November 11, 2012


EPISODE 3 / İstanbul / 10 Nov 2012

In this program, Ferman is in pursuit of melodies, tunes, and songs of Anatolia and Thrace that spread from ear to ear throughout the history. In this episode, he is in Istanbul where Anatolia and Thrace meet! In a music documentary like this, he definitely has to mention Istanbul!

How should one tell about the musical story of Istanbul? It's impossible to tell about the music of a city where several civilizations flourished and a lot of people from different cultures live together, in just 45 minutes! Ferman just wants to highlight some important points for him. First we'll meet Armenian friends with whom we lived together in the cultural mixture of this city. And then he'll take us to a very important music society in Istanbul: Uskudar Music Society. And finally he'll show us the street musicians of this city. Because the streets are the best places that tell the story of a city!

Ferman first visits the Association for Development of Vakifli Village of Hatay. Vakifli Village is the only remaining Armenian village in Turkey. Located in Hatay Province, the village overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and very near to the Syrian border. Vakifli Village is the only totally Armenian village in the world, still speaking a dialect of Western Armenian. The dialect is very thick, and cannot understood by other Western Armenians.
Very few people know about Vakifli Village. The village people live with the music. Ferman didn't know anything about it before the program, neither.
The Association is in a 120 year-old building in Istanbul. Ferman knows the problems and the smell of this kind of buildings very well. Because he lived in a similarly old, 140 year-old miserable wooden house before his current home. He is very excited about what he is about to listen. He's going to meet Mr.Misak and his wife Mrs.Armenuhi.
Ferman, having a chat with Mr.Misak and his wife Mrs.Armenuhi

Ferman's first question is "Why do Armenians sing folk songs and why do we sing songs?"

The music is a way to express themselves for all the people. Armenians sing their folk songs with the same feelings, too. They have sorrowful songs and cheerful songs. The music and the songs are the life itself and our common language! Armenian music is not so different from the music of the other peoples in the same region. Armenians on occasion sing Arabic songs even though they don't understand the lyrics; they mostly sing in Turkish, or in the dialect of the village, or in Istanbul Armenian. Sometimes, the songs are sung in a mixture of languages! One stanza in Turkish, and one in Armenian! This is a peculiarity of Vakifli Village.

When Ferman was once in Hatay, he has seen a mosque and a church that have a common wall in between. He thought that this was very interesting. Mr.Misak says that that mosque and church were in his granfather's village, which is Yogunoluk Village. It will be restored soon. Recently Vakifli was selected for development of tourism, so the government is making large investments in the region in the recent years.

Ferman asks about why Vakifli Village people preferred the citizenship of Turkey when Hatay joined Turkey in 1939 as the most of the Armenian population of Hatay preferred to accept Syrian citizenship. 
In the 1-year transitional period, the Turkish government granted the people the right to choose citizenship of desired country. Vakifli Village people preferred to stay in the homeland, as some 6-7 villages decided to migrate to Syria.
Ferman is curios whether the women of the village was effective on this decision. Mrs.Armenuhi thinks that it must have been a joint decision, but her husband says that as we all are patriarchal societies, so this should have been a decision by the men.

For more information about the history of Hatay, please click on the below Wikipedia link:


Then Ferman asks about Vakifli women. What are they doing for a living? The women of Vakifli make syrups, jams and liquors and sell to the tourists for a living. When Mrs.Armenuhi was a kid, they learned how to embroider in needlepoint and they sold their work, too. But now needlepoint lace is not so popular as was in the past.

Ferman's next question is, "Is it the women who sing the most?" 

They sing lullabies to their babies, and elegies when they feel blue. Ferman wants to hear a lullaby in Armenian, but she can't remember any. In fact, Ferman wants to know if it resembles the ones that he heard when he was a kid. Ferman asks if there is a well-known Armenian song. Yes, it's "Hala hala nin noi". It's a kind of song that every Armenian in the world knows and definitely sing in every meeting, wedding, festival, party, etc. It has very simple lyrics that were taken from the daily life. Ferman compares the simple lyrics of the song with the modern pop songs' catchy but often meaningless and empty lyrics.

After the little chat with the husband and wife, Ferman and Cagatay recorded an elegy from Mrs.Armenuhi. This is a first for her and she is a little nervous. Ferman tries to give her some comfort, telling her his first time with an earphone and microphone, about his awkwardness and being nervous. He tells her to take her time and there is no need to hurry, because they have enough time to do the recording (very cute scene!). 

Mrs.Armenuhi, recording the bridal elegy

The song that she sang is an elegy that was sung by the women just to make the bride cry during a bridal procession. The lyrics are about the bride leaving the family home. It's a tradition to make the bride cry when she leaves the family home. Ferman here says "I was going to cry, too!" It sounds like an elegy, but in fact it's not. It's a wedding song really. The procession take the bride to the wedding and then to her new home.

Ferman's next stop in this episode, is very significant for him. It's the famous Uskudar Music Society in Uskudar on the Asian Side of Istanbul (Inci's hometown!). Ferman considers himself very lucky because he also had a chance to take classical Turkish music lessons in this society which raised really good musicians throughout the history of modern Turkey. 

Ferman had a short talk with his former teachers about the history and significance of this music society and seemed very excited and awkward to be in front of them again, but this time as a host of a TV program.
His teachers first expressed their joy to have him and said that they were very proud of his success as a musician who was raised by this society.

Ferman, with his former teachers at the Uskudar Music Society in Uskudar, Istanbul

Ferman is a little nervous in front of his teachers during the talk...

