Ahmet Kaya: Witness to the Age

AK Arrested (11:17:00)

Ahmet Kaya on Trial (Milliyet, 11/17/00)

As the story goes, Ruhi Su, the famous Turkish folk singer, was giving a concert at Bosphorus University in 1977 when he was approached by a young man inspired by his music and hoping to follow in his footsteps.[1][2] Su was sixty-five and a well-established figure on the Turkish left; the young man was twenty that year and not a student—Ahmet Kaya did not even have a high school degree; when his family moved to Istanbul in 1972, he had dropped out and begun working odd jobs.[3] In 1977, no one knew Ahmet Kaya. By the time he died in November 2000, he was one of the most famous—and controversial—musicians in Turkey.

Contents

I. Portrait of the Artist . . .

[Song: Mahsus Mahal][Lyrics]

II. Edge of Fame

[Song: Huzurum Kalmadi] [Lyrics]

III. Revolutionary Tradition

[Song: Çemberimde Gül Oya][Lyrics]

[Song: Mapushane içinde mermerden direk][Lyrics]

[Song: Hasretinden Prangalar Eskittim][Lyrics]

[Song: Şafak Türküsü][Lyrics]

IV. Fame

[Song: Gül Dikeni][Lyrics]

[Song: Yarına kaç var][Lyrics]

[Song: Saza Niye Gelmedin][Lyrics]

[Song: Uçun Kuşlar Uçun][Lyrics]

[Song: İçimde Ölen Biri Var][Lyrics]

V. It Happened One Night

[Song: Tabi Tabi][Lyrics]

[Song: Gülüm Benim][Lyrics]

[Song: Karwan][Lyrics]

[Song: Kafama Sıkar Giderim][Lyrics]

[Song: İşte Gidiyorum Çeşm-i Siyahım][Lyrics]

[Song: Karwan][Lyrics]

*

Ahmet’s family had migrated from Malatya, where his father had worked at a textile factory.[4] Ahmet was born in 1957, one of five children. The seven-member family lived together in a one-room aparment until 1959, when the factory began providing workers better housing. In the summers, the children would be sent off to the countryside to visit relatives. One paternal uncle, “Crazy” Yusuf, was a talented singer and it was during these visits that Ahmet first encountered folk music. Taken with this style of music, Ahmet fashioned his own instrument, a bağlama, from construction scraps—spare pieces of wood, old electric cables—and gave impromptu concerts for the family’s chickens.[5] Seeing Ahmet’s enthusiasm, his father bought him a real bağlama.

In those early years, much of Ahmet’s playing was done for workers at his father’s factory. His first formal performance was at a Labor Day concert in July, 1966 when he was nine years old.[6] Still in his early teens, he began to tour around the region, playing in places like Gaziantep and Elazığ. After school, he worked at a record store; among the patrons were a group Ahmet recalled as “hippies” who encouraged him to listen to folk singers like Ruhi Su.

That Ahmet was in Istanbul by 1977 was on account of his father. The elder Kaya had always dreamed of moving to the city and, upon retiring from his factory job and needing to make ends meet, he had relocated the family there. They settled in the Kocamustafapaşa neighborhood.[7] Both his father and brother got jobs working for a telephone company owned by acquaintances from Malatya; his sister got a job at the post office; and Ahmet dropped out of school and floated from one job to another. For a year he worked in Germany, but did not care for it. He was soon back in Istanbul peddling corsets at a stall near the Istanbul spice market.

Being a salesman held little appeal and he generally spent his time playing music for other merchants—as he remembers them, a mixed group from around the country with an equally varied set of political leanings. Among his admirers was a group of young leftists who invited him to visit their nearby Folklore Association. Ahmet became a regular there, attending political and cultural classes, playing folk music with other members, and getting cheap meals from a nearby restaurant run by a fellow Malatya native. [8] Among the Folklore Society’s many activities was the performance at Bosporus University where he met Ruhi Su.

Upon seeing the famous musician, Ahmet offered to play a cover of Su’s popular song “Intentional Place” (Mahsus Mahal). After hearing Ahmet’s rendition, Su grabbed the bağlama from him and declared, “You can’t play bağlama like that. You don’t play a bağlama by hitting it; you caress it, you love it.” If rejection by an idol and a dead-end job were not bad enough, later that year, Ahmet was arrested for reading a poem in commemoration of the famous Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet and sentenced to five months in prison.[9]


[See Lyrics HERE]


[See Lyrics HERE]

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Upon his release from prison, Ahmet completed his mandatory military service in Gelibolu, playing in the base orchestra.[10] Returning to Istanbul in 1979, he married a friend of his sister-in-law. The couple settled in the Sarıyer neighborhood north of Istanbul and soon had a daughter, Çiğdem. Their two years of marriage were not easy. Ahmet continued working odd jobs, touring Black Sea cities like Trabzon and Gümüşhane, partnering and feuding with fellow musicians, and hoping (without success) to get a tape produced.

Making any headway in the world of leftist folk music was made all the more complicated by the 1980 coup, which imprisoned many of Ahmet’s friends. His wife, meanwhile, was becoming fed up with his inability to find a good job and his unwillingness to give up on dreams of musical fame. After moving out of the house, she filed for divorce and the couple separated in April of 1981. Ahmet began working as a back-up musician for Ferdi Tayfur, a popular arabesque singer. Through his job with Tayfur, he met “Kurdish” İdris Özbir, a well-known mafia boss, who hired Ahmet to give his son bağlama lessons at his office. On one occasion, the office was raided by the police, an unlicensed gun was found, and Ahmet was sent to jail for three months.[11]

[See Lyrics HERE]

Ending his second stint in jail, without a stable job or the prospect of a record contract, Ahmet began spending a lot of time at the Baran Grill, a restaurant bar where he mingled with other musicians. With one, a fellow bağlama player and recent divorcé named Huseyin Demirel, he struck up a close friendship and began planning a large-scale concert. Their first was called, “Under Every Rock There is a Nazlı and Çiğdem”—a play on words since the names of both their daughters meant a type of flower. As the concert was a success, they staged a second one whose title—“This Is How You Play Bağlama”—was a reply to Ruhi Su’s critique. Encouraged by these shows, Ahmet and Huseyin decided to talk directly with recording studios and try to get a tape made. Their best shot was with Değism Studio run by Selda and Sezer Bağcan.

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AK and SB (10:16:85)

Ahmet (far right) and Selda next to him (From Millet, 10/16/85)

Selda Bağcan was a famous folk musician of the 1970s. During those years, she’d been the darling of left-leaning governments, selected to attend major international festivals. After the 1980 coup, however, her situation had reversed. The government had demanded she turn herself in on suspicion of spreading communist propaganda. Though she quickly complied and was released on the grounds insufficient evidence, within months she was arrested again for spreading communist propaganda and “lowering Turkey’s esteem internationally.” After a nine-month investigation and trial, she was found innocent and released. In 1984, she was arrested again, this time on the grounds that one of her old songs was communist propaganda. After two months she was again released. Besides these three stretches in prison, she was denied international travel privileges until 1987.[12] When Ahmet met her in 1985, it was unclear that her troubles were over.


[See Lyrics HERE]


[See Lyrics HERE]

Ahmet’s music was hard to label—not quite the standard folk style and not exactly arabesque either—but Selda took an immediate liking to it and agreed to produce the record along with her brother, Sezer. Record labels by contrast were less enthusiastic about music without a clear niche, and finding a willing firm took some effort. Ultimately, Ahmet and Huseyin signed a contract with Taç Records, which paid them 600,000TL ($2356).[13]


[See Lyrics HERE]

The record made few waves and left them no better off financially. Huseyin had hoped to produce the record independently and was angry with Ahmet for selling their rights to Taç Records. Within months the two had parted ways. On top of these disappointments, the record was temporarily seized by prosecutors in Gazinantep due to its political content. The first album did little to augment his public persona; for Ahmet, the more life-changing result of his interactions with Selda and Taç was personal: through Selda he met his second wife.

