Zeki Muren was one of the most interesting and outstanding celebrities in Turkey’s art history. He was a prominent singer, composer and artist with his distinctive voice, clear articulation of Turkish language and extraordinary life. His popularity developed a large classical Turkish music fan base, also known as Ottoman classical music, from a limited audience.
Among with his wide range of artistic skills, he always maintained the public attention with his effeminate dressing, large ornate rings and heavy makeup. He was the pioneer in paving the way for acceptance of homosexuality in Turkish society which is quite conservative towards gays and transsexuals. Still, he managed to gain full respect of the people and entitled as “Sanat Gunesi – The Sun of Art” by his tens of millions of fans.
Zeki Muren is also known as “The Pasha” which was a high military and political rank in Ottoman Empire. After a live performance in 1969, the local newspapers called him “Pasha of the Turkish Music” and this title is still being used to refer him after all these years.
When he decided to relocate in Bodrum due to health issues he went through, indigenous population welcomed him with open arms. Soon, he had become an important symbols for the town. To reflect the public respect on his name, his house in Bodrum has been turned into an art museum dedicated to him in 2000.
Almost all Bodrumians who were in town in 80’s or 90’s have a couple or more memories about him. It is interesting to see that everyone still remembers his favourite bars, restaurants and beaches in Bodrum. His name will probably be the first thing that locals recall after hearing the word “Pasha” today.
His music never lose its popularity so that after so many years, his songs can still be seen on the bestseller lists of Classical Turkish Music genre.
Zeki Muren was born in 1931 in Bursa. His father was from Skopje and a lumber merchant.
After completing his primary education in his hometown, he went to Istanbul for high school where he graduated in the first rank. Next stop was studying decorative arts at Fine Arts Academy, today’s Mimar Sinan University.
In his university years, he joined Istanbul Radio as a regular singer. In 1951, while he was still working at the radio, his first concert brought him a great fame. One of his songs, Manolyam, won the Gold Record in 1955. In 1991, he received the honourable title of State Artist for his contributions to the Turkish music and culture.
During his 45 years career, he composed more than 200 songs and recorded more than 600 recordings. Many of them were also published in Greece, Germany, US and Iran where he was also quite popular.
Zeki Muren was truly gifted artist; a poet, an actor, a painter and a fashion designer. He published his first poetry book in 1965. The first movie he appeared came to the big screen in 1954 and was followed by 28 more movies. He painted as a hobby and exhibited his paintings in almost all cities of Turkey. He designed his own stage costumes which drawn lots of attention every time he appeared on a stage.
In 1980, he had to slow down because of a series of health problems he experienced. Doctors were serious about those issues and suggesting a moderate life away from his daily stresses. As a result, he decided to move to Bodrum for a slow paced, peaceful life leaving the fast lane behind.
His decision was also important for Bodrum and caused an increasing popularity and reputation for the city. He was so famous that people were pouring in to city just to spend their vacation in where he is. He was what Elvis was for Americans in terms of popularity.
Zeki Muren died of a heart attack during a live performance on stage in the city of Izmir on September 24, 1996. Sadly, this organization was for honouring him for his countless contributions to the Turkish music. His death caused the greatest public grief in years and thousands of Turks attended his funeral.
In the year of 2000, Zeki Muren Art Museum was established in Bodrum where he used to live. This place still attracts thousands every year. His fans from every age visit the museum to keep his memories alive and show their respect.
Today, Pasha of Bodrum lives in the hearts of the Turkish people. His birthday, 6th of December is celebrated as “Classical Turkish Music Day”. Annual Zeki Muren memorial concerts and events are still an important part of Bodrum’s cultural life.