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During a short trip by car yesterday, I listened to a playlist of Turkish music and was surprised to find myself suddenly addressing you in my mind… So upon my return, here I am before the keyboard.
My ex-companion the musician, who is more inclined to navigating in classical music and jazz and who is not frankly enamored of Turkish music as I am, once said to me with a chuckle, “it’s funny, Turkish songs often begin with grandiose airs as if incredible things would follow…” This pertinent comment fell like a caption before the image my friend Val drew before my eyes, “these Turkish singers… I look at the clips, and there they are, filling the screen, heavily made up like goddesses, with vague eyes, fleshy lips, windblown hair, wrapped in flowing gowns, even in a studio! I don’t know, I guess they must have huge ventilators…”
Those words came back to me when my small car was inundated during the random playlist by the intro to the song “Unutamazsın”, “You cannot forget” in English, sung by Bülent Ersoy. And yet, I’m angry at the woman, a figure in Turkey with her extravagance, her history, her sexual reassignment. She couldn’t care less about the trans cause, and quite the opposite, does not hesitate in sitting at presidential dinners and being photographed with the reis. Her exceptional voice stays in my ears nonetheless, unassailable. Even against my better judgment, I still listen to this Turkish music.
I’m sharing this song with you, along with a translated excerpt and its “grandiose” intro…
When darkness falls on your street
I am in the corner, you cannot forget,
Those happy days bring back to your memory
Your entire life, you cannot forget.
Let’s say you tore up the letters, you threw them away,
Let’s say you tore up the photos, you burned them,
A past exists, how to erase it?
Your entire life you cannot forget.
One finds this tradition of introductions in different styles of music, but even with my beginner’s knowledge, I think it mostly occurs in Oriental music. In fact, those sections have a specific name… I simply can’t remember.
I call a friend to the rescue to refresh my memory (Thanks, Titi). The tradition of “Taksim”, for example, a solo instrumental improvisation, as a prelude to the song, is a common feature in Persian, Arabic and Turkish music…This introduction is known as “Peşrev“ when it is composed for an orchestra.
As for Anatolian rock in the 70s, the “psychedelic period”, the songs were often preceded by long intros. The little girl I was then, ready to sing along with the singers at the top of my lungs, listened to those preludes in a quasi religious way. As a consequence, not only the words became imprinted in my memory, but I can also whistle entire intros to this day, almost to a single note… And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
But here with Bülent, we have that dramatic touch that kills death! Genius.
Randomly, my playlist then serves up the following, as if following in the tracks of my thoughts: Zeki Müren, another figure, another story…
Read also (in French):
Esquisse n°63 – Zeki Müren, le paradoxe (1) and Esquisse n° 64 – Zeki Müren, le paradoxe (2) on Susam Sokak.
Et “Kâtibim”, globe-trotter amoureux on Kedistan.
“Sana muhtacım”, literally, “I am in necessity of you”, better translated simply as “I need you”. An entire other poem, to say the least… I let you listen and draw your attention to the moment at 3:35 minutes, just before the end, when Zeki speaks the words of the song, in tragic poetry style…
Don’t leave, I need you.
You are the light in my eyes, the crown on my head, I need you
Kill me first, and leave after
In order to live, I need your love.
I need your eyes
I need your words
I hold out my hands
I need your hands, don’t leave.
We’ll talk about it some more, after you’ve listened?
Reciting poetry is quite an art form…You know not everyone is gifted that way and it even happens that legendary poets, attempting a reading, massacre their own poetry… Zeki Müren has many recordings where he speaks the text. Each time, he overdoes it in such an awkward way that it makes us smile. But there you are, those soliloquies, mixed with sighs and flowing phoney tears are part of his kitshy style. We like our Zeki, he’s touching, so we put up with the whole thing…
My trip was short, I had time for a third title. My playful playlist draws up a most pertinent choice… Another sublime voice… That of Muazzez Abacı singing a song with a cult status in Turkey: “Vurgun”.
The original meaning of “Vurgun” is that of a decompression accident occurring after a deep sea dive, for example. Is love not a deep immersion? Nothing surprising if this term derived from “vurmak” meaning “to strike” is used in a second meaning as “falling in love” (“coup de foudre” – lightning strike in French). Muazzez Abacı takes off in the middle of the song (02:55) with a reading providing a change of direction to the second part of the words…
Not an easy translation, but I will do my best…
Don’t think that my eyes have made peace with slumber
Since you have gone they seem to sulk
So do I, there was a time when I was loved but
Yours truly struck me like falling in love
No matter how much you make me suffer, I do not curse you
Laugh in both worlds until sated.
Hell with you is a prize for me
Without you, even paradise feels like an exile.
I’ve reached my destination, but I don’t turn off the contact. Never, ever cut off a song any old way! Let the artist express himself or herself to the end, or, in an emergency, lower the sound to end the listening session in a gentle fade-out. Well yes, to each their own quirks. So I wait respectfully for a few more minutes for the last notes of “Vurgun” to fill my thoughts. End of the trip.
Here is a live version of Turkish music which I suspect to be from the 80s given the shoulder pads and the hairstyle… Along with all the faulty synchronization on a magical playback that turns the “reading” sequences even weirder…
Headline illustration: The only photo extant showing all three artists together, Zeki Müren, Bülent Ersoy, Muazzez Abacı, captured in 1980 at singer Nigar Uluerer’s birthday.
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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