Müslüm Baba: Icon of Turkish arabesque music

This Wednesday marked the eighth anniversary of the death of Turkish singer Müslüm Gürses, a national legend for his mournful, melancholy lyrics and contributions to arabesque music.

Gürses was best known for his mournful tunes blending Turkish folk instruments with Arabic or "arabesque" ("arabesk" in Turkish) melodies, and his albums sold millions. He died of heart failure in 2013 when he was just 59 years old.

The Turkish public had a love-and-hate relationship with the popular singer. While the 1980s saw his songs banned in Turkey, some of his passionate fans are known for having cut themselves with razor blades at his concerts.

Gürses' real name was Müslüm Akbaş. He was born on May 7, 1953, in a village in Sanliurfa, a southeastern province long known as underdeveloped.

When he was 3 years old, his family had to move to the southern province of Adana due to economic difficulties.

He could not continue his education after primary school and worked as a shoe repairman as well as a tailor for a while.

In a television interview, the legendary singer recalled his time in Adana:

"We were living in a small house. At that time, Adana was, of course, very hot. Everyone was lying on the roofs. We also sleep on the roof, just because it was hot. We were singing [songs] in my own way.

"Our neighbors would say, 'Your voice is good. Sing one more, another one'" he recalled.

He mentioned a friend of him, Mustafa, who attended the Public Education Center and playing baglama, an indigenous Turkish lute-like instrument.

"I asked him if I could attend [to the education center]," Gürses recalled at that time, adding he learned a lot there.

Despite his father's unwillingness, her mother supported the...

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