A Study of the Combination of Popular Culture and İslam in Turkey: The case of İlahi Sanatçıları
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Since Western societies have been regularly viewing Islam through an orientalist perspective pertaining to the Middle East and that due to the over-emphasis upon the existence of radical Islamist groups following the events of September the 11th, the dynamics displayed in the daily lives of Muslims worldwide have been silenced. Actually, Muslims all around the world, individually shape the way of practices their beliefs in existed religious structure and by doing so they do not only accepting but also actively reforming the official symbols and dogmas of the religion in their everyday lives. Since the 1980s, the supply and development of media and internet, accelerated globalization, and the formation of the Muslim market have drawn a new cultural map on the Islamic World. Taking a view on Turkey, since the 1980s, the emergence of pro-Islamic political forces and liberal economic policies triggered the revival of Islamism in Turkey. As a sign of this, the new emerging Islamist elite class and Anatolian capitalists contributed greatly to the forming of an active Muslim identity in Turkey. This environmental change has provided Muslims with the atmosphere to be a producer of culture themselves. The phenomenon of İlahi artists is one of the results. This study has been undertaken with a focus on İlahi artists (İlahi sanatçıları) in Ankara as a case of the combination of popular culture and Islam in Turkey. The debut of them date much farther than the early 2000s but soon they achieved their large popularity. As of January 2018, almost 380 solo and group İlahi artists are performing. İlahi artists strongly emphasize faith and religious intentions, while popular elements are actively used for İlahi music and performances in order to attract attention from the audience. İlahi artists enable us to read Turkey’s religious landscape. In the Turkey of today, the boundaries between political and religious are quite blurred since the state and Islam are intertwined and sharing their fates. On the other hand, with the increase in technology and the proliferation of capitalism in recent years, economic activities and the accumulation of wealth are coming to be viewed more positively in Turkish Muslims’ Islamic lives. Furthermore, İlahi artists’ music activities and their attitudes dealing with their profession showed local diversity within Islam and the variability of ‘Islamic’, and Muslims’ agency in trying to maintain a balance between their daily lives and their faith by forming appropriate religious lives through socio-cultural changes.