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Overnight music hit turns rappers into social justice heroes in Turkey

Screen shot from the Susaman video on YouTube

Turkey woke up on Friday morning to an unstoppable musical hit that apparently struck a chord with its citizens for speaking openly about sensitive issues such as domestic violence and nepotism.

The song, Susamam [which translates as ‘cannot stay silent’], became a number one trending video on YouTube on the morning of September 6 in Turkey. Uploaded at midnight by the creator of the song, Turkish rapper Şanışer [Shanisher or Sarp Palaur], Susamam is an ode to Turkey and its most pressing social, political, and cultural issues. Within 48 hours, it has also turned into one of the most popular hashtags on Turkish social media. It proved so popular that even some local government Twitter accounts shared the song. There is now an Instagram filter that encourages you to take a picture and share it, and T-shirts are on sale whose profits will be donated to village schools.

The song brought together 20 rappers or MCs (masters of ceremonies), under one roof. Each picked one of the themes highlighted in the song. These included environment, animal rights, education, women rights — a total of 20 “issues” presented under a separate hashtag in the video.

In an interview with BBC Turkey, Kamufle, one of the rappers involved, explains that after the issues were divided, each rapper wrote their own lyrics and filmed their part. Şanışer then put it all together with his own part, and prepared the final version of the video.

The video starts with a voice over of a woman who says:

Günler koşuşturmakla geçip giderken
Neden var olduğunu unuttun
Neden olduğun sorunlarınsa farkında değilsin
Gülmek eğlenmek istiyorsun
Hayat zaten çok zor
O yüzden müzik seni eğlendirsin
Gerçeklikten uzaklaştırsın istiyorsun
Ama biz müziğin bir şeyler değiştirebileceğine inanıyoruz
Bizimle gel
Başlayalım mı?

As days rush by, you have forgotten why you exist
You are unaware of the problems you have caused
You want to laugh and have fun, but have no intention to find solutions.
Life is tough as it is, that's why music should entertain you.
You want music to take you away from reality.
But we believe music can change certain things.
Come with us, shall we begin?

The song goes on under the environment hashtag:

[…]İnsan en büyük parazit
Gezegene bak lan!
[…]Faturasını gelecek nesil öder
Kıyamet şur'da “mal” gibi izle!

[…] humans are the biggest parasite
look at the universe man!
[…] the next generations will foot the bill
the end of the world is here, but you just sit and watch like an idiot.

The issue of law is then addressed:

Ben bi’ beyaz Türk'üm
Yasalarım Anglosakson ama kafam Ortadoğulu
Apolitik büyüdüm, hiç oy vermedim
Kafamı tatile, gezmeye, borca yordum
Adalet öldü, ucu bana dokunana dek sustum ve ortak oldum
Şimdi tweet atmaya bile çekiniyorum
Kendi ülkemin polisinden korkar oldum
Üzgünüm ama senin eserin ülkedeki umutsuz nesil
Senin eserin bu mutsuz kesim ve bu kurşun sesi!
Sebebi nedir bilmeden hapiste çürüyen o suçsuz sefil
Seni, senin eserin, senin eserin bu korkunç resim
[…]Sesini çıkarmadın, yani suçlusun!
[…]Şimdi başına bi’ şey gelse şeh'rin hukuk mu?
Bi’ gece haksızca alsalar içeri seni
Bunu haber yapıcak gazeteci bile bulamazsın
HEPSİ TUTUKLU!
[…]Sen sustun, ses etmediğinden bindiler tepene
Haklarını elinden aldılar ve güzellikle geri vermicekler

I am a privileged Turk
My laws are Anglo-Saxon
But my mentality is the Middle East
I have been raised apolitical, never voted
I only worried about holidays, travel, and debt
Justice died while I stayed silent and I was complicit in it
Until it touched me
Now I am afraid even to tweet
And I am afraid of my own police.

I am sorry, but this country’s hopeless generation is your doing
The unhappy ones, and the bullet sound are your doing
The innocent wretch rotting in jail for reasons unknown
It is you, your doing, this ugly portrait is your work.

[…] Because you did not speak up, you are guilty
[…] If one night, you are arrested unjustly
you won’t find a journalist to write about it
because all of them are ARRESTED

[…] You have kept silence, and they have walked all over you.
They have taken your rights away from you, and won’t simply give it back to you.

Nepotism is also mentioned as one of the main issues in the song:

Paranız olmalı, ya da birileriyle aranız olmalı
Kodamanlarda numaranız olmalı
Aksaray'da bir adamınız olmalı
Bizim yatımız katımız bi’ de yalımız olmadı
Kumbaramız dolmadı da bununla doğmadım
[…]Yönetenler çağ dışı dinozorlar
Bu ormanda herkese göre rol var
Sustukça sıra sana gelecek
Aydın beyinleri bekliyor karanlık gelecek

[…]You either have to have the money or know someone
Big shots should have your number
You must know someone at the white palace 
We never owned a yacht, a flat, or a villa
Our piggy bank never got full and we were not born with that[…]
Those governing us are dinosaurs from another era
In this forest, there is a role for everyone
Your turn will come if you remain silent
Dark future awaits bright minds

One of the most shared clips from the video was by singer Deniz Tekin. She is also the only woman in the video among an otherwise all-male cast. Here is the clip:

The song talks openly about domestic violence, an issue often dismissed in the mainstream discourse in Turkey:

Ben bilmem hiç kendimi korumak zorunda kalmadım
Bilmem ben bi’ çocuğu düşünmek zorunda olmadım
Hiç evlendirilmedim
Evde dayak görmedim
Kendi evimde kendi odama zorla hapsedilmedim
Sözlerinizi kusmadım
Yurdumdan edilmedim
Nefretinizle yanmadım
Yakılarak can vermedim
Hiç kardeşim olmadı
Hiç abimden korkmadım
Okuldan alınmadım
Ben hiç öldürülmedim

I do not know, for I have never had to defend myself
Don’t know, for I have not had to think of a child
For I was never married against my will
For I was never beaten at home
For I was never imprisoned in a room in my own house
For I never had to vomit your words
For I never lost a home
For I never burned from your hate
For I never died from getting burned
For I never had a sibling
For I never feared an older brother
For I was never taken out of school
For I have never been killed

Deniz’ powerful part is followed by the hashtags of countless women victims killed in the hands of their male perpetrators.

Susaman song turns into a Susaman national debate

 

The creators of ‘Susamam’ are trying to raise awareness about crucial issues that are highly debated in Turkish society but not always present in the official public and media discourse. They seem to have indeed succeeded, as netizens but also mainstream celebrities share their views about the song.

Rapper Fero timed each of the issues and shared the screenshot:

It's not that the song is too long, it's that we have endless problems.

Some netizens described the song as a success story in terms of cultural expression:

Others point out the song manages to describe years of struggles in less than 15 minutes:

Translation: for years some people refused to understand what these 20 rappers managed to explain in 14 minutes

The song was also welcomed by Turkish artists at large. Prominent Turkish actor Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan wrote:

Translation: we have beautiful kids

Yekta Kopan, a famous writer and actor tweeted:

Translation: Like a rock. This will break a lot of windows! Note: Deniz Tekin made me cry

Another star, Hayko Cepkin wrote:

Translation: #SUSAMAM scored, 2 goals, i kiss you all from everywhere

He was echoed by prominent journalist Can Dundar:

Translation: Finally: music ‘spoke’

But September 6 was not just ‘Susamam day’. Three other rappers released their songs on that day, approximately at the same time. Ezhel, one of Turkey's prominent rappers, posted “Olay” [Event] – a song about the 2016 failed military coup, Gezi Park protests and other events that have occurred in the country, while Sayedar and Onder released “Komedi ve Dram” [Comedy and drama]. The last song is less focused on social issues, the rappers say, adding the simultaneous release was not planned ahead of time.

Whether a coincidence or not, ‘Susaman’ and ‘Olay’ have certainly left a mark already. At the time of publishing, Olay song got over 3 million views. Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkey, one of the rappers from the Susamam video said that the rappers could have used much harsher language, or used more explicit scenes, but decided not to do that in order to appeal to everyone in Turkey on the issues being raised in the song.

Jumping over 10 million views at time of publishing, and still trending, ‘cannot stay silent’ is certainly making a deafening noise in Turkey and liberating the minds.

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