This music society was founded in 1918. During the British occupation (1918-1923) after the WW I, the notable people and the patriots of the city can't endure this and try to form an anti propaganda movement. In this very building, they stage plays and also Uskudar soccer team gathers. And they invite the young people to make music in the same building. This is the beginning of a young resistance against the Allies and the Uskudar Music Society.

According to the historical sources, the British commission divided the city in 3 zones and every month they sent regular reports to London. In one of these reports, they say "We managed to haul down their flag, but we can't silence their music!". This was the music of this society! Surely they made some military marches just to motivate young people in those days.

In 1927, legendary music man Emin Ongan started to teach at the society and his charismatic personality and his vast knowledge carried the society through to the present day.

Ferman considers this society as a great educational establishment (530 members),  Turkey's largest musical archive of Classical Turkish Music (they have 40,000 songs in their archive) and a gathering place for the devoted Classical Turkish Music lovers. The young people has this wrong perception: This is not a place for the young people! Yet, Ferman says that he has observed first hand that when he attended classes here, there were old and young people in the same classes and they sang the same song together with the same feelings!

Now Ferman is curious about the multi cultural interactions of the Society. During the invasion, how were the relations of the Society with the Greeks and the Armenians? 
Until recently, one of the members of the Board was great Armenian musician, Varujan Ziljiyan. He was the second Chairman of the Society once. Uskudar Music Society is well-known among the foreign music lovers, too. Once a French, a Greek and 2 Japanese attended the classes here. The Greek lady played the kanun and she was even in the Society's orchestra! There was never an excluding of the minorities. This is impossible in the music! Recently, a German group of 25 music lovers came to observe the Society's activities.

According to Ferman, the best way to get to know a city is walking around on the streets, not in the museums. Museums are also important, but if you want to know about the people and their life, you have to walk on its streets first! And if it comes to the music, the streets are more significant. He has been in the leading musical capitols of the world before: New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, etc...But none of them was like Istanbul! Go up on a roof, open your ears and listen to the music coming from the jazz bars, ethnic music bars, blues bars, rock bars...all entangled in one another...and listen to the street musicians.

If he asks us what the best verse which represent this city is, probably we will choose the following of Orhan Veli Kanik: "I'm listening to Istanbul, my eyes closed". 

For the full translation of the poem, please click on below link:


Istanbul is such a city that sometimes it's really a big pleasure to stop and listen to its sounds. In all the hustle and bustle of the city, you have to lend an ear to...the Bosphorus, the sea, the sky, the streets, even the horns in the traffic! They sound weird by themselves, but when they mixed up they kinda create the special music of the city! (Inci: very very true!) Orhan Veli probably listened to this "special" music during his time.

Now it's time to go to the studio! He is going to meet an old friend. Maybe he is one of the first who welcomed Ferman in Istanbul. 

He is Birol Namoglu, the vocalist of the rock band GRIPIN. Ferman welcomes his "brother". He is happy to have him in this program, because Birol and his band, Gripin are the first people who welcomed maNga when they first migrated from Ankara to Istanbul. Gripin showed them around Istanbul, gave big clues about the city, introduced them to important people, took them to important music bars, etc...They know very well about multi cultural music of the city. This is why it's so significant for Ferman to have him in this episode. 
Birol is very happy to be in "his" program, too. He wishes him good luck in this long-termed program. He believes in him. If it's Ferman, it's done! 

Ferman and Birol Namoglu of Gripin

Ferman explains him his goal in this episode. He wanted to go to our long-forgotten neighbors whom we lived together for centuries, listen to their music and share it. He tells him about Vakifli Village and his meeting with Mr.Misak and his wife. He wants to render it with Birol. In the beginning, Ferman planned to rearrange the songs in their own languages, in Turkish, in Kurdish, in Armenian, in Laz, etc...But then he changed his mind and thought of translating the original lyrics into Turkish when they rearranged the songs with the guest performer.
Birol says that we have common cultural values with them, because we lived on the same soil for centuries, so the melodies overlaps with one another. When you put Turkish lyrics into these songs, or put foreign lyrics into Turkish songs you don't feel out of place and the song still have the enough power to convey the feelings. This is the peculiarity of this particular geographical region.

And they try to put Turkish lyrics of the same meaning into the Armenian song. They manage to come up with fairly meaningfully compatible Turkish lyrics with the original lyrics in Armenian. The final step is the recording of the song.
Ferman and Birol, trying to put Turkish lyrics into the Armenian song

This week's song "Mulur Hey Mar" (Hey, Mom, Don't Cry!) is a wedding song that was sung especially during a bridal procession. The lyrics are from the bride's point of view. The new Turkish lyrics also conveys the same meaning.

Aglama, ana, aglama
Alip goturuyorlar
Seker balla buyuttugun gulu
Alip goturuyorlar

Don't cry, mom, don't cry
They are taking me away
They are taking your Rose away
Whom you fed with sweets and honey

Birol performed the song with new lyrics with emotion. I couldn't help thinking I wish it was a little bit longer. And I especially liked the parts with the piano & electric guitar and the ending with Birol's voice. It gets to you deeply as you listen over and over again! 

(video uploaded to YouTube by Barişcan Özay)

Thanks so much for your efforts, guys! I'm especially pleased that you have put emphasis again on the cultural mosaic of Turkey. If we loose it, one of the unique peculiarities of Turkey vanishes!

Looking forward to next week's surprises!

You can watch the full episode 3 on the You Tube link below:

PS. You can watch KULAKTAN KULAGA episodes online on TRT Muzik's web site:


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