Zülfü Livaneli on Human Rights Day – Turkey

Livaneli has composed some three hundred songs, a rhapsody –recorded by London Symphony Orchestra –, and a ballet. His collaborations with Mikis Theodorakis of Greece have been noted as a gesture of bringing together the two countries.  Livaneli has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1996.

A girls got to do what a girls got to do – daily blogging is one of them – and while at the same time Baby Einstein is playing Christmas songs and I have to run to the City Council in half an hour, I decided to get this post of my chest. The first doubt being because its take-off is mainly so, if not all, a  Wikipedia quote, and that is because the missing link and connecting post are probably only arriving much later.
This is too bad, and too far away, but mainly my own mistake. Before I start talking in riddles again I just take off and maybe will compensate the length of the quote with the length of my own doing.

About Zülfü Livanely and me

He is for me the personification of politic engagement, and as singer/songwriter I know him already for a long time, over twenty years I guess. During my stay in Turkey he and his work were like a red thread through my life, next to many others like Baris Manco en Sezen Aksu, who came in and went out of my attention and CD player time and again. But it was only this summer in Istanbul that I got his Album Efsane Konserler and since then I managed to forget to play it for just about one week, for the rest it is on, either on Spotify or in my old-fashioned CD Player.  And yes, it is, like the most Turkish music I know, rather melancholic and therefore sometimes I compensate with either Anouk, Anny Lennox, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen or Adele.
But you can see maybe, like I do, that even there are mutual matches in types of their music and their characters. Strong individuals with strong opinions and strong voices. Livaneli ’s is not that strong as most of the others mentioned above, but his passion and even so devotion and engagement make up for that, in my eyes at least. But that might be because the language also makes sense to me, that i don’t know.
For a non-Turkish speaker or understander (no proper English but you know what I mean) it might be too boring too soon.
But his music and texts are always hitting home in my heart full blast and have this effect like balm, balm for my soul. I would love to hear from a music connoisseur, and yes, maybe preferably one who does not understand the meaning of the words, what he or she can say about this effect, this melancholy. Is it in minor mostly? I have no clue about the technical aspects. Is it really in the music or in me?
Yes, the issues often are about longing, and missing, and waiting, but that is in the words. I think it is in the music as well and know for instance that some people get irritated when I play it for more than lets say, half an hour. Headphones are ready and waiting.

But now I have to go…

This post is for all my friends from Turkey and abroad in other places, now spread all over the world.
For all the good times we had and the hard times we had and the challenges still there. Turkey - Cappadocie Underground City With love. Size seviyorum!

Ömer Zülfü Livanelioğlu (born 1946) is a popular Turkish folk musician (singer and composer), a novelist, newspaper columnist and a film director who has been highly popular for decades. He is also a prominent left-wing and social-democrat politician and was a member of the Turkish parliament for one term.

He is most known for his fusion of Turkish folk music with contemporary music, in much the same way as Bob Dylan and his contemporaries in the United States. His 1997 Ankara concert was attended by no less than 500 thousand people.
His collaborations with Mikis Theodorakis of Greece have been noted as a gesture of bringing together the two countries.
Livaneli has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1996.
Livaneli has composed some three hundred songs, a rhapsody –recorded by London Symphony Orchestra–, and a ballet.
His compositions have reached cult status nationwide and have been performed by internationally renowned artists such as Joan Baez, Maria Farantouri, María del Mar Bonet, Udo Lindenberg, Haris Alexiou, Jocelyn B. Smith and Kate Westbrook.
He has also written five plays and thirty film soundtracks. Among these soundtracks are the soundtrack for “Yol” (The Path), directed by Yilmaz Güney and winner of the Golden Palm in Cannes Film Festival, “The Herd”, directed by Yılmaz Güney and Zeki Ökten, and “Shirin’s Wedding” by German director Helma Sanders-Brahms.
His recordings have been published in the USA, Sweden, Germany, Holland and France, and he has given dozens of concerts throughout the world. He has produced albums and performed with Mikis Theodorakis and Maria Farantouri, and he has also collaborated with Manos Hatzidakis, Giora Feidman, Inti-Illimani and Ángel Parra.
In 2010, he sang ‘Mothers of The Disappeared’ with Bono at U2′s concert in Istanbul, Turkey, which was U2′s first-ever concert in Istanbul. Livaneli has been distinguished with the awards Best Album of the Year (Greece), the Edison Award (Holland), and Best Album of the Year (Music Critics Guild of Germany), and the “Premio Luigi Tenco” Best Songwriter Award, San Remo, Italy, in 1999, among others.More

