Last year we published a series of articles looking at all 43 countries that participated in the 2018 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. It was a review of all the reasons we loved each of them — and a celebration of their continued participation in the contest.
The feedback was lovely — every country lights someone’s fire — so we’ve decided to take a look at countries that used to participate at Eurovision and to shout out why we still love them and want them to return. Near, far, wherever you are: the love is real.
And guess which country will launch the series? Turkey, of course! They developed into one of the most beloved competitors in the contest….only to break our hearts in 2013 with the announcement they’d withdraw.
Before we start, let’s take a look at some interesting facts. Turkey was the second biggest country to participate in Eurovision and — alongside Russia — the only country straddling both Europe and Asia.
It debuted in 1975 with the amazing ballad “Seninle Bir Dakika”, which finished last with 3 points. During its 38 years of Eurovision history, it only missed four editions of the contest. Three of these (1976, 1977, 1979) were during the 1970’s — and immediately after it had joined the contest. The other came in 1994 and was the result of the now defunct relegation rule.
Eurovision 1975 Turkey | Semiha Yanki – Seninle Bir dakika
Turkey is without a doubt one of the most interesting countries to have ever participated in the contest. It took them 38 years before they achieved their first (and only) victory. The diversity of their songs — with their style, uniqueness and regional flair — have no precedent.
So let’s take a look at 10 reasons why we (still) love Turkey and want them back!
1. They were SO persistent
Turkey endured a very long history at the very bottom of the scoreboard, making it perhaps one of the most underrated countries in the history of the contest. Between 1975 and 2002, Turkey finished last three times – in 1975, 1983 and 1987. In fact, until 2003, they only managed to reach the top 5 once — in 1997 with “Dinle”.
Eventually Turkey’s patience paid off — partly because countries of the so-called New Europe began joining the contest. They were culturally closer to Turkey and through Istanbul lots of love. The facts are remarkable. In stark contrast to their first 28 years in the contest, Turkey achieved 5 top placings — including one victory — in only 10 years between 2003 and 2012. They only missed qualification from the semi-final once in their 9 attempts – that was in 2011. They may have been late bloomers, but boy did they bloom!
2. They know how to protest
The actual reasons for Turkey’s withdrawal from the contest remain somewhat unclear, though plenty of opinions are floating about. Turkey initially claimed that they were dissatisfied with the voting system. And many fans have pointed out that, owing to its size, Turkey should be part of an expanded Big 6.
Last August, Ibrahim Eren, the general manager of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, said that the main reason had been performers like Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. In his mind provocative acts like Wurst sent a bad message to Turkish youth. <deep eye roll, please>. This suggests that Turkey’s withdrawal from the contest lies in their current political climate rather than the contest itself.
This may not be a “typical” reason to love a country, but Eurovision could bring secular and liberal voices to the mainstream again. Let us hope that this will happen in 2020.
3. They once had a song about petroleum
Malta sang about vodka and Greece about alcohol. But in 1980 Turkey went deep into one of nature’s fundamental resources when they sent “Petrol” to the song contest. The song was performed by Ajda Pekaan, one of the first of many divas to represent Turkey. The song, which is thought to reference a man rather than petroleum (according to some fans), only received 23 points, from which 12 points came from Morocco in its only-ever participation.
Eurovision 1980 Turkey: Ajda Pekkan – Petrol / Petr´oil
4. Their (over)enthusiastic conductor
In 1989 Turkey sent “Bana Bana” (translated as “For me, for me”), which was performed by a group of two women and two men called Pan. “Bana Bana” is one of the most authentic and stunning songs Turkey has ever sent to Eurovision. But there is another reason why this song is so remarkable. Its conductor, Timur Selçuk also wrote the song and is the father of one of the performing artists. His enthusiastic style of conducting left the audience shocked. As Terry Wogan said during his commentary for the UK that year: “Liveliest conductor of the evening”. The song and Timur’s conducting have become a cult favourite.
Eurovision 1989 Turkey – Pan – “Bana bana”
5. They never compromised on their traditional sounds
Long before oriental music became trendy in Eurovision, Turkey was already bringing it to the stage. Turkey always insisted on being authentic: Ottoman and Balkan elements were present in almost every track they sent via the instruments, choreography and staging. It took Europe a long time to start appreciating Turkey’s style but when once they did it was love.
6. They’ve sent the best rock bands
Turkey is perhaps the only country that managed to do very well with any band they sent during the 00’s (bar 2011). This is not very common and groups at large have achieved mixed results.
In 2004, when Turkey hosted the contest in Istanbul, their act Athena sang “For Real” – a punk rock song. Overcoming the host country curse, they managed to finish fourth — an unusually high placing for the host nation. Four years later, Mor ve Ötesi, an alternative rock band, came 7th in Belgrade. And in 2010 it was MaNga with their unforgettable “We Could be the Same” which came second – Turkey’s best result after Sertab Erener’s victory in 2003.
Eurovision 2010 Turkey – maNga – “We Could Be The Same”
7. Their super power females
Speaking of Sertab, Turkey has a respected legacy of divas: Sebnem Paker, Turkey’s representative in both 1996 and 1997; Sibel Tuzun, who represented the country in Athens in 2006; and, of course, Hadise who performed in Moscow in 2009. They were all very strong women who set the stage on fire and put Turkey on the very top of the scoreboard.
8. They also slay when they party
When it comes to partying, Turkey knows how to deliver and to bring the audience to it feet. Whenever they crank up the beat, they typically throw in Turkish flavour: eastern voices, folk dance, traditional outfits or all of these elements combined. The most two recent examples are “Shake it Shekerim” performed by Kenan Dogulu and, of course, Hadise’s “Düm Tek Tek”. The latter has become synonymous with Turkish dancing.
Hadise – “Düm Tek Tek”
9. Can Bonomo – “Love Me Back”
The very last Turkish entry was performed in 2012 and it was definitely one to remember. We are speaking of “Love Me Back”. Everything about this song was perfect – its charismatic (and handsome!) singer, Can Bonomo, the silky stage and the choreography which translated the message in a clever and amusing way. Who can forget how the on-stage sailors — funny moustaches and all — turned their capes into the sail of a boat? This song brought goether so many Turkish elements that we miss so much.
Can Bonomo – “Love Me Back” (Eurovision 2012)
10. The unique Turkish language
This list would not be complete without mentioning Turkish, which is one of the most unique and stunning languages heard at Eurovision. Since the lifting of the language rule, Turkey has usually sent songs performed in English. But even then Turkish words crept in to help their songs stand out. The most recent example of a song performed entirely in Turkish is “Deli” (which translates as “insane”) — and it remains loved by fans.
Some Turkish fans didn’t like their entry “Super Star” by Sibel Tüzün. To express their dislike, they’ve taken to YouTube to unleash a tirade of negative comments like, “this is the best Greek song”. Apparently this is an expression that Turks use when they want to blame others for their mistakes….
Eurovision 2006 Turkey — Sibel Tüzün — “Superstar”
Are you missing Turkey at Eurovision as much as we are? What are the other reasons that you miss Turkey at ESC? Let us know down below!