Toygar Isikli: The Man Behind the Music

In any film or television series, as the title screen begins to appear or opening credits roll, you are usually introduced to the setting, tone and themes of the story you are about to view not through the first images you see but by the first strains of music that you hear. The composer is a wordless narrator. Often in Turkish series and Kivanc Tatlitug’s in particular, the narrator drawing us into the world in which we are about to be immersed is Toygar Isikli.

The first Kivanc series I watched was Kurt Seyit ve Sura and the first Toygar melody I heard was that series’ opening credits. I was immediately intrigued by the music and its varied tempos, sounds and styles. As the series went on, the theme seemed to perfectly suggest the transition between two eras, cultures and lands. It set the tone perfectly. After an episode or two I was able to distinguish who the next scene would revolve around as each character, couple or plot line had its own unique theme, which gave me a feel for who they were and what they were about.

Seyit’s theme was elegant and seductive like the character himself. Sura’s was romantic and full of the wonder of a young woman in love. Petro’s was, foreboding, sinister and alternately anxiety or anger inducing. So much did I love this music that before I had even completed the series, I had already looked up the soundtrack on iTunes and downloaded it.

Impressed and already a fan before I had learned his name, I looked up the composer and began to explore the work of Toygar Isikli. 44 years old, highly rewarded and with advanced degrees from multiple universities in music and theory, Toygar has composed, produced and sang on the soundtracks for numerous Turkish films and series over the last 15 years including Kivanc's series, Menekse ile Halil, Aski Memnu, Ezel, Kuzey Guney, Kurt Seyit ve Sura, and Cesur ve Guzel. So distinct, evocative and entwined with the story of each series are Toygar’s scores that once you have viewed each you cannot mistake one for the other.

For example, a single strain of music can immediately conjure images of the first forlorn but then hopeful, patient, devoted lover Halil wooing or soothing Menekse with his harmonica:

the angst-ridden but determined and unrelenting Kuzey trying to make right the wrongs in his life:

or the complex, intriguing and deeply layered Cesur:

The literal translation of “Yasak Ask” is “Forbidden Love” and you can’t help but picture Bihter and Behlul struggling through their forbidden love story when you hear it:

Not only a gifted composer and musician conjuring images from his scores alone, Toygar has also sung and provided vocals for original songs on many of Kivanc’s shows. While these songs have beautiful vocals and melodies, the lyrics also give insight into the story and characters that they accompany.

In Aski Memnu, “Bir Gunah Gibi” (Like a Sin) puts into song the torrent of emotions and tumult that Bihter and Behlul live out in secret over the course of the series. It played several times for them but in this scene, as Behlul and Bihter wrestle with the strong pull of forbidden love for each other, versus reconciling themselves to Behlul’s departure to America, leaving Bihter behind, the music, lyrics and vocals elevate the emotion of the scene even higher.

Roughly translated, key lyrics include the following:

A page is severing from time

While you’re leaving me

Since the beginning of this love,

I was afraid of its ending

I’ve hidden you like a sin

No one’s seen you and me

While I was crying inside, my eyes smiled

I’ve hidden like a sin

“Ninni”, (Lullaby) is featured extensively throughout Menekse ile Halil in both instrumental and vocal form. The music is a soothing respite for the viewer from an often violent and abusive world that they are wandering through with the star crossed lovers of the show’s title. The lyrics speak to hope for a happier future, and salvation from the cruel present, that Menekse and Halil offer to each other by persevering and never giving up on the love that they share:

Close your eyes slowly

Give me your frozen hands

Beware your innocent soul

Sleep in silence like the time

This world is a hole with no ground

Before your soft heart pales

And life shows it´s dark side

Sleep, sleep darling

This world is a dark hole with no ground

Sleep, sleep my angel face

This world is a hole with no ground

The song that gets stuck in my head the most though is “Hayat Gibi” (“Just like Life”) from Kuzey Guney. I listened to it on a loop after hearing it on the show, especially after the final episode when I needed my Kuzey & Cemre fix. Toygar’s video for it captures the feel for the show as a whole even though the lyrics truly illustrate Kuzey & Cemre’s trials and tribulations on their journey from friendship to love:

As if you've never left my hand

I believed in myself when you were gone, I bared it

As if no stories ended badly

I pretended our ending would be a happy one, it was a lie.

Weather is cold most of the time

I know you'll feel cold.

Take care of yourself please, think of summer.

Just let me know how you are doing from time to time

Don't let me wait by the windows

Sure, someone new will enter your life

Be happy, don't neglect that person.

Just let me know how you are doing from time to time

Don't let me wait by the windows

Sure someone new will enter your life

Be happy, don't neglect that person.

You are ruthless, you are insubordinate

You are perfidious, you are a hypocrite

You are both impeccable and iniquitous

Just like life

You are perfidious, you are a hypocrite

You are both impeccable and iniquitous

Just like life, just like life

My YouTube playlist grows with saved scenes and clips as each new Kivanc movie or series that I watch reveals new characters to love or hate, to laugh and cry with and to sometimes live vicariously through. I lose myself in these clips whenever I can find the spare time to sit and watch. Since delving in and further exploring the music in these series, my iTunes playlist is filled with new music waiting to transport me at a moment’s notice, even when I’m not near my computer or TV, on a quick virtual plane ride for a visit with Seyit, Behlul, Halil, Kuzey or Cesur…and the pilot is Toygar Isikli.

Jennifer Perna discovered Kivanc in the spring of 2017 via Kurt Seyit ve Sura during an Outlander “droughtlander”. She has degrees in History and American Studies and loves the Arts & learning about other cultures-currently and especially Turkish culture. She lives in NJ with her family and two 85 lb. lap dog fur babies.

Copyright @ Kivanc Tatlitug North America

#Kurtseyitvesura #menekseilehalid #halil #toygarisikli #hayatgibi #cesurveguzel #kuzeyguney #askimemnu #forbiddenlove #turkishmusic #turkishseries

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