Turkish musician of Laz minority refused by public tv

30 March 2005

A musician from Turkey’s Laz minority group says the country’s
public television has refused to allow him to perform his songs


The Laz musician Birol Topaloglu was refused to perform his songs in the Laz language because a tv producer claimed that new Turkish laws adopting democratic European standards exclude the Laz language.
This was reported by the news agency AFP from Istanbul on March 29.

Birol Topaloglu is considered one of the foremost folk musicians in Turkey today. He was born to a Laz family, in the small village Apso, which is on the North Eastern shore of the Black Sea coast of Turkey, near the Georgian border. Since 1997, he has been involved in trying to preserve the culture of the Laz community of about 250,000 people.

On March 18, 2005, he had been invited to participate in a musical special in Ankara on the national television station TRT-INT.

“But when I arrived at the studio with my pipes and violin, I was told that my songs would not be part of the program,” Birol Topaloglu explains to the French news agency AFP. TRT-INT television declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

The Laz are today mostly Muslim, although some pockets of Christian Laz survive as well. Their rich musical tradition is closely akin to that of the Pontic Greeks, their neighbours.

Birol Topaloglu faced a ban over his usage of the Laz language when he was a student, a time when speaking Laz was shameful and penalised. Some teachers even set up “Anti-Laz language committees”, the singer has explained in an interview with the tv station NTV-MSNBC.

“One of my wishes is to compile my Laz culture into a CD using the latest technology — thereby making it undying. Actually, what I am doing should be done by the state. It should be embracing all cultures instead of tearing itself away from them. I am on my own visiting villages and listening to old people for their renditions of so many songs and cultural tales to enable myself to use them in my music,” says Birol Topaloglu in the NTV-MSNBC interview.

The AFP article ‘Turkish Laz minority musician banned from performing on public television’ was among other places published on:

EU Business
Middle East Times
Weblog (blog) posted on

More information about Birol Topaloglu can be found on 7/8 Music Productions’s website

Birol Topaloglu
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