send personal email messages to Tarkan and his management. Tarkan announced that he regretted wearing the fur-lined coat and would join an animal rights' movement.
Tarkan was in a relationship with a French model in the early 1990s, and with a Turkish journalist between 1994 and 1996. Because Tarkan does not like to talk about his personal life, there has been speculation about his sexual orientation in the popular press. Photos stolen from his house in New York in 2001 were portrayed as compromising; they were photos with other men in swimwear at a public nude beach. In one of the pictures he appears to be kissing a man. In an interview with Hürriyet, Tarkan contested the widespread assumption that he was gay. He said: "Men [spread these rumours about my homosexuality]! Definitely. It's because I destroy [the image] they try to show off as manhood!" One of his ex-girlfriends also denied he was gay. Tarkan later gave fewer and fewer interviews and television appearances, limiting himself to a small number of trusted journalists. In 2006, he said that his relationship with the media had gone wrong.
He was in a relationship with a lawyer, Bilge Öztürk, for seven years until they amicably parted in 2008. He has told the media that he regards the institution of marriage as outdated, stating he would only get married for the benefit of any children he might have. Tarkan owns a ranch-like property in Polonezköy, Istanbul, where he cultivates fruit trees and keeps animals, and owned a flat in Murray Hill, New York City.
On April 29, 2016 Tarkan married his long-time girlfriend, P?nar Dilek. The couple met in 2011 after a concert in Germany. Dilek has been a fan of Tarkan long before they got acquainted.
On July 12, 2018 Tarkan and P?nar became parents. Their daughter's name is Liya.
List of awards Tarkan has won during his career: