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The performer and musicologist Ulaş Özdemir in his published collection of Mücrimi’s lyrics considers him alongside Aşık Melûli and Aşık İbreti as the great representative aşık-s of their time. This is Mücrimi’s most famous song, associated particularly with Aşık Nesimi Çimen and undoubtedly helped to the status of a classıc by superb recordings of the song by Arif Sağ on his 1983 recording İnsan Olmaya Geldim and later by Müslim Gürses on his 2001 recording Müslüm’ce Türküler. Sağ’s version is restrained, tempered with space that lets the song unfold profoundly – as is typical of that remarkable album. Gürses’s singing has a more searing quality and is beautifully delivered, like Sağ, just to bağlama accompaniment.

Mücrimi whose real name was Mehmet Özbozok was born in 1882 in Karaterzi village in the Doğanşehir locale of the Malatya region. Özdemir tells us that according to the explanation of Mücrimi’s children he was given the mahlas ‘Mücrimi’ by a descendent of İmam Mûsâ’l-Kâzım. As a child he burned his hand resulting in his fingers being bandaged in the shape of a ball and he was given the nickname ‘çolak‘ meaning crippled or one-armed. And this nickname was apparently the inspiration for the mahlas Mücrimi which has connotations of being guilty or a criminal. Mahlas taking is a fascinating subject and here we can see elements of bestowing authority of lineage, reference to the specifics of one’s life or appearance and ironic humour.

Aşık Nesimi Çimen spent some time with Mücrimi but, again according to what Özdemir reports, the song came to Çimen through his father-in-law Cafer Ağa of Sarız (Elbistan) who Mücrimi had great regard for. It was through Nesimi Çimen’s singing the song in various gatherings that it entered the repertoire of other artists; and later became part of the official TRT repertoire. In my PhD thesis I discussed another song Arif Sağ collected from the singing of Nesimi Çimen (and included on İnsan Olmaya Geldim) called ‘Yarim İçin Söylüyorum’, a song in türkü form although it has the suggestion of a mahlas in the line ‘Cafer der sevdalı kuldu’. At the time of writing my thesis I stated that I could not identify the poet ‘Cafer’, but now I would conclude that it appears highly probable that this Cafer is none other than Cafer Ağa.

The commonly performed versions omit the third verse (the ‘oh Lord’ verse) and alter the penultimate line of the last verse. That line certainly presents the biggest translation challenge. In the recorded versions this line is changed to ‘zalımlardan [or cahillerden] yedi taşı‘ and I have been guided by this variant in my translation. Even still it requires some interpretation since it would seem to be a reference to the Muslim  ‘stoning of devil’ ritual personalised and inverted in a typically deft Alevi way. I translate ‘intizar’ as an ‘expectation’ or ‘waiting’ although it may also mean a ‘curse’ though I don’t think so in this context – though it is a shade of meaning unfortunately lost in translation.

Aşık Mücrimi: Şu diyâr-ı gurbet elde

Translation: Paul Koerbin

In exile in this strange land

No joy, my heart knows no joy

No one knows of my condition

No joy, my heart knows no joy

I caused my heart injury and pain

My heart descended into despair

Whether fortune or fate, it is black

No joy, my heart knows no joy

I have wept, make me laugh, oh Lord

I am broken down, raise me up, oh Lord

My condition is clear to you, oh Lord

No joy, my heart knows no joy

I went around dizzy and distracted

I can read and I can write

Day and night I am in anticipation

No joy, my heart knows no joy

Mücrimi says, my eye, my tear

My mind is not free from grief

Stones rain upon me from tyrants

No joy, my heart knows no joy

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Text from Ulaş Özdemir Şu diyârı- gurbet elde: Âşık Mücrimî’nin yaşamı ve şiirleri (Pan, 2007)

Şu diyâr-ı gurbet elde

Şen değil gönlüm şen değil

Kimse bilmez ahvâlimden

Şen değil gönlüm şen değil

Ben sinemi yaktım nâra

Gönül düşmüştür efkâra

Teccellî mi baht mı kara

Şen değil gönlüm şen değil

Ağlamışım güldür yâ Rabb

Düşkününüm kaldır yâ Rabb

Hâlim sana ayan yâ Rabb

Şen değil gönlüm şen değil

Ser-gerdân olmuş gezerim

Hem okuyup hem yazarım

Gece gündüz intizârım

Şen değil gönlüm şen değil

Mücrimî der dîdem yaşım

Gamdan ayrılmıyor başım

Adûlardan değer taşım

Şen değil gönlüm şen değil

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