Turkish pop music had already become a favorite of mine upon hearing the mix of rolling darbuka drums and dance beats in international clubs. When I started working with Turkish-background refugees in Atlanta, I began to hear even more of the artists and even having the chance to see one in concert. Here are some of my favorites:
Tarkan: Tarkan (1997)
Probably the most well-known and widely popular Turkish pop singer, Tarkan became quite popular all over Europe, America, and beyond. I remember hearing Tarkan’s mega-hit song “Simirik” played at international clubs and parties and being quite captivated by its sound. On his highly successful self-titled 1997 album, he offers this song plus a mix of rhythmic dance songs, ballads, as well as some more traditional style Turkish music.
Rafet El Roman: Surgun (2004)
Another Turkish singer with a huge following, Rafet El Roman is probably the best at crooning broad, emotion-laden Turkish ballads though he also has a lot of catchy upbeat songs as well. His album Surgun offers a nice balance of both. I had the chance to see him in a concert in Atlanta at a Turkish festival where many of my Turk friends were quite excited to see him.
Mustafa Sandal: Araba (2000)
The songs of Turkish pop singer Mustafa Sandal utilize traditional Turkish rhythms but with added elements of jazz, electric guitar, and such. His international pop hit was the title song “Araba” which can be found on his first international label release.
It’s amazing that some of the world’s most famous Spanish-language flamenco music comes out of France. The gitanes are French-born Roma of Spanish background from the border areas of France and Spain like Arles and Montpelier. This mixed background has led to some wonderfully beautiful sound and rhythm.
The Gipsy Kings: The Best of… (1995)
My first memories of the these world-famous masters of Spanish flamenco are watching Spanish exchange students in France dancing beautifully to their music at a party. This greatest hits albums includes a good balance of famous fast-paced (“Djobi Djoba”, “Bomboleo”) and slower (“Un Amor”) songs as well as my favorite instrumental “Love and Liberte”.
Alabina: L’essentiel (1999)
Though it seems a natural pairing now, I was absolutely blown away the first I heard of this group’s mix of Spanish flamenco and modern Arabic pop music. The Paris-based group is actually made of two separate parts: the gitano group Los Ninos de Sara and Egyptian-Israeli pop singer Ishtar. Years later, I even got to hear them in person in Atlanta which was when I picked up their greatest hits album. I would suggest you do yourself a favor and pick it up as well!
I have a number of good friends who live in Germany and whenever I go visit them I try to browse through the best-sellers in media stores like Saturn to pick up a bit of current music.
Rosenstolz: Das Grosse Leben (2006)
With a number of friends throughout Germany, I was anxious to find some interesting music from the country while visiting in 2007. I was steered by several of those friends to the group Rosenstolz whose catchy pop ballads are quite popular at the time.
Herbert Gronemeyer: Was Muss Muss (2008)
Looking for some well-known older music in Germany, I bought the career spanning retrospective of Herbert Gronemeyer. He is a very popular German singer with a decades long career. From his start in European rock of the early eighties through to more modern song creations, he has apparently been a staple in German music and has two of the best-selling German albums ever.
Joy Denalane: Maureen (2011)
On another trip through Germany, I picked up the newest album of this German language soul and R&B singer named Joy Denalane. Imagine the broad groove of Alicia Keyes with a sleek German accent. The songs on the album are all nicely produced to create a throwback quality and the sound and mood really shines even if you can’t understand the lyrics.
Johannes Oerding: Konturen (2019)
This album was popular on my 2020 visit to Germany and I liked the catchy modern sounds of this singer-songwriter like “Alles Okay”
Sarah Connor: Hertz Kraft Werke (2019)
A German friend recommended this album from Sarah Connor, a German with American parentage who is both a singer and reality TV star. Much of her early work was in English but she came back to music in her native language after her time on TV and has enjoyed big success.
Niyaz: Nine Heavens (2008)
Based in Canada, this Iranian-background group combines centuries old Urdu and Turkish poetry, traditional Middle Eastern melody, and electronic instrumentation to create some very interesting trance music led by the swirling vocals of the lead female singer.