Volume 16, Number 13
December 22, 2009

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This Week

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Dr. Martin Stokes Speaks to Bilkent News

Bilkent University was recently visited by Dr. Martin Stokes, a specialist in contemporary Middle East music and a professor of ethnomusicology and the anthropology of music at Oxford University. Dr. Stokes gave a seminar called “The Republic of Love: Sentiment, Nation, and Popular Culture” for the Bilkent University Seminar Series on Polity, Society and the World.

In the seminar, Dr. Stokes focused mainly on the famous Turkish singers Zeki Müren, Orhan Gencebay, and Sezen Aksu. He linked the singers with sentimentality and demonstrated how their music reflects the national setting of their times.

Here, Dr. Martin Stokes answers six questions:

1) How were you first attracted to the study of music and what led you to focus on Middle Eastern music?

My first school was a church music school. I had a very intense (and good)musical education there. But it was a bit like living in a monastery. By the time I had returned and spent another year there as a teacher after high school, I really needed to do something different. That's when I first started traveling farther than France, Ireland, Spain. In the summer before I went to university, I had a vague plan to travel all round the Mediterranean, clockwise. I got as far as Istanbul. I think that's how it all started. An interest in the music, the language and the culture all followed, and anthropology seemed to be the best way to hold all of these things together.

2) What is your favorite song of all time?

Jacques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas

3) Complete this sentence: On Friday nights Dr. Stokes is most likely...

To be found in 'The Bear' (a tiny pub in Oxford dating back to medieval times). This is a weekly ritual with a colleague to mark the end of the week. We are both devotees of what gets called 'real ale' in England, i.e. local beer brewed by traditional methods. Oxford is full of such places, which is one of many reasons I love it here.

4) If you could explain your love for music in one sentence, that sentence would be…

a very long sentence indeed.

5) What is your favorite place in Turkey?

Almost anywhere where I can see the Bosphorus. Two autumns ago, I spent a long weekend in Gökçe Ada and thought that was amazingly beautiful. Turkey is full of beautiful places.

6) One of your most memorable university stories:

I had absolutely no idea how far away Belfast airport was from the city of Belfast when I went there for my first job interview in 1989. I would have completely missed my interview had it not been for a father and daughter sitting next to me on the plane, who drove me from the airport to the door of the Social Anthropology department at Queen's at an enormous speed. It was a very long way out of their way, as I remember. That was my introduction to life in Northern Ireland, and entirely characteristic of the- at times, excessive - generosity and warmth of people in that part of the world, even at the height of 'the troubles'. Jobs in universities were very thin on the ground then, after nearly ten years of cuts in higher education under Margaret Thatcher. If it hadn't been for that couple, I honestly think I would have missed my chance of any kind of university career. I had a great eight years there.

Bilkent News

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