Gülten Hayaloğlu had recently been released from a four and a half year stint in prison. Like Ahmet, she had moved to Istanbul from eastern Turkey. Her family were also Alevi Kurds from Tünceli (Dersim) and in university she became actively involved in radical student politics—a choice the military government did not tolerate. While in prison, she met Selda, who had requested to be transferred to the political cellblock for the duration of her imprisonment. Although officials cautioned Selda that the political block was dangerous due to the periodic raids and beatings guards carried out, she insisted. In the political block, women like Gülten advised her to dress in layers to cushion the blows from nightsticks. Selda served her time unscathed, Gülten was not so lucky. For years to follow, she imagined the beatings she’d taken had left her unable to have children.[14]

Ahmet and Gülten first met at the studio, where she had been given a job upon her release. Over the course of his concert tours with Selda, they grew closer. As their relationship grew serious, she introduced him to her brother Yusuf, an artist and poet. Ahmet and Yusuf quickly became close and the three enjoyed spending time together. On his third album, An Gelir (The Moment Comes), Yusuf did the cover art. This album did better than his second, Acılara Tutunmak (Hanging On to the Pain), which had only sold half its original run of 40,000 copies. Both albums featured a mix of songs written by Ahmet or the recently deceased poet Hasan Hüseyin Korkmazgil. Though Korkmazgil was certainly a poet of the left, Gülten encouraged Ahmet to be more overtly political in his lyrical choices; consequently, he made the poems of Nevzat Çelik the centerpiece of his fourth album, Şafak Türküsü (Dawn Ballad). When the album was released in 1986, Çelik was entering his sixth year of imprisonment while awaiting his trial to finish. For his membership in the organization Revolutionary Left, he was facing the death penalty.[15]

[See Lyrics HERE]
This fourth album was his most successful yet, and with success came luxury. Taç Records gave him a Mercedes and with his earnings he was able to rent a flat behind the centrally located Galtasaray High School where he and Gülten, now married, could live a bohemian lifestyle. Meanwhile, Ahmet was cultivating a media image as a musician of the people. Because his style did not quite fit into the categories of folk, art, or arabesque, he began to position himself as something different—a player of “personal” (özgün) music. One ad in the newspaper Cumhuriyet described him as a “Tough, simple, sensitive balladeer; witness to the age; protest music’s brave warrior.”[16]

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In the five years between his albums Şafak Türküsü (1986) and Tedirgin (1993), Ahmet’s lifestyle utterly changed. Unexpectedly, given the beatings she’d endured in prison, Gülten became pregnant and Ahmet found himself a father again. Needing more space, they moved to the high-end neighborhood of Valıdeçeşme—and from there to a more secluded residence in Levent. Ahmet was now buying himself BMWs, a motorcycle, and a vacation home in the resort-town of Bodrum, whose bars he now frequented, buying rounds for everyone he encountered. His habits of conspicuous consumption drew criticism from some on the left who had once championed him. This annoyed Ahmet to no end. From his perspective, he was using his celebrity to good ends—supporting student hunger strikes, giving support to parties on the left—what more did his critics want? “For thirty years,” he explained, “I lived hungry—for thirty years. I’d stand at the edge of restaurants and look at the lahmacun coming out [of the ovens]. From now on I’m eating and no one’s going to stop it.”[17]


[See Lyrics HERE]

As Ahmet saw it, his albums Yorgun Demokrat (Weary Democrat, 1986) and Başkaldırıyorum (I’m Resisting, 1987) were responses to sniping from critics. But the songs on both these and Şafak Türküsü ran afoul of the government, leading to situations that Ahmet handled with aplomb. Coming to Muğla on tour, he discovered the governor had cancelled the concert because the set list contained political songs. After negotiating with the local police chief over tea, Ahmet was allowed to perform on the condition that he remove prohibited songs from the set list—so he simply retitled his songs and submitted a new list.[18] On another occasion, emerging from a hearing at the State Security Court, Ahmet grumbled, “If I can’t lift my head (baş kaldırmak) should I just lift my ass!”[19]

Such earthiness endeared him to listeners. In these years, Yusuf was one of his strongest defenders, arguing that Ahmet was speaking truth to power. In the materialist and repressive environment of the 1980s, he argued, “Our troubadours were still writing and putting to music things with no connection [to reality] and calling themselves ‘witnesses to the age’ without shame—as though they weren’t living in a country going through this drama.”[20] Ahmet, on the other hand, was speaking truth to power and exemplifying “feudal values,” by which Yusuf explained he meant “people who respected spiritual values, gave their word, and acted chivalrous, brave, and tough.”[21]

This enthusiasm faded. As with previous collaborations, tensions between Yusuf and Ahmet grew over the years. Ahmet was becoming a major star, moving first from Taç Records to Barış Records, home of such famous musicians as İbrahim Tatlıses and “Little” Emrah, and then to Tempa-Foneks Records for even higher pay. Yusuf benefited from these higher pay days, but not equally in his view.[22] For several years, there were ups and downs; rather than collaborate with Ahmet in 1990 on the album Sevgi Duvarı [Dear Wall], Yusuf opted to work with a rival folk musician, Fatih Kısaparmak. Although he returned for the next two albums, the two finally parted ways again after a television interview in which Yusuf accused Ahmet of living too luxuriously.


[See Lyrics HERE]

Yusuf’s departure was initially a problem for Ahmet. His brother-in-law had written some of his most popular songs, including “Dokunma Yanarsın” (Don’t Touch, You’ll Burn) and “Adı Bahtiyar” (His Name is Bahtiyar). His first solo album, Tedirgin (Agitated), did not sell well leading Ahmet to focus on his strengths: protest music. His next album was both his best-selling and (thus far) his most controversial. Şarkılarım Dağlara (My Songs to the Mountains, 1994) spoke directly to the violent confrontations between the Turkish army and PKK rebels in the southeast. Despite the political content, the popularity of the album may also be due to a last minute addition, “Saza Niye Gelmedin.”

The popularity of “Saza Niye Gelmedin” was due in large part to its music video—a first for Ahmet and a form of media nearly unthinkable a few years earlier. As late as 1986, Turkey had only one television channel, the state-run TRT. A second and third were introduced in in 1986 and 1989—but it was in 1990 that private channels were allowed and the number of stations rose dramatically. Suddenly, musicians like Ahmet, with built-in fan bases, were in high demand to fill airtime.[23] The music video of “Saza Niye Gelmedin,” with its catchy tune and suggestively dancing women, was incredibly popular but television and the commercialism of the 1980s led Ahmet into a number of associations that undermined his leftist image. In the first place, the music video was directed by Sinan Çetin, known for his liberal economic beliefs and love of Ayn Rand.[24]


[See Lyrics HERE]

Associating with Çetin landed Ahmet in awkward situations as well; on one occasion, he was photographed with Çetin at a Policeman’s Ball (hardly the milieu for a leftist) and could offer only a lame excuse that he had to meet the director on business there and was drawn into the party out of politeness—a story that might be true given his friendly disposition and the fact that he showed up without a tuxedo.[25]

Then again, Ahmet had other friends in the police department as well. In 1992, his car was impounded on suspicion that it had been smuggled. According to Ahmet, it had been given to him by Mercedes Benz after he’d finished a three month European concert tour sponsored by the firm. He had simply forgotten to register the car in Turkey. The police were unconvinced, however, especially in the wake a similar scandal involving the famous football player, Tanju “Mr. Goal” Çolak. Frustrated, Ahmet declared to reporters that, “If the state doesn’t want me getting in my Mercedes, then I’ll get on a donkey instead.” Generally, however, he was more polite and even struck up a friendship with Salih Güngör, the Director of the Financial Crime Unit, during the course of the investigation.[26]

Television also led to another controversial relationship. During the 1995-96 season, Ahmet was hired to host a musical variety show called, Brother Ahmet’s Boat. The show featured a number of different folk musicians as well as a “poetry corner” in which Yusuf was able to reads his works. One episode, however, was filmed in a resort owned by Nihat Akgün, a well-known right-wing mafioso, who had invited Ahmet and his crew to film a tribute to the local culture of Elazığ province [see Video 2 below].