I just picked one of his songs from the beautiful double album Efsane Konserler

Saat Dört yoksun
on YouTube 

and on Spotify 

Four a clock and you are not here
four o’clock, you are not here
it’s five, not here
six, seven o’clock, the next day,
the days after
and who knows when…

reading a book
in there I find you
listening to a song,
I hear you
sitting down to eat
opposite me you sit

while working I see you in front of me

the most beautiful sea
is the one you haven’t been
the most beautiful child
did not grow up yet
our best days
are the ones we have not lived yet
and the most beautiful word
I want to tell you
is the one i haven’t said yet

what is she doing now?
now, right this moment, right now, now, now
Evde mi, sokakta mı? /is she at home, is she somewhere outside, in the streets?
is she working, lying or standing?
she might have raised her arms, my rose
how naked makes this movement of her white thick wrist
what is she doing right now
now, at this very moment, right mow
maybe she is caressing a kitten, laying on her knee
maybe she is walking, about to step
always on my darkest day
they come to me, my darling’s
sweethearts feet
and what does she think now? is it about me?
otherwise, how can i know
why the beans
are not getting cooked somehow
or why most of the people are like that
miserable?
what is she thinking now?
at this moment, right now, now

Saat dört, yoksun
Saat beş, yok.
Altı, yedi, ertesi gün, daha ertesi ve belki kimbilir…

Grace to Kybele/Sybil for helping to translate

Related: My heart aches for Turkey | In Friendship we do real |  More English posts |Efsani Konserler on Spotify | Official Livaneli website | video clips  | Livaneli on Wiki The Director, Composer and Novelist

Two hours later now and back from the City Council, I realize again that it is Human Rights Day, for what it is worth and whatever its effects may be, in Turkey as well as in the Netherlands and all over the world there is plenty eksik/missing with that, so in my opinion  there is no better day than today to post this column.

Happy as a Kite this girl.

Another Sound – Cappadocie during Ramadan

First published Friday, August 21st 2009 for IEDP Columns LinkedIn

Already two weeks in Turkey, the country where I used to live for more than ten years, I enjoy most of the known and some of the new sounds and movements, although some of them  shock me very much.

