Some photos from the last Pir Sultan Abdal Şenlikleri (Festival) that I attended in June 2007. The location is the village of Banaz, north of Sivas.
This is one of the most well known and performed deyiş of Dertli Divani (real name Veli Aykut, born 1962 in Kısas near Şanlıurfa). Divani is arguably the most important living Alevi aşık and a remarkable individual who straddles, with ease, the worlds of the Alevi source culture and that of the modern recording artist. He is also tireless in his efforts to explain and promote an understanding of the true nature and spirit of Alevi culture to as wide an audience as possible. Divani is from dede lineage (his father is the late Aşık Büryani) and leads cem services in Turkey (Kısas, Nurhak, Banaz) and throughout the world (Europe, North America and in Australia) and is the source and composer of many of the finest Alevi lyrics of the last quarter century. Though clearly he has the ambition to make Alevi culture widely understood his lyrics are still deeply mystical and present challenges for the translator, even more overtly social lyrics such as this one.
This deyiş is somewhat remarkable for the fact that it has a refrain (bağlantı) that introduces new text – many deyiş when sung introduce refrains though more commonly they are repetitions of the words of the verses. Adding to the interesting form is the fact that the verses are in 8 syllable metre while the refrain is in 11 syllable metre. While I generally aim to translate deyiş line by line, in this case it is necessary in some parts to treat two lines together for the purpose of coherence in the translation. Another difficulty was what to do with the “ne … ne” construction particularly in the first refrain. This construction normally means “neither … nor” though the conjuctions are usually placed before the words to which they refer, not after them as in this lyric. For this reason I have read “ne” in this instance as its other meaning of “what” which makes more sense in the theme of the lyric. In the last refrain I was tempted to use the word “wayfarer” for “yolcu” to pick up on the assonance of the Turkish, as in “the wayfarer who does not take the way” – but I did not completely convince myself of the desirability of this. I did, however, for good or ill, fall for the use of “hence”, in its archaic mean of “from here/this” for a translation of “bundan“.
Divani recorded the lyric on his album Serçeşme and in a repeat of the third line of the second verse he replaces “yârin” (beloved) with “pirin” (spiritual guide) as he does also in this live performance of the deyiş. The text given below is from Kısaslı Aşıklar by Halil Atılgan published in Şanlıurfa in 1992. The text printed in the CD/cassette booklet for Serçeşme is the same. Curiously in a later publication by Atılgan (with Mehmet Acet) titled Harran’da Bir Türkmen Köyü Kısas published by the T.C. Kültür Bakanlığı in 2001, the last line includes an odd reading (or editorial mistake) contracting “Şaha ne” to “şahane” (royal, regal, magnificent).
Update #1: Again my most dedicated reader, Olga, has made some very pertinent and helpful comments (see comments section). She has articulated the theme of the lyric, which I completely agree with. She also, most usefully, notes the misreading in regards to “sana ne bana ne“. As Olga notes this construction means “I/you don’t care” or as I would re-phrase it “what’s it to you, what’s it to me”. And of course this suggests an allusion to the aşık that Divani himself has said is one of his greatest influences, Aşık Daimi and his great lyric titled Bana Ne. Interestingly that lyric includes the mahlas form “Dertli Daimi” – the full line is “Dertli Daimi’yim yardır sevdiğim“. This form of the mahlas is very uncommon in Daimi’s lyrics. Is this a deliberate allusion by Dertli Divani? Also, as Olga notes, the last line of the lyric suggest the famous Pir Sultan Abdal cry “Gelin canlar bir olalım” though that line can also be attributed to another great and influential Alevi poet Aşık Sıdkı, a poet who is also a strong influence on Dertli Divani. In revising some lines upon Olga’s suggestion, and my reluctance to use her suggestion of “pilgrim” for yolcu, I have given in to my original inclination and used ‘wayfarer’. And I removed my “hence” – a shame about that.
Dertli Divani: Diktiğimiz fidanlar
Translation: Paul Koerbin
We could not eat the fruit
Of the shoots we planted
Whatever was their fault
(Hold on tyrant!) we cannot say
So saying, what’s it to you and what’s it to me?
Thus we’re fodder for lord and master
The doctor caused my wound to smart
Inflamed by my sweet soul
The love of the beloved sets me
To wandering through foreign lands
I have been hurt by the hand of the blind ignorant friend
I have grown tired and disgusted with reproaches
Divani speaks freely of conceit
This ignorance casting us down
Hand to hand, heart to heart
Let us give and be as one
The uncommitted wayfarer is at fault with the way
And so, what concern for the subject one to the Sultan or Shah?