 

These friendships with police and nationalists—plus his willingness to be sponsored by right-wing holding companies like Jet-Pa—drew criticism from some on the left. Unfazed, Ahmet would retort, “Is it we who aren’t working with left-wing companies?” as if to suggest that the blame should be on those firms uninterested in connecting with him.[27] As for himself, he continued to support center-left causes; in 1994, he joined the New Democracy Movement, a celebrity-filled endeavor led by Cem Boyner, a leading businessman. Celebrity endorsements have little influence in Turkish politics, however, and the party quickly folded after receiving only 0.47% of the vote.[28]


[See Lyrics HERE]


[See Lyrics HERE]

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Throughout the 1990s, Ahmet remained popular—though never as popular as other top Turkish artists; his songs made it on top ten lists, but generally behind pop stars like İbrahim Tatlıses or Tarkan.[29] Likewise, his income never reached those musicians’ stratospheric levels—certainly not compared to a performer like Tatlıses, who had a knack for diversifying his personal brand into sectors like construction, travel, and an eponymous chain of çiğ köfte restaurants. Whereas Ahmet was assessed for 878 million TL ($18,000) in taxes in 1996, Tatlıses paid 19.8 billion TL ($271,000).[30]


[See Lyrics HERE]


[See Lyrics HERE]

Such large sums of money were not Ahmet’s main concern. Certainly, he liked his cars and his vacation homes, but his interest remained musical and political. During the 1990s, he became increasingly interested in music production. He and Gülten established a recording company called GAK Records (as in Gülten and Ahmet Kaya). They even signed Kent Ozanları and Çetin Oraner to their label. Yet they quickly discovered that record stores did not want to work with independent labels—even ones owned by famous musicians.

Besides producing other artists, Ahmet harbored goals for his own music as well. Over the course of the decade, he became more interested in Kurdish music. He was particularly taken with Xoşnav Tilli’s song “Karwan” (Caravan) and began planning his own version.[31] Even though Ahmet could not speak Kurdish, he liked its political symbolism: until recently, musicians had faced criminal charges for singling in Kurdish. In 1987, for example, İbrahim Tatlıses had been investigated for allegedly singing a Kurdish song at a concert in Sweden.[32] Even though such a performance was no longer illegal by the late 1990s, insulting Turkishness and undermining the state were broadly defined crimes that remained on the books.


[See Lyrics HERE]

On February 10, 1999 Ahmet attended the annual Magazine Journalists Association award ceremony where he was slated to receive a “Star of the Year” trophy. [33] On accepting the award, Ahmet made a short speech:

 

I’m not accepting this award in my own name; I’m accepting it in the name of the Human Rights Association, in the name of the “Saturday Mothers,” in the name of all the people who give magazines work to do, in the name of all of Turkey. And I’ll say this—don’t ask me, “Who gave you this mission?” History laid this mission on me, so I’ll say this: on my upcoming tape, because I have Kurdish roots, I’m doing a Kurdish song. And I’m going to do a video in Kurdish. I know there are brave-hearted people who will broadcast this video. And, if they don’t broadcast it, I know how they will be called to account by the Turkish people as well.[34]

The speech received measured applause mixed with boos. By the time Ahmet had finished performing his song, “I’ll Shoot Myself in the Head and Go” and sat down, his table was surrounded by cameramen. Audience members were shouting at him. In response, Ahmet explained:

 

I said it in the name of beauty and friendship. But no one can take my identity away from me. I’ve said it for years: Kurds and Turks are brothers. For years, I’ve said that I support the indivisible unity of Turkey. I support it existing indivisible for thousands of years to come. But this country needs to own up to and accept the Kurdish reality. I’m saying this too.

These words did nothing to calm tensions. According to Gülten, people were shouting “uncircumcised pimp” and “go to [PKK leader] Apo’s side.”[35] Sensing the situation was getting out of hand, Ahmet and his entourage left the hall. Soon after, Serdar Ortaç, another pop singer came to the stage and led the crowd in singing the national anthem. Years later, the question of who had joined in; who had booed Ahmet and who had cheered; who had defended him and who had thrown silverware remained highly charged. Pop star Ajda Pekkan was among those supporting Ortaç; İbrahim Tatlıses defended his silence on the issue by explaining that he had already left the ceremony by the time Ahmet spoke; and Ahmet’s friend, actor Kadir İnanır, claimed he had been in the bathroom at the time.[36] As for Ortaç, a decade later, he would apologize for his role in events.

At the time, however, no such reflection was forthcoming. Over the following weeks, Ahmet received death threats. His house was shot at. Most of his time was now spent at the studio or at a friend’s house in Sarıyer, watching tv, “a great silence [hanging] over the house.”[37]

Four days after the award ceremony, the newspaper Hürriyet published an article showing Ahmet standing in front of a map of “Kurdistan.” The article described how Ahmet had held a concert in Berlin in November 1993 sponsored by the Kurdish Businessmen’s Association where he performed before posters of PKK leader Abdullah “Apo” Öcalan. At this concert, in front of five thousand fans, Ahmet had introduced himself by saying, “I didn’t come with an orchestra; if I had, this concert would have cost 20-25 thousand marks. The men in the mountains need money.” During the performance he added lyrics to his songs such as, “Goodbye wild flower. With legal bullets, a Turkish Republic is approaching.” During another song he had pointed to his heart and said, “This part of me [is] roaming around with a scraggly guerrilla.” [38]

Ayip Ettin Gozum 2

The Hürriyet photograph that led to Ahmet Kaya’s prosecution.

Now, it bears mentioning that there was no concert in November 1993 sponsored by the “Kurdish Businessman’s Association.” The concert was in January 1994 and was sponsored by the Democratic Merchants’ Union. Nor is there evidence of Ahmet saying the quotes attributed to him. Nor are there copies of the black and white photos printed in Hürriyet. When Gülten and her lawyers requested to see the photos, the newspaper initially delayed before admitting it did not have them.[39]

Regardless, in the charged atmosphere of Turkey in 1999, a single newspaper article was sufficient grounds for prosecutors to open an investigation. Ahmet was accused of providing “aid and accommodation” to the PKK. Prosecutors demanded a three year and nine month sentence. At the arraignment, Ahmet was taken into custody and sent to prison—a situation that lasted only an hour before his lawyers convinced the judge to have Ahmet released. A trial began in March with the first hearing scheduled for April.[40] After a bit more work, his lawyers managed to have his travel ban lifted so he could perform a scheduled European tour.

Doubting his chances of a fair trial, Ahmet used the tour as an opportunity to escape Turkey. In exile he did himself few favors; though he maintained his love of Turkey, his concerts became opportunities for Kurdish nationalists to wave Öcalan photos and shout slogans. At one concert, Ahmet grumbled to the audience, “Those assholes made me leave my car in [Turkey].”[41]

Over the course of 2000, his chances of returning to Turkey dimmed. While he was found innocent on charges related to the awards speech (for which prosecutors had sought a six and a half year sentence), he was arrested in absentia for a concert in Hamburg where PKK slogans had been shouted. For the 1993 concert he was sentenced to three years and nine months. For the comments about “men in the mountains” he was sentenced to another four and a half years. To add insult to injury, his record label refused to release his new album until he issued a formal apology. [42]

Ahmet settled in a small Paris apartment. He began learning French and Kurdish and forming friendships with other expat Alevi musicians like Aşık Mahzuni Şerif. Gülten visited occasionally, but mainly she stayed in Istanbul where their daughter was attending school. At school, she experienced harassment. Gülten, meanwhile, experienced a degree of social exclusion. As she recalls, even their electrician of five years would no longer come to come to their house.[43]

In Paris, Ahmet’s health declined. For years, he’d had heart trouble, but now it grew worse. On November 16, 2000, he was found dead in his apartment. Rather than bring his body back to Turkey for burial, he was laid to rest in Pere-Lachaise cemetery near Turkey’s other famous Kurdish exile, Yılmaz Güney. Worried that the funeral would lead to violence (as Güney’s had), the French government scaled down the planned ceremony. Nonetheless, thousands of mourners turned out.

