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kul olayimHere is my translation, with Turkish text, of the version of Pir Sultan’s famous Kul Olayım Kalem Tutan Ellere. This was included on Muhlis Akarsu’s postumous release “Sivas Ellerinde Ömrün Çalınır” recorded and sung by Arif Sağ and Sebahat Aslan. Arif told me that after a funeral service for Sivas victims someone handed him this text and he felt it was the most appropriate response he could make to the events at the time. Obviously written centuries after Pir Sultan lived by Hüseyin Aşkın though based on one of the most famous songs attributed to Pir Sultan Abdal, it forms part of the Pir Sultan tradition. I have heard this version sung in a cem in Australia. Of course much is lost in translation, most obviously the play on names. The mention of Nesimi could refer to the 15th century martyr expecially as it occurs on the same sentence as Haydar (referring to Pir Sultan and/or Imam Ali); or Nesimi could refer to Nesimi Çimen the great ‘working man’s’ aşık and victim of the Sivas massacre.  The following line about Akarsu (i.e. Muhlis Akarsu one of the greatest modern aşıks) suffers in translation since the sense of cutting of the flow of the water of life  (the meaning of Akarsu is ‘flowing water’) is lost. Similarly the next line refering to yet another victim, the prodigy and catalyst for the performance of şelpe style on the bağlama, Hasret (Gültekin) loses the meaning of hasret as longing or yearning. The reference to ‘Madımak’ in the last verse is a reference to the hotel in Sivas that was burnt down by the the rabble crowd and in which 35 of the victims (33 attending the Festival and 2 hotel employees) died. Translations only serve as an impetus to further and deeper understandings.

Kul olayım mızrap tutan ellere

Katip arzu halim yaz şah’a böyle

Gül dikeyim kan dökülen yerlere

Katip arzu halim yaz şah’a böyle


Sıvas ellerinde ömrün çalınır

Kor yürekler bölük bölük bölünür

Dosttan ayrılmışam bağrım delinir

Katip arzu halim yaz şah’a böyle


Bir ismin Haydar’dır biri Nesimi

Akarsu’yum kesemezler sesini

Hasret’ime duyurayım yasımı

Katip arzu halim yaz şah’a böyle


Madımak’da ateş göğe gerinir

Otuzyedi canın birden alınır

Pir Sultanlar ölür ölür dirilir

Katip arzu halim yaz şah’a böyle

(Text: Hüseyin Aşkın)

I would submit to the hand stiking the strings

Scribe, write thus of my condition to the Shah

I would plant a rose where the blood was spilt

Scribe, write thus of my condition to the Shah


In the lands of Sivas your life is struck down

Hearts as hot as embers are broken in two

Separated from my Companion, my heart will break

Scribe, write thus of my condition to the Shah


One of you is called Haydar one Nesimi

They cannot stem your voice my Akarsu

To the world I would mourn aloud my Hasret

Scribe, write thus of my condition to the Shah


In the Madimak the fire reaches the sky

Thirty seven souls are taken all in one

Pir Sultans die and die and will rise again

Scribe, write thus of my condition to the Shah

(Translation by Paul Koerbin)