Original text from Kısalı Aşıklar by Halil Atılgan, Şanlıurfa, 1992
Ne suçu vardı onların
Dur be zalim diyemedik
Sana ne bana ne hep diye diye
Böylece yem olduk ağaya beye
Tabip yaramı azdırdı
Tatlı canımdan bezdirdi
Beni bir yârin sevdası
Diyar be diyar gezdirdi
Yanmışam kör cahil dostun elinden
Bıkmış usanmışam acı dilinden
Der Divani senlik benlik
Bizi yıkan bu cahillik
El ele gönül gönüle
Verelim olalım birlik
Yolcu yola gitmez yola bahane
Bundan kula Sultana ne Şaha ne
Aşık İbreti is someone I would like to have met. His no nonsense plain speaking is so engaging – and, one thinks, quite courageous. His language is simple and his is message clear. İbreti’s real name was Hıdır Gürel and he was born in 1920 in the Sarız region of Kayseri. In 1967 we was caught up in attacks against Alevis in Elbistan. A working man, maker and seller of musical instruments and miner, he died in 1976. Musa Eroğlu, the great singer and bağlama player from Mut – often called the modern Karacaoğlan – is something of a champion of İbreti’s lyrics. He recorded the genuinely magnificent İlme değer verdim (Gördümde geldim) on his recording Yolver Dağlar and recently contributed İbreti’s Aşkın kabesi (İnsanlığa hizmet ibadetimdir) to the remarkable recording initiative by Kalan Music called Kızılbaş. Dertli Divani has also recorded the work of İbreti including Hakikat denildi erkânımıza on his 2000 masterwork Serçeşme. İbreti’s poems were published in 1996 in the book titled İlmer Değer Verdim by Adil Ali Atalay (Vaktidolu) whose publishing house, Can Yayınları, has contributed so much to the dissemination of Alevi culture.
The translation is fairly straightforward and I have tried to keep the language as ‘natural’ as possible. In the second verse he refers to Hızır (not to be confused with the despised Hızır Paşa, Pir Sultan’s nemesis) who obtained immortality by drinking the water of life – this is the concept I have tried to achieve in the translation. The other problematic word is gılman, which is sort of the male equivalent of ‘houries’. I have tried to render this with some taste – though I think there is a touch of the invective in the original. I repeat, İbreti is someone I would love to have met.
The picture is a photo of the notorious Madımak Otel (Hotel) in Sivas, which I took in 1996, three years after the fanatics set fire to the building because of the secular expressions of the artists and writers staying there who were attending the Pir Sultan Abdal Festival, killing 35 inside.
Postscript: I have made a couple of changes to the last two verses after reader Sürmeli pointed out a couple of errors. Many thanks.
Aşık İbreti: Değiliz
Translation: Paul Koerbin
Don’t climb up the minaret and cry out to us
We know this stuff, we’re not deaf
Think about yourself, don’t worry about us
We have no mind to quarrel with you
We know God is present everywhere
We know the mature human is immortal
We know anything other than this is nothing
Your estimation is wrong, we are not blind
If there is humanity then your resolve is true
Improve you own self if you have the strength
We have no necessity for your heaven
We are not slaves to your houries and pageboys
We feel no compulsion for Arabic prayers
Consider us Muslim or infidel as you wish
To belittle the human is your biggest blasphemy
We are not unbelievers, we believe in this
Ibreti, humankind grieves for this situation
These words will anger crude fanatics
The one who is unaware of his true self will take offence
We feel no compulsion to delude of amuse them
Original text from Aşık İbreti İlme Değer Verdim (Can Yayınları, 1996)
Minareye çıkıp bize bağırma
Haberimiz vardır, sağır değiliz
Sen kendini düşün bizi kayırma
Sizlere kavgaya uğur değiliz
Her yerde biz Hakk’ı hazır biliriz
Olgun insanları Hızır biliriz
Bundan başkasını sıfır biliriz
Tahmininiz yanlış, biz kör değiliz
Eğer insanlıksa doğru niyetin
Nefsini ıslah et varsa kudretin
Bize lazım değil senin cennetin
Huriye gılmana esir değiliz
Arapça duaya değiliz mecbur
İster müslüman bil, istersen gavur
İnsan hor görmek en büyük küfür
Buna inanmışız, münkir değiliz
İbreti, bu hâle insan acınır
Ham sofular bu sözlerden gücenir
Aslına ermeyen elbet gocunur
Onu avutmaya mecbur değiliz