The tribulations Ahmet faced during the last two years of his life—and, really, the difficulties he had to negotiate throughout—highlight some of the worst aspects of both Turkish nationalism and the way that it dictated state policies during the late 1990s. Yet states do not define societies and the work of musicians like Ahmet, Selda Bağcan, Ruhi Su, and others serve to highlight the best aspects of Turkish society; its wealth of politically active, socially conscious performers whose music seeks to dignify the dreams, passions, and experiences of Turkish citizens. Much of Ahmet’s appeal to fans lay in his ability to embody an egalitarian ideal—what Yusuf, a bit ironically, referred to as “feudal values.” Whether or not Ahmet always lived up to his chosen role mattered less than his abiding conviction that such values—honesty, bravery, toughness, respect for spirituality, and chivalry—were worth striving for.

[See Lyrics HERE]

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Mahsus Mahal

Allotted Place

Lyrics: Ruhi Su

 

 

Mahsus mahal derler kalırım zindanda

In what they call an “allotted” place, I will stay imprisoned

Kalırım kalırım dostlar yandadır

I’ll stay and stay, friends by my side

İk’elleri kızıl kandadır kanda

Both hands red with blood

 

Ölürüm kardeş aklım sendedir

I’ll die brother, my mind is on you

Artar eksilmeyiz zindanlarda

Increasingly, we fade away in dungeons

Kolay değil derdin ucu derinde

It isn’t easy, pain upon pain

 

Kumhan ırmağında Karaburunda

In the rivers of Korea, in Karaburun

Bulurum bulurum kardeş öfkem kındadır

I’ll find, I’ll find brotherhood; my anger is sheathed

Dirliğim düzenim dermanım canım

My life, my habits, my strength, my soul

 

Solum sol tarafım imanım dinim

My left, my left side, my belief, my religion

Benim beyaz unum ak güvercinim

My white flour, my pure white dove

Bilirim bilirim kardeş gelen gündedir

I’ll know, I’ll know brotherhood in the days to come
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Huzurum Kalmadı

I Can’t Find Peace

Lyrics: Ferdi Tayfur

Bilsen uzaklarda kimler ağlıyor

Know that, in the distance, people are crying

Gelemem sevdiğim felek koymuyor

I can’t come my love, I can’t change fate

Gurbet eller bana bir mesken oldu

Places of exile have become home to me.

Gelemem sevdiğim kader bağlıyor

I can’t come my love, destiny ties me.

Huzurum kalmadı fani dünyada

In this fading world, I can’t find peace

Yapıştı canıma bir kara sevda

A melancholy love has stuck to my soul

Bu hasretlik bizi çürütecek mi

Will this sadness rot us?

Bir gün ağlatmayıp güldürecek mi

One day, will the crying stop and smiling begin?

Yoksa kavuşmadan bizi yaradan

If not, without reuniting, will the creator allow us

Şu gurbet ellerde öldürecek mi

To die in these places of exile?

 

Huzurum kalmadı yalan dünyada

In this fleeting world, I can’t find peace

Yapıştı canıma bir kara sevda

A melancholy love has stuck to my soul

 

Huzurum kalmadı fani dünyada

In this fading world, I can’t find peace

Yapıştı canıma . . .

Stuck to my soul . . .

[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

Çemberimde Gül Oya

In My Ring I’m Stringing a Rose

(Old Turkish Ballad)

Çemberimde gül oya gülmedim doya doya

On my headdress rose embroidery, I don’t smile until satisfied

Çemberimde gül oya gülmedim doya doya

On my headdress rose embroidery, I don’t smile until satisfied

Dertleri karıyorum günleri saya saya

I’m getting mixed with troubles, counting the days

Al beni kıyamam seni

Take me, I can’t get enough of you

Dertleri karıyorum günleri saya saya

I’m getting mixed with troubles, counting the days

Al beni kıyamam seni

Take me, I can’t get enough of you.

Köşe başı beklerim vay benim emeklerim

I wait on the corner, oh my labors!

Köşe başı beklerim vay benim emeklerim

I wait on the corner, oh my labors!

Dümbeleği çala çala yoruldu bileklerim

The tambourine shakes, my wrist grows weary

Al beni kıyamam seni

Take me, I can’t get enough of you.

Dümbeleği çala çala yoruldu bileklerim

The tambourine shakes, my wrist grows weary

Al beni kıyamam seni

Take me, I can’t get enough of you.

Pembe gül idim soldum ak güle ibret oldum

I was a pink rose, I faded, I became a strange white rose

Pembe gül idim soldum ak güle ibret oldum

I was a pink rose, I faded, I became a strange white rose

Karşı karşı dururken yüzüne hasret oldum

While facing each other, I missed your visage.

Al beni kıyamam seni

Take me, I can’t get enough of you.
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

 

Mapushane içinde mermerden direk

Inside the Prison, A Pillar of Marble

(Old Turkish Ballad)

Mapushane içinde mermerden direk

Inside the prison, a pillar of marble

Aman, kimimiz onbeşlik a canim, aman, kimimiz kürek

Oh, some of us are here for fifteen years—oh my dear, oh—some of us are doing hard labor

Kimimiz onbeşlik a canim, aman, kimimiz kürek

Some of us are here for fifteen years—oh my dear, oh—some of us are doing hard labor

İdam cezasına dayanmaz yürek, aman

The heart can’t stand a death sentence

Böyle de düştüm zindana bakar bakar ağlarım

Like this I fell into a dungeon, I look and cry

Demir de parmaklıktan bakar bakar ağlarım.

Bars of iron, I look and cry

Mapushane içinde bakar ağlarım.

Inside the prison, I look and cry

Mapushane içinde yanıyor gazlar

Inside the prison, the gas is flowing

Bayramdan bayrama, a canim, aman çalınır sazlar

From holiday to holiday, my dear, oh the instruments are playing

Bayramdan bayrama, a canim, aman çalınır sazlar

From holiday to holiday, my dear, oh the instruments are playing

Kiminin annesi ağlar kimine kızlar aman

Some people’s mothers cry; to some, girls, oh

Böyle de düştüm zindana bakar bakar ağlarım

Like this I fell into a dungeon, I look and cry

Demir de parmaklıktan bakar bakar ağlarım.

Bars of iron, I look and cry

Yandım mapushane yandim aman senin elinden

I burned, prison, I burned—oh at your hands

Nasil da etsam gardiyanim birinden

How can I do it, I ask one of the guards
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Hasretinden Prangalar Eskittim

I’ve Worn-Down the Chains of Longing

Lyrics: Ahmet Arif

Ard-arda bilmem kaç zemheri geçti x2

I don’t know how many winters have passed x2

Kurt uyur, kuş uyur, zindan uyurdu x2

Wolves slept, birds slept, dungeons slept x2

Dışarıda gürül gürül akan bir dünya x2

Outside, a world flows loudly by

Bir ben uyumadım, kaç bahar leylim x2

Only I don’t sleep, how many springs, my dark-one? x2

Hasretinden prangalar eskittim x2

I’ve worn down the chains of longing x2

Karanlık gecelerde kendimden geçtim x2

In dark nights I lose myself x2

Saçlarına kan gülleri takayım x2

I should place blood roses in the hair x2

Bir o yandan bir bu yandan elma yanaktan x2

From one side, from another side, from apple cheeks x2

Açar kan kırmızı yedi verenler x2

Perennials open blood red x2

Kar yağıyor bir yandan x3

Snow falls on one side x3

Savrulur karaca dağı savrulur zozan x2

Soar past the dark mountain, soar over the fields x2

Bak bıyığım buz tuttu, üşüyorum ben x2

Look, there’s ice in my mustache, I’m shivering x2

Zemheri de uzadıkça uzadı x2

Winter stretches into the distance x2

Seni baharmışsın gibi düşünüyorum x3

I’m thinking of you like you were spring x3

 

Seni Diyarbekir gibi düşünüyorum

I’m thinking of you like Diyarbekir
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

Şafak Türküsü

Dawn Ballad

Lyrics: Nevzat Çelik

Beni burada arama, arama anne

Don’t search for me here, don’t search mother

Kapıda adımı, adımı sorma

At the gate, don’t ask for my name

(4x) Saçlarına yıldız düşmüş

Stars have fallen into your hair

Koparma anne, ağlama

Don’t break down mother, don’t cry

Kaç zamandır yüzüm traşlı

For so long, with my face shaved

Gözlerim şafak bekledim

My eyes waited for the dawn

Uzarken ellerim kulağım kirişte

While stretching my hands, my ears listing for chords

Ölümü özledim anne…

I mourn my death mother . . .

