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Translation and Popular Music

Transcultural Intimacy in Turkish–Greek Relations


Şebnem Susam-Saraeva

Research on translation and music has so far focused mainly on «art music» and on issues such as quality, singability and accessibility. Studies which seek to embed translation and music within their historical and sociocultural contexts are relatively rare. This book aims to shed light on how translations of popular music contribute to fostering international relations by focusing on a case study of Turkish-Greek rapprochement in the last two decades. It provides a brief account of the thaw in relations between the two countries and then examines the ways in which translation and music have played a role in these changes. By looking at the phenomenon through the music’s various forms of materiality (on paper, in audio and through the internet) and the different forms the accompanying translations take, and by drawing on a range of disciplines (popular music studies, sociology of music, ethnomusicology, social anthropology, comparative literature and fan studies), the book aims to foreground the multifaceted nature of translation and music and their wide-ranging impact on society and international relations.
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Chapter 4: Music for one’s own: Sentimentalism and cover versions


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Songs in other languages may transport us to near or far away lands. We may or may not understand what they are singing about, but we can always whistle their tune, tap or dance to their rhythm and mumble their incomprehensible lyrics. If we have access to the albums themselves, we may read the inserts and get a glimpse into their meaning, if translations are available. Yet, when we come across a ‘really good song!’, we would, more likely than not, wish to sing along to it. This is often the point where lyrics get translated, adapted and rewritten for cover versions, by those musicians and lyricists who recognize the cultural and economic potential in a song to be successfully added to the local repertoire.

Within the field of translation and music there are highly fuzzy boundaries between ‘translation’, ‘adaptation’, ‘cover version’ and ‘rewriting’. The pervasiveness of covert and unacknowledged translations in music have generally limited research in this area to overt and canonized translation practices, such as those undertaken for the opera and for musicals (Susam-Sarajeva 2008a). In non-canonized music, such as popular or folk songs, it is rather difficult to pinpoint where translation ‘proper’ turns into ‘free’ translation, and the latter turns into adaptation or, one step further, a ‘replacement text’ according to Low (2013: 238), i.e. ‘the practice of writing new lyrics to existing music’. In the rest of the chapter, following the established terminology in popular music...

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