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sag_cassetteMy translation of one of the greatest modern Alevi deyiş, İnsan Olmaya Geldim by Nimri Dede (İsmail Dehmen who died in 1986). Hearing Arif Sağ’s musical arrangement and recording of this song was a revelation to me many years ago and though I could not understand it when I first heard it, it sent me on my path to find out what this music, so full of mystery and poetry, was all about. Remarkably a year or so after hearing this song I walked into a music shop in Şehzadebaşı in Istanbul, played a little of the song on a bağlama only to find that the poet’s grandson was working in the shop! Sercihan Dehmen, a very fine mey/ney/zurna player also, even more remarkably, had a typescript of his grandfather’s deyişler with him; and I was able to get a copy of the original words. The translation below however mostly follows the popular recorded version of the song, by Arif Sağ and others. Nimri Dede’s original line was ‘Mevlana oldum da geldim’ which is changed in the popular version to ‘insan olmaya geldim‘. A few other words were also changed (e.g. ‘kirini‘ to ‘kinini’ in the opening line) and two verses omitted. I have translated Nimri Dede’s original version elsewhere on this blog.

İnsan Olmaya Geldim  (I have come to be a human being)

Translation: Paul Koerbin

I cast out the enmity of duality from within me,

In the true self  I have come to become a human being.

Establish the throne to the heart of the true ones;

In word I have come to become a human being.

I have laid myself open,

I have come to be a human being.

Whatever love is, it is the essence of the soul;

The true direction to it  lies between the eyes.

The work of truth is the tint of strength.

On the face I have come to become a human being.

I have laid myself open,

I have come to be a human being.

What all the teachers have described;

The halting place that the true ones have reached;

Where the Prophets and saints have gone;

In these footsteps I have come to become a human being.

I have laid myself open,

I have come to be a human being.

Sometimes I have considered and sometimes been considered;

How many years have I been attached to a noose;

In the path of love I burned and was consumed;

In the ashes I have come to become a human being.

I have laid myself open,

I have come to be a human being.

At last I have come, drinking the wine of love.

I have chosen each pure beam from the darkness.

The mountains of existence I have pierced and passed over;

On the level I have come to become a human being.

I have laid myself open,

I have come to be a human being.

Behold now what Nimri Dede has done:

Of the true love to every heart he has sung;

To all manner of corruption he has bid farewell;

On the saz I have come to become a human being.

I have laid myself open,

I have come to be a human being.

Nimri Dede

(Ismail Dehmen d. 1986)


Nimri Dede (d. 1986) photograph from İsmail Onarlı's book 'Şeyh Hasan Aşireti'

Nimri Dede (d. 1986) photograph from İsmail Onarlı’s book ‘Şeyh Hasan Aşireti’