In what seems a pretty clear message to the world (“Hey, guys, we’re still the open democracy you thought we were”), Turkey has chosen a Jewish pop star, Can Bonomo, to represent it at this year’s Eurovision song contest May 22-26 in Baku, Azerbaijan. JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports that the choice has stirred some grumbling in the Turkish media and the singer mostly wants to avoid talking about his background. From what I can gather from Turkey’s English-language media (here, here and here, for example), the topic is being trod sort of delicately. There’s some debate over why a relative newbie (his first album came out a year ago) was chosen instead of a veteran. But the local music scene seems to be excited.
On the other hand, a quick Youtube search immediately turns up this clip showing a mainstream TV news interview with Bonomo and a bit of his music with some scary superimposed references to “Illuminati,” “Masonik” and “Yahudi.”
Bonomo lives in Istanbul and represents what’s being called “the Istanbul sound.” He claims the Kinks and the Beatles among his influences. He’s originally from Izmir, formerly known as Smyrna, famed in Jewish lore as the birthplace of another international Jewish rock star, the false messiah Shabbetai Zvi. According to Kampeas, he says his family came to Turkey 540 years ago, which would put it at 1472. I wonder if somebody didn’t accidentally add 20 years to what was more likely 520 years ago, or 1492.
His sound is distinctly Middle Eastern and very infectious. Here’s a clip:
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).