Arabesque, when applied to the Turkish music, is a style especially influenced by the sounds and melodies of the Arabic music. It has slowly penetrated the traditional Turkish folk tunes in the 50s and 60s, but gained an
unexpected boost thanks to the songs of the great song-writer and singer Orhan Gencebay. According to Mr. Gencebay, the introduction of these sounds has not been a passive or regressive intrusion, as some commentators suggest, but the result of a
search for new sounds for Turkish folk music. The introduction of his "Hatasiz Kul Olmaz" remains a masterpiece of the arabesque style and exemplifies the wide space opened for the Turkish music by this style.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the introduction of the arabesque style happened along with large numbers of migration from small towns and villages to big towns in Turkey. Folk music, classically oriented towards rural life both in music and lyrics (except masters such as Asik Veysel, often offering universal themes), which
induced a change in style and the subject matter of the lyrics as well. The traditional popularity of the arabesque style may be explained by this fact as well, although this has been changing in the last decades in favor of wider audiences. The point of view that Arabesque style has been a logical
end product of the migrant subculture in big cities, is also supported by the fact that Mr. Gencebay, in his early movies, generally represented a man
coming from a small town with his saz (a first), and the cultural shock he goes through follows closely the cultural clashes of the migrant groups within Turkey.
A special category in this field is represented by Muslum Gurses.
Thanks to the almost ritualistic sounds in his music and the sometimes bizarre lyrics treating death, cruelty, torture, bordering on a schizoid worldview, he has formed a cult following (known as the "slashers", who cut themselves with blades frequently during his concerts). The fact that he appeared frequently in the concerts intoxicated, or stoned,
didn't help his disavowal attempts of such acts in his concerts. Mr. Gurses, considered a landmark of the Turkish arabesque music, recently has been keeping his distance from the dissociated and trying to gain a wider audience.
Mr. Emrah has generally been the favorite of the oppressed and the poor, and these are themes that are characteristically associated with his lyrics and movies. While Mr. Emrah's themes have been mostly external factors, Ferdi Tayfur's
music and movies (often with surreal atmospheres and themes), represent the pyschological and devastating effects of these conditions on the individual psyche.
Other leading singers in the Arabesque field include Ferdi Tayfur, Müslüm Gürses, Ibrahim Tatlises, Emrah, Ebru Gündeş, and Sibel Can.