Yaşamak isterken delice!

While wanting to live like crazy!

Ah . . .verebilseydim keşke

Ah . . .if only I could have . . .

Yüreği avcunda koşan her bir anneye

To each mother running with her heart in her palm

Tepeden tırnağa oğula ve kıza kesmiş

Full of sons and daughters          

Bir ülkeye armağan

A gift to the country

Düşlerimle sınırsız

With my limitless dreams

Diretmişliğimle genç

Young with my persistence

Şaşkınlığımla çocuk devrederken sırdaşıma

With my surprise, turning over childhood to my dear friend

Usulca açıverdi yanağımda tomurcuk

The buds in my checks gently opening

Pir sultan’ı düşün anne, şeyh bedretinn’i

Think of Pir Sultan, mother; think of Sheik Bedrettin

Börklüce’yi Torlak Kemal’i…

Börklüce Mustafa, Torlak Kemal

Insanları düşün anne!

Think of people, mother!

Düşün ki yüreğin sallansın,

Think that your heart shakes

Düşün ki o an güneşli güzel günlere inanan

Think of that instant where you believe in beautiful, sunny days

Mutlu bir yusufcuk havalansın . . .

Rise like a happy dragonfly . . .

Beni burada arama, arama anne

Don’t call for me here, don’t call mother

Kapıda adımı, adımı sorma

At the gate, don’t ask for my name

(4x) Saçlarına yıldız düşmüş

Stars have fallen into your hair

Koparma anne, ağlama.

Don’t break down mother, don’t cry

Yani benim güzel annem

Well, my beautiful mother

Ala şafağında ülkemin yıldız uçurmak varken

On my country’s splendid dawns, when stars fly

Oturup yıldızlar içinde kendi buruk kanımı içtim

Instead I sat and, among the stars, drank my bitter blood

Ne garip duygu şu ölmek?

What strange feeling is this death?

Öptüğüm kızlar geliyor aklıma,

The girls I’ve kissed come to mind

Bir açıklaması vardır elbet giderken darağacına…

There’s an announcement, of course, as I go to the gallows . . .

Geride, masa üstünde boynu bükük

Back, at the table, miserable

Kaldı kağıt kalem.

Pen and paper remain

Bağışla beni güzel annem

Forgive me, my beautiful mother

Uğur tadında bir mektup yazamadım diye kızma bana.

For the sake of luck I didn’t write you a letter—don’t be angry at me

Elleri değsin istemedim

Touch hands, I didn’t want it

Gözleri değsin istemedim

Touch eyes, I didn’t want it

Ağlayıp kokluyacaktın

You would have cried and sniffed

Belki bir ömür taşıyacaktın koynunda.

Perhaps you’d have carried it in your bosom for a lifetime

Yaşamak ağrısı asıldı boynuma, oysa türkü tadında yaşamak isterdim…

The weight of life hangs on my shoulders, though I’d wanted to live in the manner of a ballad

Ölmek ne garip şey anne!

To die is such a strange thing mother!

Bayram kartlarının tutsaklığından aşırıp bayramı,

From the holiday cards of my captivity I stole holidays

Sedef katmal bir kutu içinde, vermek isterdim çocukların ellerine.

In a mother-of-pearl box, I wanted to place in the hands of children.

Sonra, sonra benim güzel annem

Later, later my beautiful mother

Damdan düşer gibi(!), vurulmak isterdim bir kıza…

Like a sudden drop, I wanted to fall for a girl . . .

Gecenin kıyısında durmuşum, kefenin cebi yok

I have stopped on the edge of night, no pockets in the funeral garments

Koynuma yıldız doldurmuşum, koşun çocuklar koşun

Stars filling my bosom—run children, run

Sabah üstüme üstüme geliyor!

The morning is bearing down on me!

Kısacası güzel annem,

Shortly my beautiful mother,

Bir çiçeği düşünürken ürpermek yok,

When you are thinking of a flower, there will be no shuddering,

Gülmek, umudetmek, özlemek…

Smiling, hoping, mourning . . .

Ya da mektup beklemek, gözleri yatırıp ıraklara…

Or waiting for letters, eyes fixing on the distance . . .

Ölmek, ne garip şey anne!

To die is such a strange thing mother!

Artık duvarlari kanatırcasına tırnağımla

Now on the walls—until they bleed—with my nails

Şaşkın umutlu şiirler yazamıyacağım!

I will not write confused, hopeful poems

Mutlak bir inançla gözlerimi tavana çakamıyacağım,

I will not fix my eyes to the ceiling with an absolute hope,

Baba olamayacağım örneğin!

I will never be a father, you see!

Toprak olmak ne garip şey anne…

To be dirt is such a strange thing mother . . .

Ölmek ne garip şey anne…

To die is such a strange thing mother . . .

Uçurumlar ki sende büyür

Chasms grow within you,

Dağdır ki sende göçer

Mountains collapse on you,

Ben bayrak derim çiçek derim

I say “flag,” I say, “flower”

Çam diplerine açmış kanatlarını kozalak derim

I say, “cones” sprouting leaves at the base of a pine tree

Gül yanaklı çocuğa benzer

Resembling a rose-cheeked child,

Yinede oğlunu yitirmek kim bilir ne garip şey anne!..

Still, who knows what a strange thing it is to lose a son, mother!

Her kavgada ölen benim,

I am one the that dies in every fight,

Bayrak tutan, çarpışan…

The one who carries flags and comes to blows . . .

Her kadın toprağı tırnaklıyarak doğurur beni.

Every woman clawing at the earth gives birth to me.

Özlem benim, kavga benim, aşk benim…

Sadness is mine, battle is mine, love is mine . . .

Bekle beni anne, bir sabah çıkagelirim

Wait for me mother, one morning I’ll appear

Bir sabah anne bir sabah

One morning mother, one morning

Acını süpürmek için açtığında kapını

To sweep away your pains when you open your door

Bir sabah anne bir sabah

One morning mother, one morning

Acını süpürmek için açtığında kapını

To sweep away your pains when you open your door

Adı başka, sesi başka

A different name, a different voice

Nice yaşıtım koynunda çiçekler, çicekler içinde bir ülke getirirler…

My peers, in your bosom, inside flowers, will bring a nation . . .
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Gül Dikeni

Rose Thorn

Lyrics: Ülkü Tamer

 

Uçakları ne edeyim

What shall I do with planes

Gökkuşağı gönder bana

Send a rainbow to me

Senin olsun süngülerin

Bayonets can be yours

Gül dikeni yeter bana.

Rose thorns are enough for me

 

Kan kurşundan silinince

When blood is wiped from bullets

Kardeş olur, kardeş olur eller bana

Strangers will be brothers to me, brothers

Kan kurşundan silinince

When blood is wiped from bullets

Kardeş olur, kardeş olur, kardeş olur eller bana.

Strangers will be brothers to me, brothers

 

Silahları nedeyim

What shall I do with weapons

Benim sevgim mavzer bana

My love is a rifle to me

Suya attığım çiçekler

The flowers I throw in the water

Bir gün olur döner bana.

One day they will return to me.

