Newly published book focuses on lives of Mardin’s lost musicians
MARDIN - Anatolia News AgencyMardin is known across Turkey as one of the most ancient and culturally diverse places in Turkey; this awareness, however, has long been accompanied by a corresponding paucity of knowledge on the wealth of musicians that have been produced by the southeastern province.
Seeking to give the province its musical due is Ahmet Çınarbaş, the author of a new book, “Mardin Musicians from the Past to the Present” – the end result of five years of research and countless interviews with Mardin musicians wherever they are now located.
“There was a huge [lack of knowledge on] Mardin. We listen to Mardin songs but we do not know who sang them. I decided to do research on this. This was a tremendous effort and it was hard,” said Çınarbaş, adding that the southeastern province was an important center in Turkey’s musical history.
The book was supported by the Mardin Music Foundation; after learning that its chairman, Hasan Çuha, was also conducting research into the province’s music, Çınarbaş decided to pursue the project collaboratively.
The duo tried to reach all the districts of Mardin, as well as Mardin-born musicians in Antalya, Gaziantep, Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara.
“The book covers all the musicians from Mardin starting from 1860; we started from Sırrızade Ali Rıza Efendi, who was born in 1860,” Çınarbaş said, noting that it continued up until Zeynel Çaktır, who was born in 1986.
“Currently our book features 167 musicians. However, we know there are total of 600 musicians from Mardin,” said Çınarbaş.
The duo, however, was not able to reveal the complete life stories of all 600 musicians. “That’s why we did not write all of them,” said Çınarbaş.
While preparing the book, the duo did not make any discrimination based on religion and language, meaning readers can learn about the Muslim Hafız Abde right next to the famous Syriac accordion player Fehmi Çuha or one of his coreligionists, Mihail. “There are many Muslim, Syriac and Armenian musicians in the book,” he said.
The book also features famous Kurdish musicians like Şivan Perwer and Ciwan Haco, as well as musicians who sing in Arabic, he said.
Through it all, Çınarbaş said it was very difficult to reach the relatives of the musicians but added that they had managed to succeed.
Two musicians ultimately left a huge impact, he said. “One is Ahmet Mirzaoğlu. He lost his family but he never gave up on music and the other is Berdan Mardini. Mardini refused to take music lessons, learning everything by himself.”
Discovering the musicians
Hasan Çuha, meanwhile, said they had always wondered about the lives of the musicians to whom they had listened for so many years. “We wondered how those people lived and what they looked like. We only heard their voices for years.”
The foundation head said they began their work by collecting photographs, adding that they subsequently attempted to reach the musicians’ relatives.
In general, no one knows the musicians except for their voices, he said. “While I was thinking on what I would do, I met Ahmet Çınarbaş, and we started to travel to find the relatives and reveal their life stories.”
The first female musicians
The duo said they learned a number of interesting facts on the musicians of Southeast Anatolia.
“We are living in a country that is full of colors. We encountered many different musical languages, such as Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic,” said Çuha, adding that the first female musicians from southeastern Anatolia came from Mardin, including Meryem Han and Ayşe Şan. The researchers said readers would have the chance to learn about two musicians, Bedri Orcan and Nezih Şenses, for the first time with the book.
Also included is Beşir Manço, who is reputed to be the first person to bring Western music to Mardin. Çınarbaş, said they were now planning on beginning a new project to investigate the lives of religious figures.