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Chapter 3



Turkish rapper Ayben in performance, August 2006
Photograph by Thomas Solomon

The Girl's Voice in Turkish Rap
by Thomas Solomon

Ayben Özçalkan made her mark as a seventeen-year-old, rapping on her older brother's CD recording in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1999. She developed her own style and technique as a young rap artist, even though she risked bringing disapproval to her family by performing in a male-dominated genre. After putting her career on hold as she cared for her dying mother, she then relaunched herself as a rapper, with multiple appearances on TV, to become the personality that she is today. She overtly tackles women's issues in her performances through her lyrics that deal explicitly with the treatment of women in Turkey.

Thomas Solomon: "I first heard of Ayben shortly after I began doing research on Turkish rap in 2000, while living and working in Istanbul. I didn't hear much about Ayben in the following few years, but I took note when she resumed recording and entered the public arena again during 2004. By this time I was living and working in Norway, so I mostly followed her career 'from afar,' though I was also able to get updates 'on the ground' and occasionally see her perform live during my regular short visits to Istanbul every summer.

"I was finally formally introduced to Ayben for the first time at a hip-hop party in late summer 2006, and we agreed to do a formal interview later that fall when I would be in Istanbul for an extended period of fieldwork. Ayben's schedule was quite full at that time, since she was busy in the recording studio working on her first full album, as well as shooting a video clip, having live performances (including trips abroad), and doing interviews with journalists. But we eventually were able to do the interview one afternoon in November.

"I had to listen to her very carefully during the interview, since Ayben speaks very fast (at least that was my impression), though I also noticed that despite the speed with which she spoke, her pronunciation was always very clear, with consonants and vowels carefully articulated, and without ever slurring over syllables—the same qualities that characterize her rapping style. I noted during the interview that the rhythmic quality of her speaking voice, and her generally fast speech, made it sometimes seem like she was spontaneously rapping, even when she was just engaging in normal conversation."

Fan-made video for Ayben's Disi Köpek

Fan-made video for Yüz Yüze

Official video for Ayben's Benim O

Visit Ayben's Myspace page ».

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