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Crafting Alternative Femininities on the Public Stage

Women Performers of Ethnic Music in Contemporary Istanbul

Alexandra Courchesne

Keywords: arts; ethnic music; femininity; public sphere; sexuality; Turkey; women musicians

Abstract

This article investigates the strategies women performers of ethnic music in contemporary Istanbul employ to escape the common associations of women of 'loose morals' and to craft alternative femininities on the public stage. How have women playing this music genre been able to do so while, at the same time, gaining and maintaining social respectability? Drawing on fieldwork in Istanbul, the article argues that ethnic music provides better opportunities for women to build their musical careers and to be perceived seriously for their artistic talents. Ethnic music's specific audience, locus of performance, repertoire, flexibility in dress codes and its performers' frequent associations with feminist organisations are all factors helping women to shape their own interpretation of what a woman musician in the twenty-first century could be.

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