 

Kan kurşundan silinince

When blood is wiped from bullets

Kardeş olur, kardeş olur eller bana

Strangers will be brothers to me, brothers

Kan kurşundan silinince

When blood is wiped from bullets

Kardeş olur, kardeş olur, kardeş olur eller bana.

Strangers will be brothers to me, brothers
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

Yarına kaç var

How Long Til Tomorrow

Lyrics: Fatih Kısaparmak

 

Sevda sularında bir şafak vakti kanayan şiirlerime

In the waters of love, to my dawn-bleeding poems

Gençliğimin sessizce türküler söyledim

I silently sang the ballads of my youth

Yarından tezi yok gün üşürken doğur beni

No later than tomorrow, when the day is chilled, I will be born

Doğur beni yeniden

I will be born again

 

Gelmiş gecmiş türkülerin ilk sözü sensin

You are the first words of ballads old and new,

Vazgecemiyorum senden tütün gibisin

I can’t leave you, you’re like tobacco

Ekmeği ikiye beraber böldük

We split our loaves of bread together

Birlikte ağladık birlikte güldük

Together we cried, together we laughed

Yıllar girdi aramıza

Years have come between us

Birlikte öldük

Together we died

Yollar girdi aramıza

Roads have come between us

Birlikte öldük

Together we died

 

Geceden sonra sabah

After the night, morning

Her kıştan sonra ilkbahar

After every winter, spring

Yarına kaç var çocuklar

How long till tomorrow children?

 

Ne olur söyle benim mi bu titreyen el

Tell me how my hand trembles like this

Yalvarırım şimdi gitte yıllarca önce gel

I’ll beg, leave now and come years earlier

Ellerim elini nerden tanıyor

Where does my hand encounter yours

Yaklaştıkca sabah gece utanıyor

As the morning approaches, the night is ashamed

Bir yeşil gözden içeri düş ıslanıyor

From within a green eye comes a shower

Bir pembe yağmur altında

Under a pink rain

Aşk ıslanıyor

Love drenches

 

Geceden sonra sabah

After the night, morning

Her kıştan sonra ilkbahar

After every winter, spring

Yarına kaç var çocuklar

How long till tomorrow children?

 

Ve bizim kızlarımız

And our girls

Korkunç bir sabırla tutuşan bacaklarını gizler

Hide their patiently flaming thighs

Gün gelir güneşli günlere yaslanarak

The day comes, resting on sunny days

Sıyırırlar eteklerini bellerine kadar

Their skirts are striped to their waists

Bir anda

In an instant

Birdenbire bacakları arasından

Suddenly between legs

Onbinlerce çocuk taşar kente.

Thousands of children are carried to the city
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

Saza Niye Gelmedin

Why Didn’t You Come to Play

Lyrics: Anonymous

 

Saza niye gelmedin

Why didn’t you come to play?

Söze niye gelmedin

Why didn’t you come to talk?

Gündüz belli işin var

Clearly you had work in the day

Gece niye gelmedin

Why didn’t you come at night?

 

Üç gün dedin, beş gün dedin

You said three days, you said five days

Aylar oldu gelmedin

It’s been months, you haven’t come

Geçen Cuma gelecektin

You would have come last Friday

Haftalardır gelmedin

For weeks you haven’t come.

 

Çaldığım saza mı yanam

Am I hurt by the saz I play?

Ettiğin naza mı yanam

Am I hurt by your coyness?

Alam yari koynuma

I’ll pull you to my bosom, dear

Kış yatam, yaz uyanam

I’ll sleep in winter, wake in summer

 

Üç gün dedin, beş gün dedin

You said three days, you said five days

Aylar oldu gelmedin

It’s been months, you haven’t come

Geçen Cuma gelecektin

You would have come last Friday

Haftalardır gelmedin.

For weeks you haven’t come.
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

 

Uçun Kuşlar Uçun

Fly Birds, Fly

Lyrics: Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı

 

Uçun kuşlar uçun doğduğum yere x2

Fly birds, fly to the place where I was born x2

Şimdi dağlarımda mor sümbül vardır x2

Now in my mountains there are purple hyacinths x2

Ormanlar koynunda bir serin dere x2

In the bosom of the forest is a sweet stream x2

Dikenler içinde sarı gül vardır. X2

Among the thorns is a yellow rose. X2

 

Uçun kuşlar uçun burda vefa yok x2

Fly birds, fly; there is no truth here x2

Öyle akar sular, öyle hava yok x2

No flowing waters or skies like this x2

Feryadıma karşı aksi seda yok, x2

In reply to my scream, there is no echo x2

Bu yangın yerinde soğuk kül vardır. x2

Instead of this fire, there are cold ashes x2
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İçimde Ölen Biri Var

Inside Me There is a Dead One

Lyrics: Ahmet Kaya

 

Bana birşeyler anlat, canım çok sıkılıyor

Tell something to me, I’m very bored

Bana birşeyler anlat anlat, içim içimden geçiyor

Tell something to me, I’m drifting off

 

Yanımdasın susuyorsun, susuyor konuşmuyorsun

You’re beside me, quiet; being quiet, not talking

Bakıyor görmüyorsun

You’re looking, but not seeing.

 

Dokunsan donacağım, içimde intihar korkusu var

If you touch me, I’m going to freeze; the fear of suicide is inside me

Bir gülsen ağlayacağım bir gülsen kendimi bulacağım

If you smile, I’m going to cry; if you smile, I’m going to find myself

 

Depremler oluyor beynimde dışarıda siren sesi var

In my head there are earthquakes, outside there are sirens

Her yanımda susmuş insanlar susmuş

On every side there are silent, silent people

İçimde ölen biri var

Inside me there is one who is dead

 

Vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy

Ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh

 

Hadi birşeyler söyle, çocuk gözlerim dolsun

Come, say something, fill my childish eyes with tears

 

İçinden git diyorsun, duyuyorum gülüm

From within, you’re saying, “Go”; I feel it my dear

Gideceğim son olsun

I’m going to go for the last time

 

Yanımdasın susuyorsun, susuyor konuşmuyorsun

You’re beside me, quiet; being quiet, not talking

Bakıyor görmüyorsun

You’re looking, but not seeing.

 

Dokunsan donacağım, içimde intihar korkusu var

If you touch me, I’m going to freeze; the fear of suicide is inside me

Bir gülsen ağlayacağım bir gülsen kendimi bulacağım

If you smile, I’m going to cry; if you smile, I’m going to find myself

 

İçimde soluyorsun, iki can var içimde

Within me, you are breathing; there are two souls within me

Korkular salıyorsun üstüme korkular heran başka biçimde

You are pressing fears on me, fears changing shape by the moment

 

Depremler oluyor beynimde dışarıda siren sesi var

In my head there are earthquakes, outside there are sirens

Her yanımda susmuş insanlar susmuş

On every side there are silent, silent people

İçimde ölen biri var

Inside me there is one who is dead

 

Vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy vayyyy…

Ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh, ohhhh

 

 
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

 

Tabi Tabi

Okay, Okay

Lyrics: Altan Çetin

 

Bulmadı kalbim dengine dengi

I couldn’t find one equal to my heart

Belki sende bulur gel yakına

Maybe it’ll be you, come close

Eskide kalmış köle-efendi

Slaves and masters are in the past

 

Köleler de aldatır sen sakın ha

Slaves can be tricky too, be careful—ha!

Yanıyorum söndürelim mi tabii tabi

I’m burning up, let’s put me out, okay

Çıktı ateşim indirelim mi tabi tabi

My fever’s risen, let’s bring it down, okay

Bak bu sözlerin lafta kalırsa

Look, if these words remain empty

Senin o tabini tabini yerim

I’ll eat these “okay”s of yours up
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Gülüm Benim

My Rose

Lyrics: Şakir Askan

 

Kalbimdeki tatlı sızı

The sweet ache in my heart

Sensin bu gönlümün yazı

It’s you, this writing in my heart

Bakışların öyle güzel

You’re looks are so beautiful

Öldürüyor beni nazın

Your coyness is killing me

Ufkumdaki çiçek gibi

Like a flower on my horizon

İçimdeki nefes gibi

Like a breath inside me

Ne bir heves ne bir tutku

Neither a fancy nor a passion

Kara sevda benimkisi

This melancholy love is mine

 

Gülüm benim gülüm benim

My rose, my rose

Derdim aşkım canım benim

My sorrow, my love, my soul, mine

Ayırmasın tanrim bizi

Don’t separate us, my lord

Budur inan tek dileğim

Believe it, this is my only wish

 

Bir yürürse bahar yürür

If one advances, spring comes

Çiçek yürür peşin sıra

Flowers follow

Gülüşlerin öyle güzel

Your smiles are so beautiful

Öldürüyor beni nazın

Your coyness is killing me

Karda açan çiçek gibi

Like a flower opening in the snow

Çölde yağan yağmur gibi

Like rain falling on a desert

Ne bir heves ne bir tutku

Neither a fancy nor a passion

Kara sevda benimkisi

This melancholy love is mine

 

Gülüm benim gülüm benim

My rose, my rose

Derdim aşkım canım benim

My sorrow, my love, my soul, mine

Ayırmasın tanrim bizi

Don’t separate us, my lord

Budur inan tek dileğim

Believe it, this is my only wish
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

Karwan

Caravan

Lyrics: Xoşnav Tilli

 

Kanî diherikîn

The fountains flow

Karwan diçûn

The caravan goes

Tişt nema li dû

Nothing remains behind

Hêvî ar û dû

Hope, flame, and smoke

Û bayê gerok

And a wandering wind

 

Ji xew rakirin

They have woken from a dream

Bîrhatinên kûr

Pains buried deeply away

Çavê te yî girî

Your tearful eyes

Lêvê te yî gezo ax ax

Your sweet lips

Karwan diçe zû

The caravan is moving fast

Şarê min î dûr

To my distant city

Bêje bav û dê

To mother and father

Yara çav li rê

To the loved one watching the road

Ezê bêm bêm û bêm

I will come

Wê bête ew roj

That day will come.
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

 

Kafama Sıkar Giderim

I’ll Shoot Myself in the Head and Go

Lyrics: Yusuf Hayaloğlu

 

Artık seninle duramam.

I can’t stay with you now

Bu akşam çıkar giderim.

This evening, I’ll step out and go

Hesabım kalsın Mahşere.

Leave my accounts for the Day of Judgment

Elimi yıkar giderim.

I’ll wash my hands and go.

 

Sen zahmet etme yerinden.

Don’t trouble yourself from where you are.

Gürültü yapmam derinden.

I won’t make a stir.

 

Parmaklarım üzerinden.

My fingers all over you.

Su gibi akar giderim.

Like water I’ll flow and go

 

Artık sürersin bir sefa.

Now enjoy yourself

Ne cismim kaldı ne cefa.

Neither my body nor torments remain

Şikayet etmem bu defa.

I won’t complain this time

Dişimi sıkar giderim.

I’ll grit my teeth and go.

 

Bozar mı sandın acılar.

Do you think these pains will be ruinous?

Belaya atlar giderim.

I’ll leap on trouble and go.

 

Kurşun gibi, mavzer gibi.

Like a bullet, like a rifle

Dağ gibi patlar giderim.

I’ll explode like a mountain and go.

Bozar mı sandın acılar.

Do you think these pains will be ruinous?

Belaya atlar giderim.

I’ll leap on trouble and go.

Kurşun gibi, mavzer gibi.

Like a bullet, like a rifle

Dağ gibi patlar giderim.

I’ll explode like a mountain and go.

 

Kaybetsem bile herşeyi.

Even if I lose everything.

Bu aşkı yırtar giderim.

I’ll tear up this love and go.

Sinsice olmaz gidişim.

Sneaking away will be impossible

Kapıyı çarpar giderim.

I’ll slam the door and go.

 

Sana yazdıgım şarkıyı.

The song I wrote to you

Sazımdan söker giderim.

I’ll remove my saz and go.

Ben ağlayamam bilirsin.

You know I can’t cry.

Yüzümü döker giderim.

I’ll spill my face and go.

 

Köpeklerimden kuşumdan.

From my dogs, from my birds

Yavrumdan cayar giderim.

From my children I’ll back away and go.

Senden aldığım ne varsa.

Whatever I’ve taken from you

Yerine koyar giderim.

I’ll put it back and go.

 

Ezdirmem sana kendimi.

I can’t be crushed by you

Gövdemi yakar giderim.

I’ll burn my body and go.

Beddua etmem üzülme.

I won’t wish ill of you, don’t be sad.

Kafama sıkar giderim.

I’ll shoot myself in the head and go.

Ezdirmem sana kendimi.

I can’t be crushed by you

Gövdemi yakar giderim.

I’ll burn my body and go.

Beddua etmem üzülme.

I won’t wish ill of you, don’t be sad.

Kafama sıkar giderim.

I’ll shoot myself in the head and go.

Ezdirmem sana kendimi.

I can’t be crushed by you

Gövdemi yakar giderim.

I’ll burn my body and go.

Beddua etmem üzülme.

I won’t wish ill of you, don’t be sad.

Kafama sıkar giderim.

I’ll shoot myself in the head and go.

 
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

 

 

 

İşte Gidiyorum Çeşm-i Siyahım

So I’m Going My Dark-Eyed One

Music: Aşık Mahzuni Şerif

 

İşte gidiyorum çeşm-i siyahım

So I’m going my dark-eyed one

İşte gidiyorum çeşm-i siyahım

So I’m going my dark-eyed one

Önümüze dağlar sıralansa da, sıralansa da,

The mountains are spread out before me

 

Sermayem derdimdir servetim ahım

My wealth is my sorrow; my fortune is my troubles

Karardıkça bahtım karalansa da

Even as my fate darkens

Sermayem derdimdir servetim ahım

My wealth is my sorrow; my fortune is my troubles

Karardıkça bahtım karalansa da

Even as my fate darkens

 

Hayli dolaşayım yüce dağlarda

I’ll take a nice stroll in the high mountains

Hayli dolaşayım yüce dağlarda

I’ll take a nice stroll in the high mountains

Dost beni bıraktı ah İle zarda

Friend, leave me with trouble and fortune

Ötmek İstiyorum viran bağlarda

I want to graze in the ruined vineyards

Ayağıma cennet kiralansa da

Even if heaven lies before me

Ötmek İstiyorum viran bağlarda

I want to graze in the ruined vineyards

Ayağıma cennet kiralansa da

Even if heaven lies before me

 

Bağladım canımı zülfün teline

I tied my soul to the strands of your hair

Bağladım canımı zülfün teline

I tied my soul to the strands of your hair

Sen beni bıraktın elin diline, elin diline

You left me to the mouths of strangers

Güldün Mahzuninin berbat haline

You smiled at Mahzun’s misery

Mervanın elinde parelense de

Even if he was crumbled in Merva’s hands

Güldün Mahzuninin berbat haline

You smiled at Mahzun’s misery

Mervanın elinde parelense de

Even if he was crumbled in Merva’s hands
[BACK TO SONG][BACK TO CONTENTS]

 

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[1] I found the translations for this article—songs and poems—to be very difficult. On the one hand, I managed to translate a large amount of them myself—and am solely responsible for mistakes. On the other hand, without help from classmates, I cannot imagine translating certain head-scratching lyrics. So special thanks. Nonetheless, I didn’t double-check everything, which suggests many questionable translation choices remain. Any suggestions/corrections will be greatly appreciated.

[2]Ahmet Kaya,” Radyo Dersim. Accessed 3/28/15. Multiple sources give this date of 5/1/77 for Kaya and Su’s encounter, but I’m still a bit surprised since 1) Ferezende Kaya’s biography doesn’t say this and 2) it is the same date as Turkey’s most (in)famous May 1, when a gunman opened fire at a rally in Taksim Square, killing thirty-seven.

