Opponents of Turkey’s bid to join the E.U. portray it as an alien culture with social and religious beliefs that are decidedly un-European. Following his election as French president in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy said Europe “must give itself borders” and declared that Turkey “has no place” in the organization. In “We Could Be The Same,” Turkish rap-rock band maNga begs to differ. With their perfect English, well-produced rips and suggestive lyrics, they narrow the social distance between Turks and their European counterparts, and make it clear that Turkey’s youth have their eyes locked firmly on the West.
It’s hard to identify anything Turkish about Turkey’s Eurovision entry—and that’s the point. The country isn’t full of fanatics like scaremongers in Western Europe would have you think. It does, however, have at least one edgy and stylish rock group. And if I had to guess I’d say they’re proponents of secularism. The band, which has said the song is about peaceful co-existence, hasn’t given any public statements on Turkey’s E.U. bid. But their official preview video seems to tell Europe to tear down the barbed wire.
I can see that this could be fate. I can love you more than they hate. Doesn’t matter who they will blame. We can beat them at their own game.
They already are. MaNga won Best European Act at the 2009 MTV European Music Awards, beating out Brit frontrunner Pixie Lott. And its front man Ferman Akgül is a leading contender in my own online competition to identify Eurovision’s Next Top Male Model. There’s clearly an appetite for Turkey. Even so, maNga knows it’ll be tough to win over everyone.
And I feel I’m turning the page. And I feel the world is a stage. I don’t think the drama will stop. I don’t think they’ll give up the rage.
Since the introduction of televoting in 1997, Turkey can do no wrong at Eurovision. Its acts cut across genre and consistently place at or near the top. In 2003 it won with an entourage of belly dancers. In 2004 it placed fourth with a ska punk band. In 2007 it placed fourth with an Anatolian hip-hop artist. And last year it placed fourth with a sexy Arabian Nights number. Critics say the Turkish diaspora is responsible for the country’s success. For instance, Turkey tends to receive top points from Germany which has around 2,000,000 citizens of Turkish descent.
Regardless of the why, Turkey is a force to be reckoned with. It’s the only rock entry with a legitimate chance of winning. And it’s one of the few Eurovision entries that is already prominent in large parts of Europe. Despite competing in the more difficult second semi-final, which includes Azerbaijan’s much-ballyhooed starlet Safura and Armenia’s Angelina Jolie look-a-like Eva Rivas, Turkey will breeze through to the final.
Bookies currently have Turkey listed as finishing around tenth. But given their mainstream sound, I’m confident the professional jury of music producers will rate this slightly higher. If the Turkish diaspora does make a difference in the televoting portion of the competition, Turkey could find itself with a fighting chance to make the top five.
Watch maNga’s first Eurovision rehearsal: