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Turkish Artists Are Tapping Into the Global Radio Market

Radio airplay data shows that Gaye Su Akyol and Jakuzi, two exciting upcoming acts on the Turkish music scene, are tapping into the global radio market. We dive into the numbers.

It isn’t often we hear about music from Turkey in the international music press. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that Turkish music is a strictly local phenomenon that only reaches audiences in its home country. That assumption, however, would be wrong.

In fact, several up and coming Turkish artists are currently seeing an impressive amount of radio airplay globally and are reaching listeners far beyond the borders of their home country. Using WARM’s radio tracking, we decided to take a closer look at two of the more interesting cases: psychedelic rock star Gaye Su Akyol and synth-pop band Jakuzi.

Besides being based in Istanbul, both acts also sing in Turkish and make music that creatively fuses Eastern and Western traditions while retaining a distinctive Turkish identity. This makes their appeal to international audiences all the more interesting.

Also noteworthy is the fact that a significant part of both artist’s international momentum seems to be driven by radio airplay compared to streaming. A large part of this radio airplay is happening on independent and community radio stations in different countries, which shows the importance that these stations often play in connecting musical cultures across borders.

Redefining Turkish Psychedelic Rock

Gaye Su Akyol is a rising star in Turkish psychedelic rock; a unique scene with strong traditions that in the 1970s was heavily linked to political and social protest movements. Akyol’s music also frequently touches on political themes and her unique style effortlessly weaves together Turkish melodies and traditional instruments with influences from alternative Western rock acts such as Nick Cave, Nirvana and Einstürzende Neubaten.

Her second album Istikrarli Hayal Hakikatir was released in October 2018. Throughout 2019, the title track has since gathered an impressive 1200+ radio spins in 29 different countries on 3 different continents.

Germany is the foreign country where the song has performed best which isn’t surprising since Turkish artists have a huge potential market in Germany due to the large Turkish immigrant community there. It is far from the only foreign country to embrace the song, however.

France is another big market for ‘Istikrarli Hayal Hakikatir’. Here it has gotten airplay in 14 different cities and among the big supporters are important stations such as Radio Prun in Nantes as well as Radio Pulsar in Poitier and Radio Beton in Tours. Several university radio stations are also playing it, including Radio Campus Orleans 88.3 FM as well as large community stations such as and Radio Vassivière. The song is also quite popular in Finland and Hungary and has been played on national radio in Sweden.

Recent radio airplay for ‘Istikrarli Hayal Hakikatir’

Akyol has also tapped into the North American airwaves. In the US, ‘Istikrarli Hayal Hakikatir’ has received 200+ spins in 48 cities. Many of those come from New World Buzz in Pittsburgh, a station dedicated to world music. Apart from that, a very broad range of stations has also supported the track, from community radio stations like WHPK in Chicago and WPKN in Bridgeport, Connecticut to important taste-making stations like KCRW in Los Angeles.

What’s interesting here, though, is that although many radio stations are playing it, many have only played it a few times, which perhaps indicates that they are still testing out the track to see what their audience thinks of it. The same is true in Canada where there is airplay in 15 +cities including Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa.

Turkish Synth-Pop With Dark Undertones

Istanbul-based synth-pop band Jakuzi is an exciting band whose somewhat dark sound mixes Turkish pop with dark-wave and synth-pop among other styles. The band formed in 2015 and have since released two well-received albums. The second one, Hata Payi, came out in early 2019 on the respected German label City Slang. Since then, the single ‘Süphe’ has quietly been infiltrating radio playlists across the world.

So far, ‘Süphe’ has over 500+ spins in 16 different countries. For an act with roughly 80.000 monthly Spotify plays most of which come from Turkey, this is an impressive achievement.

Again, Germany accounts for many of the foreign spins but the song is also popular in neighboring Switzerland. Among the stations to play it here are Radio 3FACH, a leading non-commercial cultural radio for young people, the community radio station Kanal K in Aarau and Radio Stadtfilter. In Austria it has both been played on the national radio ORF Ö1 and on independent stations like Radio Orange.

In Eastern Europe, the large Polish radio station Polskie Radio Trójka and the alternative SRO Rádio FM in Slovakia have also had it in rotation. It has even traveled as far away as the Farao Islands where it has been played on national radio. In Southern Europe, ‘Süphe’ has been played on Portuguese national radio as well as the very popular Italian independent Radio Citta Aperta.

Recent radio airplay data for Jakuzi’s ‘Süphe’

It’s hugely encouraging to see that upcoming Turkish artists performing in their own language and drawing on their own musical traditions are being received so well by radio stations across the world. Especially since the majority of these are not stations that are strictly dedicated to ‘world music’. Hopefully, both artists will be able to connect even further with many of these stations and build on the current foundation. It would be great to see Turkish acts join the ranks of other non-western artists who are currently creating international success on their own terms.