[3] Ruhi Su (1912-1985) was born to an Armenian family in the province of Van. After his parents were killed, he was placed with a poor family in Adana. He attended the local teachers school and then advanced to the Ankara Music Teachers School. After a few years of teaching, he joined the national orchestra and then the national opera as a baritone singer. In 1951, he was tried as a member of the Turkish Communist Party and sentenced to five years in jail. After leaving prison, he transitioned to playing folk music. During these years, he still ran afoul of the government. In 1978, he was diagnosed with leukemia and, after a long battle, passed away in 1985. His funeral drew some of the hugest crowds since the coup of 1980 and led to over a hundred arrests. (“Ruhi Su Kimdir?” Bianet, 9/20/10).

[4] Murat Kaya, Ahmet’s father, worked at a Sümerbank factory, one of many state-owned facilities scattered around the country in the hope of spurring economic growth.

[5] Ferzende Kaya, Basim Belada (Gam Yayınları, 2002), 30-38.

[6] Labor Day was celebrated in Turkey on July 24 from 1963 until 1976. It was on this day that the legislation allowing strikes had been passed (Aziz Çelik, “Muhafazakar sağın 1 Mayıs teraneleri: 1 Mayıs değil 24 Temmuz, Taksim değil Yenikapı,” T24, 5/1/14).

[7] Ferezende Kaya describes the move in the context of the father’s interest (35); the newspaper Radikal emphasizes the financial necessity (“Ahmet Kaya kimdir? Neden öldü? Ahmet Kaya şarkıları,” Radikal, 5/7/14).

[8] Kaya, Basim Belada, 50-56.

[9] Kaya, Basim Belada, 82; Emel Gülcan, “23 Maddede Ahmet Kaya: Hoşça Kal İki Gözüm,” Listelist, 11/16/14. Although most biographies of Ahmet Kaya on the internet and Ferezende Kaya’s book mention both events—meeting Su and going to jail—none bother to give dates. It would make sense for the Nazim Hikmet memorial event to have been in January 1977, since he was born that month and the newspaper Milliyet mentions several events at this time—albeit no arrests. Alternatively, it could be in June, the month he died. Neither date squares well with the May 1 date given in several places for meeting Ruhi Su.

[10] Kaya, Basim Belada, 60. Although largely uneventful, Ahmet was jailed for a week as punishment for leaving the base without permission.

[11] Kaya, Basim Belada, 73; “İdris Özbir (Kürt İdris),” Türk Mafyası, 3/7/13; “AHMET KAYA’YI BİR DE BENDEN DİNLEYİN,” Odatv, 11/20/10; “‘Son kabadayı’ Kürt İdris öldü,” Hürriyet, 12/20/02.

[12]Biyografi: Dünden bugüne Selda Bağcan,” Selda Bagcan. Accessed 3/29/15; “Sıkıyönetime teslim olan Selda Bsğcan serbest bırakıldı,” Milliyet, 2/12/81; “Selda Bağcan bıkkındaki soruşturma tutuksuz sürecek,” Milliyet, 7/3/81; “Selda Bağcan tahliye edildi,” Milliyet, 6/16/84. The song for which she was investigated was “Galdı Galdı,” the lyrics can be seen HERE in Turkish.

[13] According the New York Times for11/23/1985, $1 = 555TL, which converts to $1080. According to US Inflation Calculator, this equals $2356 in 2015.

[14] Kaya, Basim Belada, 94.

[15] Kaya, Basim Belada, 100; “Idam caydırıcı değil,” Milliyet, 11/3/90.

[16] Kaya, Basim Belada, 112.

[17]Ahmet Kaya kimdir? Neden öldü? Ahmet Kaya şarkıları,” Radikal, 5/7/14. Or, as another musician once said about sudden wealth: “If you grew up with holes in your zapatos/ You’d celebrate the minute you was having dough.

[18] Kaya, Basim Belada, 155-156.

[19] “Ahmet Kaya’ya dava,” Milliyet, 8/2/87; Kaya, Basim Belada, 133.

[20] Kaya, Basim Belada, 123.

[21] Kaya, Basim Belada, 168.

[22] Kaya, Basim Belada, 219-220.

[23] Whereas Ahmet had struggled in obscurity for years, a new generation of artists could gain public attention far more quickly. Kaya, Basim Belada, 191.

[24] Ayşe Kadıoğlu, “Ayn Rand’ı Türkiye’de okumak,” Radikal, 6/22/03; “Sinan Çetin, Cemil İpekçi, AK Parti,” Yeni Safak, 1/26/08.

[25] “Poliselere ana şefkatı,” Milliyet, 8/12/95; Kaya, Basim Belada, 204-205.

[26] Hasan Atasoy, “Kaya’ya kaçakçılık suçlaması,” Milliyet, 2/28/92; Kaya, Basim Belada,193. Tanju Çolak held the record for most lifetime goals (240) until he was surpassed in 2007/8 by Hakan Şükür. Çolak was sentenced to twenty-three months in prison for smuggling cars. For a nice discussion of jailbird Turkish footballers see Ahmet Uyku, “Krallar da hapis yatar,” Zaman, 6/19/11.

[27] Kaya, Basim Belada, 201.

[28] “Boyner’den ‘kurucu’ atağı,” Milliyeti, 12/5/94.

[29] In 1995, for example, Ahmet’s cassette “Şarkılarım Dağlara” was 10,000 units behind Tarkan’s and selling 250,000 less than İbrahim Tatlıses’ (both of whose singles had come out several days after Ahmet’s) (Milliyet, 5/19/95).

[30] In 1996, Tatlıses was making, perhaps, fifteen times Ahmet’s earnings. By 1999, the disparity had grown; Ahmet paid 8.9 billion TL ($24,000) and Tatlıses paid 346.7 billion TL ($920,800), or thirty-eight times more. (Stats are based on tax lists published in Milliyet on 4/13/96 and 4/6/99. Inflation adjustments to 2015 $ amounts are made using US Inflation Calculator.)

[31] Ahmet was also interested in Kurdish culture: with his friend, the actor Kadir İnanır, he discussed making a film about a Kurdish refugee (Kaya, Basim Belada, 209-210).

[32]07 Şubat 1987 Bulvar,” Gecmis Gazete. Accessed 4/28/15.

[33] Though the Magazine Journalists Association maintains a Facebook page which (allegedly) contains links to its website, its online presence is limited to the occasional newspaper article re-capping the annual awards ceremony. The Facebook site has random pictures including several shots of members standing in front of Ataturk portraits.

[34]Serdar Ortaç’tan ‘Ahmet Kaya’ açıklaması: Kürtleri yok saydık,” Radikal, 3/29/13; “Kadir İnanır’ın Erdoğan’a Ahmet Kaya kırgınlığı,” Bugün, 11/22/14.

[35] Kaya, Basim Belada, 227.

[36]O gecede kimler vardı?Cumhuriyet, 11/19/13.

[37] Kaya, Basim Belada, 233.

[38]Ayıp ettin ‘gözüm,’Hürriyet, 2/14/99.

[39]AHMET KAYA’NIN GÖRÜNTÜLERİ SAHTE ÇIKTI!” Haber Turk, 12/14/10; Kaya, Basim Belada, 239.

[40] At a hearing in May, the judge asked him how he could sing Kurdish if he did not know it and Ahmet explained, “In this country, people who don’t know English sing songs in English. If I’d gotten up and said I was going to sing a song in English, would a case have been opened against me?” (Semra Pelek, “Kaya: İngilizce şarkı söylesem suçlanmazdım,” Milliyet, 5/1/99).

[41] İhsan Dörtkardeş , “Kaya,yine PKK konserinde,” Milliyet, 12/27/99.

[42] “Başı beladan kurtulmadı,” Milliyet, 11/27/00; Ali Eyüboğlu, “Ahmet Kaya’nın yeni kaseti rafa kalktı,” Milliyet, 7/21/99.

[43] Kaya, Basim Belada, 246.


[See Lyrics HERE]

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