ISTANBUL, Turkey – Cem Karaca, an influential rock musician whose leftist politics temporarily cost him his Turkish citizenship, has died. He was 58.
Karaca, who put together more than 20 albums, died on Feb. 8 of heart failure, doctors said.
Born in Istanbul in 1945 to an Armenian Christian mother and Muslim father, Karaca mixed Turkish themes with western rock music, and was one the most well known rock musicians in Turkey. But for many Turks, Karaca was equally known for his leftist politics.
In 1979, amid street fighting between nationalists and leftists, Karaca fled to Germany, where he was to spend the next eight years in exile.
Turkey’s military, which restored order to the country with a 1980 military coup, cracked down on dissidents and demanded Karaca return to Turkey to face criminal charges of inciting violence.
He refused to return and lost his citizenship as a result. He was able to win it back and return to Turkey in 1987 after then Prime Minister Turgut Ozal, from a center-right party, intervened.
Karaca’s later music assumed a more conciliatory tone and he said he wanted his music to appeal to a broader segment of society.
“Today, no one can be shot because of his or her leftist or rightist views. I can sit down and talk with a person who doesn’t share the same views with me,” the bearded, long-haired Karaca said in an interview with the magazine Aktuel published this month. “We can’t compare the political situation in the 1970’s with today’s situation. I am addressing my music to my generation and the young people who don’t support extremist views, but those who know how to ask questions.”
Thousands of fans attended his funeral in Istanbul last week, saying Islamic prayers as requested by Karaca. He is survived by his wife and son.