A call for fraternity in Anatolia through Aşık Veysel's music

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 12/22/2009 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

Çiğdem Özer, granddaughter of one of Anatolia's greatest folk poets, Aşık Veysel, has requested the country's Culture and Tourism Ministry do more to promote the minstrel's legacy. She also calls for more understanding and fraternity between Anatolia's people

Aşık Veysel, an important representative of 20th century folk poetry who took inspiration from Rumi, had a ready reply to those who would practice discrimination:

“Kuran'a bak, İncil'e bak, dört kitabın dördü de hak, küçük görüp ırk ayırmak, hakikaten yüz karası” (Look at the Koran, look at the Bible, all four books are God, denigrating races is really disgraceful).

Folk poetry is an ongoing tradition in Anatolia dating back thousands of years. Through their saz, an Anatolian stringed instrument, folk poets captivate their listeners with lyrics on humanity’s pain, love and struggles.

Aşık Veysel was born into an Alevi family in the middle of the 1800s in Sivrialan village in the Şarkışla district of the central Anatolian province of Sivas. He lost his sight at the age of 7 due to smallpox but was comforted by playing the magic melodies of the saz.

As the days passed, the saz became a passion for him and the only goal of his life. Even though he was later presented with an opportunity to undergo an operation and regain his sight, he refused the chance, saying: “I have created such a world that I can see better than a person with healthy eyes. I don’t need to regain my sight.”

Aşık Veysel, who was also a close friend of a well-known name in Turkish literature, Kurdish author Yaşar Kemal, continued to convey brotherhood, peace and friendship messages through hundreds of his verses and tunes.

[HH] Modern interpretations of Aşık Veysel

On the 35th anniversary of the death of Aşık Veysel, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review spoke to his granddaughter Çiğdem Özer. “Aşık Veysel is my grandfather, he is valuable for Turkey but, unfortunately, he has not been promoted,” said Özer.

Calling for the Culture and Tourism Ministry to recognize his legacy, Özer said: “The year 2007 was launched as the Year of Rumi. For example, next year could be launched as the Year of Aşık Veysel. Support us in Aşık Veysel’s promotion to the world.”

A few years ago, Turkey’s megastar pop singer, Tarkan, performed Aşık Veysel’s renowned piece, “Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım” (I am on a Long, Narrow Path), in a modern style.

Meanwhile, a renowned name in Turkish jazz, Esin Afşar, performed his works in a jazz style. Özer said Turkish artists had attempted to do something by their own efforts. “Works that will promote Aşık Veysel and make him loved by a wider mass of people should be encouraged.”

[HH] Kalan Music has priceless archive and copyrights

Aşık Veysel’s priceless archive is in the hands of Kalan Music, founded in 1991 by Hasan Saltuk, who also owns all related copyrights. The music company sought to protect Anatolian ethnic music and was presented with the Dutch Royal Award in 2003 for its work, “Ottoman Music Gramophone Record Classification and Anatolian Collection.”

Due to his contributions to Anatolian ethnic music, Saltuk was also chosen as Hero of the Year in 2004 by TIME Magazine.

Aşık Veysel died in 1973. Özer said she was born two years after her grandfather died, and that she grew up by listening to stories from her grandmother Gülizar.

“Seeing my grandfather on television, listening to him on radios was a source of pride for me,” she said. “We are an Alevi family. There is a very important thing inherited from Aşık Veysel, it is a love of humanity. Regardless of religion, language, race and sect, my grandfather gave priority to human honor and continued the tradition of Rumi.”

[HH] Greeting to Anatolian people

Aşık Veysel’s house in Sivrialan village was turned into a museum in the middle of 1990s. The house displays dozens of Aşık Veysel photos taken by well-known photographer Ara Güler, as well as the poet’s personal belongings.

“Our door is open to everyone who wants to know Aşık Veysel,” said Özer. “My philosophy is equality, brotherhood and friendship: Greetings to all the people of Anatolia.”

In closing, Özer related an anecdote about her grandfather: “My grandfather was blind in two eyes, while author Yaşar Kemal’s one eye is blind. While they were trying to catch a street car, Rıfat Ilgaz, one of the masters of humor, said, ‘Look at that, a single eye is enough for two men.’”



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