Armenian musician saved by Turkish novelist

Armenian musician saved by Turkish novelist

A new CD “Yerkaran” of the Armenian musician Gomidas Vartabed has been released by Kalan Müzik, a collection of Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish folk songs and songs from several regions of Anatolia, Turkey. Gomidas Vartabed (known as Komitas) was born in the Central Anatolian town of Kütahya and died at a psychiatric clinic in France.

During the time he lived in Istanbul, his house was the gathering place of intellectuals and artists. Gomidas Vartabed was sent to Çankırı Prison in Central Anatolia during the Armenian incidents.

According to verbal accounts, the person who personally saved him from Çankırı Prison was Halide Edip Adıvar, famous Turkish novelist, feminist political leader and a national hero. I hope on the 50th anniversary of the death of the famous novelist (1964), historians and literary historians will research this.

On this CD of Gomidas, several religious - primarily the ezan, the call to prayer - and non-religious pieces are presented with a new arrangement.

While listening to the “Yerkaran” CD, you will notice how sounds in Turkey together constitute a culture in the Anatolian geography. You will feel it from the pieces that, with such a passion, the Armenian musician has compiled in Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish. All of them were compiled by Gomidas Vartabed.

This CD and its book, prepared by Ari Hergel and Burcu Yıldız, offer both music and notes on the artist, his life and the period he lived in.

While wandering through Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district years ago, different languages, sounds, tunes would melt into each other, multiply in a new synthesis and a new culture would be born.
Anywhere in Anatolia, if you go up a high hill, if you go down a plain, the music, the songs, the folklore tunes that reach your ear reflect a pluralist culture to you.

The arrangements from Gomidas Vartabed’s Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish compilations prove the affinity between the sounds of Anatolia. Pieces sung in various languages from the ezan to folk songs of separation, pains of migration and love songs bear witness to the cohabitation on the same land.

I believe in the unifying power of music, that it writes history with sound. This compilation not only sheds light on our musical history, but also on some pages of our political history.

Gomidas Vartabed was born in Kütahya as Soghomon Soghomonian in 1869. His parents died when he was very young. He was educated at the Gevorkian Seminary both on classical Western music and Armenian Church music history and theory. He established choirs, gave many lectures and performances in the Caucasus and several cities in Europe.

According to a narrative, Halide Edip Adıvar has made it possible that he is transported back to Istanbul from Çankırı Prison. In the CD book, you will be able to find the invitations, tickets of the concerts of that period and the photographs of the musician.

When you read the book, you will see how much effort is exerted to make such an album and book. No need to mention the difficulty of collecting this information and these documents from all around the world.

You can read the information in three languages, in Turkish, Armenian and English. While listening to the CD, you will accompany some of the songs, while some others will resonate deep in your sound memory.

Culture and music are significant reference guides reflecting our political and social history.

Doğan Hızlan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Jan 29. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.