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Cahit Öztelli’s 1971 publication Pir Sultan Abdal: yaşamı ve bütün şiirleri was the third major collection of Pir Sultan Abdal lyrics published following that of Ergun in 1929 and Gölpınarlı and Boratav in 1943. Öztelli’s book coming nearly thirty years after that of Gölpınarlı and Boratav shows a considerable advance in presentation. The book, published by the Milliyet Yayınları, is in hard covers (boards) with a full colour dust jacket. The dust jacket is interesting as it depicts a landmark Anatolian scene – the snow covered peaks of Mount Erciyes (near Kayseri) though not a landmark particularly associated with Pir Sultan Abdal, unless this image is intended to suggest Yıldız Dağı near Banaz. Milliyet published other similarly attractive editions by Öztelli, most notably the important collection of Alevi-Bektaşi lyrics called Bektaşi gülleri in 1973.

Öztelli’s preface to his book gives a brief history of publication of the major works on Pir Sultan and emphasises the fact that his collection includes 327 poems which amounts to 149 newly published lyrics making this, naturally, the most complete collection of Pir Sultan lyrics at that time. Of these newly published lyrics 124 were collected from Vahit Dede (Vahit Lütfü Salcı) and 25 from Sivas folklorist İbrahim Aslanoğlu (who would go on to publish the next important collection of Pir Sultan lyrics in 1984). Most of these, Öztelli notes, were taken from old cönk (manuscripts) sources.

Like Ergun’s 1929 collection, Öztelli includes a number of musical examples; in this case 25 ‘compositions’ (beste), 18 of which were taken from Vahit Dede’s collection – Vahit Dede being a trained musician and Alevi dede –  and the remaining seven from publications of the İstanbul Konservatuvarı. Again as Öztelli notes, these musical examples may be considered folk (halk) music characteristic of Alevi tekke (lodge) music; that is, anonymous compositions of an urban rather than rural Anaolian tradition. Indeed the tunes are presented under headings indicating their makam (Turkish classical music terminology for mode). The renowned musician, musicologist and former chief of the Ankara State Folk Music Choir, Mehmet Özbek, suggested in a conversation I had with him that these tunes are most definitely folk music (halk müziği) and can be and in the case of his choir are performed in a folk music style. The categorization under makam was simply a convention.

One later popular trade paperback edition of Öztelli’s book published by Özgür Yayın Dağıtım in 1985 – which was in fact the first edition of Pir Sultan Abdal lyrics I obtained – has a starkly different and culturally charged symbolism in the cover artwork – a bağlama with its neck twisted into a knotted rope suggesting at once the performative, musical basis of the poet and the poems, Pir Sultan’s death on the gallows and the defiance inherent in the symbol of the poet’s lute.

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