“And who exactly is Can Bonomo?” Most people who first heard that this young singer/songwriter will be representing Turkey in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest probably reacted this way at first -- both regular people and well-known names in the music world.
In fact, Can Bonomo was the topic of much social media activity before the official statement was made by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) this week. Even before TRT’s announcement, the name Can Bonomo was among the top searches from Turkey on Google; he even became the person of the hour on Twitter once; his videos were watched and re-watched on YouTube, his songs were listened to and his album downloaded countless times.
And after the official announcement was made by TRT, and when people became more familiar with him after he gave an interview, the opinions started to flow in. “Couldn’t we send someone who is better known?” “Weren’t we planning on sending either Kıraç or Hande Yener or even Atiye this year?” “Did Can Bonomo receive some sort of boost from within TRT?” These opinions went off in all sorts of different directions.
In fact, never mind the actual music at hand, some of the debates even focused on the religious and ethnic roots of the musician. Unfortunately, the most surprising reactions were actually heard from inside the music world itself. With an air of “who the heck is that guy,” some did wish him well in his Eurovision endeavors, although all the while noting that they really had no idea who he was. In the end, it did turn out that Can Bonomo will be representing Turkey this year in a long-running pop music competition that this country has begun to perceive as some sort of national cause célèbre.
And now we can just sit back and wait with curiosity to hear what his song will be.
In the music world for years
First and foremost, Can Bonomo is not someone who suddenly burst onto the music scene. In fact, he has been involved in both the television and music worlds for years. A native of İzmir, Bonomo began playing the guitar when he was 8 years old. When he was 17, he decided he wanted to try his hand in İstanbul, and got started here by working in vocal production. As a musician, he studied in the cinema and television department of Bilgi University and worked during his university years for many different radio and television stations. He even acted in a variety of different advertisements as part of his television career. His name was really noticed last January, especially by listeners whose ears are open to different sounds, when his album “Meczup” (Lunatic) came out. Produced and directed by Can Saban, “Meczup” only has one song that was not written by Bonomo. Though the opening track of the album, “Şaşkın” (Dazed), was not widely heard, the song “Bana Bir Saz Verin” (Give Me a Saz) managed to get people talking.
Bonomo says he has been influenced on his own musical journey by such acts as The Shins, Wax Poetic, The Kinks, The Libertines and The Beatles, and he defines his own wide range of styles -- which run the gamut from Turkish classical songs to more indie melodies -- as “İstanbul music.” Bonomo is someone who is interested in every dimension of the performing arts, and also loves taking photographs and doing illustrations.
Now that we have the short biographical information out of the way, let us touch on the subject of Bonomo’s prospects for success at Eurovision. But before doing this, it needs to be underscored that, as a nation, Turkey has managed to greatly exaggerate the importance of Eurovision. It should be remembered that Eurovision is essentially a music event, a fun show, as well as being one platform for showing off the latest in television-related technology. Some of the critics with whom we spoke were all in agreement when it came to this subject. The assessments ranged from music critic Murat Meriç’s “We place a large and disproportionate importance on Eurovision” to Cumhur Canbazoğlu’s “Eurovision does not possess the musical weight it used to,” to Yavuz Hakan Tok’s “Eurovision is like a football championship. It is a fun show, and we just need to enjoy it.”
But what about what Bonomo will actually be doing in Eurovision? We have not yet heard his song, but we can make some educated guesses based on his previous work. First and foremost, it should be noted that this singer and his music seem to be full of surprises. His music is without rules, without calculations. It is very unique and his lyrics are as different as the melodies themselves. Bonomo really reflects himself onto his music and his voice. He says everything he wants to in his songs, not by forcing his views on people, but rather by presenting his lyrics within a framework of comedy and joy.
Music critic Tok notes that the Eurovision contest gives an advantage to singers who are able to draw attention to themselves, and says that in this way Bonomo has a good chance at success. Meriç is of the same opinion. Canbazoğlu affirms that while Bonomo’s personal style may draw some negative reactions from certain factions in Turkey, he stands a good chance at real success because he is ultimately a wonderful musician capable of writing really good songs.
Good chance of winning
Murat Meriç: Can Bonomo was not a surprise choice. I was expecting TRT to do something “surprising” this year. I think the choice is a good one: Bonomo makes good music, he is young and exciting. His music is perhaps not that “special,” but it is definitely well above Eurovision standards. His chances of winning are good. It doesn’t matter what language he sings in; the most important thing is that whoever we send has high energy. You only have three minutes to entrance the viewers, and you have to use these three minutes very well. We really place a lot of importance on Eurovision, as though it is some sort of national sporting match. But really, it is not a national match, it is just a contest, and the moment we understand this, everything will become much better.
The song should be in English
Yavuz Hakan Tok: Can Bonomo was definitely a surprising choice. Truth be told, I never even considered the possibility that TRT would choose him. But I am very pleased with this selection. It is right on. Those who really create a different sound and manage to draw attention are the ones who win in this contest. If we look at the past, there are the examples of Şebnem Paker, Sertab Erener, Athena and maNga. And Bonomo is a musician with the potential to really bring a great song to the contest. His song should be in English. I don’t understand what good forcing people who don’t speak Turkish to listen to a song in a language they don’t understand would do to promote our culture overseas.
Bonomo is a capable musician
Cumhur Canbazoğlu: It was a surprise and I think it had to be this way. His style and his motions may elicit some negative reactions, but he is a capable musician who will likely bring us a good song. It will be good for him; he will sell a few thousand more albums than he might have. But he shouldn’t have any higher expectations than this. After all, just think about all the names that have gone to Eurovision, but it was only Sertab Erener with her song that was heavily influenced with impressions of the East that was able to get first place. I think that if Bonomo is able to do something similar, he could certainly come in the top three. He might choose English, since Eurovision has basically turned into nothing more than a show that allows you three or four minutes to promote your country.
The choices need to be transparent
Naim dilmener: I believe the basic problem with Eurovision is this: Certain people have decided behind closed doors that they do not want to see female singers from Turkey compete on European stages. There is an insistence on not sending female singers. We haven’t sent any since Hadise. And another serious problem is that it is also behind closed doors that certain people decide who gets to go. Just think, when they make the announcement, we hear nothing about who the other choices were. It’s as though someone is saying, “I made the choice and it’s over” or “Who do you think you are? I am the only one who gets to decide.” If this is the method, what does it even matter whether Can Bonomo or someone else goes, or if our choices always come in first: What good does any of this do?