After twelve years I still love to come and stay here for holidays every year. It ’s really like my home away from home. I get excited the moment the plane takes off from Schiphol Airport.
This year I make a trip down memory lane first, via Kalkan and Antalya, some of the places  I used to live, after which a 7 hour drive from the South Coast through Middle Anatolia brings me to Ürgüp, Cappadocia, the natural wonderland with its typical fairy chimneys.
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Volcanic and chalk stone shaped by centuries of storm and snow, leaving behind strangely shaped figures, with cave houses sand underground cities  sometimes as deep as twenty floors down.
Here the first Christians lived, hiding away for the Romans, and leaving behind a legacy of countless churches both above and underground  full of burial places and icons everywhere. A magical landscape where these days the old cave houses are still inhabited by the most poor people of the area while sometimes less than hundred meters away from the most beautiful 4-Starr hotels,  newly build or extended old cave-houses situated deep into the volcanic chalk stone rocks. Old and  new alike make use of the natural climate control and perfect isolation of the thick walls.  No air conditioning needed in summer and in winter a modest heater suffices.
Last night the ‘Davulcu” woke me for the first time, a ritual drum player who traditionally walks the streets to wake up everybody long before sunrise in order for them to have ‘Sahur’ , a good breakfast before there long day of fasting starts.
Which means no food, drink or sex until sunset. And last night it also meant the official start of the month of ‘Ramazan’.
So today will be the first day that a good part of the Turkish population will not eat food, not drink, smoke or have sex between sunrise and sunset, in order to honor Allah and all living beings, to contemplate about the things they are normally taking for granted and count there blessings.
I am glad to be here once again during the Ramadan because of the special atmosphere, and I do respect the people who start and maintain the fast during this whole holy period, although personally I consider it a very unhealthy way and certainly not a purification or detox in the real sense as I know it, although it’s even said to serve this purpose in order to get more people to join. Detox is hot, also in Turkey.
Fasting without any liquid at all, may it be water or tea, during more than twelve hours is very much opposite from draining toxin’s from the body, let alone with the copious meal which is eaten just before going to bed at night. It will not become anybody’s metabolism.
No matter how much I am an ambassador for taking time off, for a time out from the regular routines, cutting down on abundance and luxury in order to get more than usual in touch with  authentic cords strung by our soul and detoxing from major and minor addictions, but not in this rigid, in my eyes very unhealthy way.
I remember too well, when I was living here in Turkey and working as a tourguide, I would have to talk my driver into going to the side of the road and eat, as he was looking gray while postponing starting to eat until the mosque would give the time of ‘Iftar’ , breaking the fast , in the evening.
In that heat, in a bus still without air conditioning in those days, without having a sip of water the whole day, it was totally irresponsible, both for himself, all the passengers as well as everybody else in the surrounding traffic.None of my Turkish friends or relatives and only some of my acquaintances are living according to this rule of the Koran.
They are either non-practicing Muslims, Alevi’s or atheist, and most of them are principally against the more orthodox religious ways in their from origin, at least since 1923, seclusive country.
Since ten years, especially after Erdoğan became prime minister, religion and politics are getting more and more entwined.
His party knows itself financially supported by Ülker, a huge national company chain which is for the bigger part into Erdoğans family.
He himself is shareholder of three different distribution firms. All, what a surprise, working with Ülker.
The friends I stay with refuse to buy any Ülker products, even if they have to travel far to  get another brand, like so many others I am finding out these days. Even when ,  like with a friend with a heavy gluten allergy, there are hardly any other gluten-free products to find on the market than Ülker.
There is hardly any food, drink of dairy product, which they don’t produce or distribute under their name.
They were the ones who put the figures of Cocoa Cola to an unknown low in favor of ColaTurka.
And although I am not a Cola fan at all, it frightens me to learn that Turkish Airlines flight attendants claim that at the request of the governments increasingly substitutes CC for CT and where it used to be in all fridges next to and in equal amounts of water, this development is very scary to me.Even so, and being in the religious orthodox area of Central Anatolia , shop owners will order the requested brand, even though they are sincere and strongly believing people themselves, the pomegranates juice which my sons father ordered, arrived the next day in the ‘market’.
Turkey has a long secular tradition since Atatürk in 1920 started Turkey’s reformation and since my first visit in 1985, I do not know of a stronger and popular integrated opinion that state and church should stay separate and the non-Islamic legal system of justice should be maintained. So there is in general a lot of resistance against this revival of Islamic politics.
As most of us know, the Turkish military has always been in favor of a secular state and will do everything to prevent this Islamization of the system, so it might not come as a surprise that there is no Ülker product to be found in the whole big army apparatus, they are said to even have initiated the boycott.
Talking about old and new sounds: it is amazing how many I-Phones I have seen here in those weeks since my arrival, they total more than I have seen the whole last year in Holland. With, to my surprise, the two daughters of friends of ours, 9 and 14 years young, who both use their parents ‘old’ one. How old can they be :)
And they look with deep frowns at my son when he declares his confidence in Samsung in general and his Pixon in particular. His dislike of I-Phone and Apple is not understood here at all. You can see them think: “Saka yapiyorsun” (you must be kidding), although they are too polite to say this out loud.
The Davulce of the old days is no more , the one I remember from the days when I was living in Antalya, hitting a traditional drum and singing his nasal hymn.
The sound of last night is sharp and irregular; certainly does not produce the deep tones I remember , and the song (Manii) I was nostalgically waiting for last night, seems forgotten on the way.
My ex-husband says that these days it seems that the Davulce is hitting on an oil drum and he can appreciate it even less than I remember, this disturbance in the nights to come. So the Plan is clear for everybody, where the drummer of the Ramadan band would normally come around the doors with his ID card to gain his yearly pocket-money, in this street he will be asked to pass as quietly as possible and he will get his money upfront, as to thank him for doing so.
Tonight’s choice is as complicated as well as simple: mountain-biking through this amazing landscape of fairy chimneys or letting myself being lured by the fairytale-like performance of the Whirling Dervishes , real mystics who pray their prayers dancing, inviting the Universe to impregnate the earth with its energy, accompanied by this really traditional and well-known sounds of Sufi music: Flutes, drums and snare instruments and wonderful nasal singing.
For me it will be the latter, the men will choose the exercise tonight, although my sixteen year old son will accompany me some days later, when I can not stay away from this meditative dance ceremony on our last night in this amazing country.