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Sezen Aksu

Considered the “Queen of Turkish Pop,” the career and music of Sezen Aksu has laid an aesthetic foundation for modern Turkish popular music. Born in the province of Denizli in 1954, Aksu was discouraged by her family from pursuing music and would wait until they had left the house to sing. She entered a local agricultural university but left to focus on music. In 1975, Aksu's debut single, “Haydi Sansim/Gel Bana,” was released under the pseudonym of Sezen Seley. The same year, an effort by Aksu and fellow musicians resulted in Turkey competing for the first time in the Eurovision Song Contest, though she did not perform. Her second single, 1976's “Olmaz Olsun/Vurdumduymaz,” was a hit in the Turkish charts and Aksu was given the Promising Female Artist of the Year award by a major magazine. From the 1980s until 1995, Aksu's personal and professional relationship with producer Onno Tunc resulted in a series of major records across Europe and the development of a new style of Turkish pop music. In the mid-1990s, bolstered by an international vogue for world music, Aksu began to collaborate with composer Goran Bregović and the pair incorporated Western classical and Turkish traditional music into her sound, which resulted in it being accepted by a wider audience. Through the 2000s, Aksu regularly released albums that fluctuated between pop and traditional/adjacent. She has dedicated her time to promoting the Turkish-Kurdish peace process and became an advocate for the Turkish LGBT community: actions that bring her into confrontation with strictly enforced government policies.