Islamic Pop Music in Turkey

Combining Rock Music with an Islamic Message

In Turkey today, traditional Islamic music is giving way to the rock sound of "Yesil Pop". But along with the normal rock beat and guitar rifts, comes not a message of sex and drugs, but rather praising God. Dorian Jones reports

Feridun Özdemir's Islamic rock band
The lyrics of Özdemir's band speak not of sex and drugs, but of God and true faith

​​The growing modern Islamic music movement has been dubbed by the Turkish media Yesil or "green pop". With some albums selling more than a million copies the music easily outstrips popular western music.

Feridun Özdemir, with his shoulder length black hair, and tight fitting jeans looks like your typical rock star. His records are among most successful in the Yesil pop genre.

I met Özdemir at Marmara FM, one of Istanbul's most popular radio stations. Istanbul has more than dozen stations solely dedicated to "Yesil Pop". Özdemir presents a daily drive time program, with over half a million listeners. He says combining rock music with an Islamic message came to him easily.

There are no women singers

"I had very good friends in the rock music scene, and I loved the sound. But I grew up loving religious music and its message too. Because my instrument is the guitar I thought if I was to make music I would bring these two together and it happened very naturally."

At Yildirim record shop, which is close to Istanbul University where many of its customers study, business is brisk. The jam-packed shelves of CDs and cassettes give a small insight into the range of Islamic pop music.

It draws on a wide range of influences from rock to reggae to dance, but unlike its secular Turkish pop counterpart there are no women singers. Owner of the shop is Hasan Turker. He is also a distributor for more than a dozen Yesil pop bands. Turker says the rise of Yesil reflects major changes in Turkish society.

"In Turkey in the 80's there were very few people interested in contemporary Islamic music. But everything changed in the mid 90's when there was this explosion. The mid 90's were very important with the opening up of many TV and radio stations, which started playing Turkish pop music.

At the same time you saw the first successes of a pro-Islamic political party, which had a big influence on many people, especially the young. So the 90's created the culture for the rise of this music, now it has become so big, I am now approached every day by new bands."

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