Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu

Âşık Veysel (1894-1973)

The Friends Still Remember You

His life

“I came to this world in three hundred and ten”

Veysel Şatıroğlu was born in 1894 in Sivrialan Village of Sivas, District of Şarkışla. The story of how he was born is somehow similar to that of almost every child in Anatolian villages. But it is interesting and extraordinary for the ones to have a different point of view especially today. To tell the story, his mother Gülizar started having labor pains on her way to Ayıpınar pastures nearby Sivrialan where she was going to milk the sheep, and she gave birth to Veysel just over there. She cut the umbilical cord herself, wrapped the new born with a piece of clothing and went back to the village on foot.

The family of Veysel is called “Şatıroğulları” in this region. His father is a farmer named Ahmet and nicknamed “Karaca” – the roe. In times when Veysel was born, smallpox was prevailing allover Sivas. Before Veysel was born, two of his sisters died of smallpox.

In 1901 when he celebrated his 7th age, there occurred another smallpox outbreak in Sivas, and he got this disease as well. He tells us about those days as follows: “Before I got bed ridden because of smallpox, my mother sewed me a nice dress. I wore that dress and went by Muhsine Kadın to show her my new dress. She caressed me. That was a foggy day, and I slipped on the way back home. And I could not stand up again. I got smallpox... It was though. My left eye was pockmarked. And cataract developed in my right eye, I think because of being compelled too much in the absence of the left eye. Ever since that day, the world is a misery for me.”

After having slipped this way, a color penetrated into his memory:
Red. Probably, he hurt his hand when he slipped and the wound bled. His mother Gülizar explains it as follows: “You know, he remembered only red among all the other colors. He slipped and fell before his eyes turned into his heart, I mean before he got smallpox. He saw blood. He remembered only the color of the blood. Red... He used to like and find green with his hands.”

His right eye had the chance to see, he had the sight of light with his right eye. In those days, there was a doctor only in Akdağmadeni which is close to their village. People told his father “Take the child to Akdağmadeni, there is a doctor who can make him see there.” His father got very happy.
However, misfortunes did not leave Veysel. “His father came by him while he was milking the cows some day. When Veysel had a sudden movement backwards, one end of the stick his father had in his hands thrust into his hand. Thus, that eye got blind too.”

Veysel had a brother named Ali and sister named Elif. All the members of the family got very sad and cried to this situation for days. From that day on, his sister, Elif, started to take Veysel for a walk by holding his hand. Veysel got more and more introvert every other day. In that area of Sivas named as the region of Emlek which was generous in âşıks and ozans, Veysel’s father was also interested in poetry and was too intimate with the dervish lodge, the tekke. He gave Veysel a saz to make him forget about his troubles just a little bit. He tried to sooth his son by reciting the poems of the folk poets.

Moreover, the poets of the region also started to drop in Şatıroğlu Ahmet’s house with their friends. They played instruments and sang songs. Veysel used to listen to them carefully. Their neighbor Molla Hüseyin used to tune his saz and repair the broken strings.

Veysel first had courses from Çamışıhlı Ali Aga (Âşık Alâ) who was his father’s friend from a village of Divriği. He devoted himself whole-heartedly to playing saz, and started playing and signing the superior works of art. It was Çamışıhlı Ali who introduced him to the world of ozans that enlightened his world of darkness. Thus, he got to know about the worlds of Pir Sultan Abdal, Karacaoğlan, Dertli, Rühsati.

“The second significant change in the life of Âşık Veysel came about with mobilization. His brother Ali went to war, and little Veysel was left alone with his broken stringed saz. After the outbreak of war, all the friends rushed to the frontiers. Veysel was deprived of doing that ... Thus; his soul living in solitude retreated once more. The pain of being left alone without any friend and the misery he lived in, made him so unhappy, desperate and depressed. He started sleeping beneath the pear tree in his little garden, and relieved his pain and troubles out in the skies and darkness by climbing the highest points of the trees at night-time.”

Âşık Veysel told Enver Gökçe of those days as follows:

“I went into the house putting on a face; my mother and my father could not understand me. I did not tell them about my problems not to upset them. They thought I was defying them. But I, on the contrary, recoiled from telling my problems and I was about to loose my enthusiasm for my saz.”
Although this was a result of the way people approached the ‘boys’, the main effective factor was his patriotism and the feeling of paying his debt to his motherland. He expresses those feelings as follows:
“Unfortunately it was not in my destiny

When the people of my country eradicated the enemy

Fate broke my legs, did not let me keep watch

Wield a sword in the heads of the enemy.

If those days were facilitated to me by God

I would not be indebted for a spoonful of blood

Nothing happens but the predestined

What has befell to Veysel?”

Through the end of the mobilization, Veysel’s mother and father made him marry a girl named Esma from among their relatives with the idea that they might die and “his sister would not take care of him anymore.” Veysel had one daughter and a son from Esma. His son died when he was only 10 days old while being nursed by his mother... Veysel’s suffering was not that much; unfortunate events continued one after the other. First his mother died on February the 24th of 1921. Then his father passed away eighteen months later after getting bed ridden for 17 days. Meanwhile he put himself into gardening. Many âşıks were visiting the village and were playing the Iyrics of folk poets such as Karacaoğlan, Emrah, Âşık Sıtkı, Âşık Veli. Veysel did not miss any of the performances of those âşıks.

When his brother Ali had another daughter born, they found a servant to help them in the house works and take care of the children. This servant later becomes the reason for another wound to be made deep in the heart of Veysel. One day, while Veysel was lying in bed ill and Ali was out collecting milk vetch, this servant persuaded Veysel’s first wife Esma to run away together. Thus another pain was included in Veysel’s chain of pains.
When his wife left him all alone, she left her daughter only six months old with Veysel. Veysel carried his daughter in his nap for two years, but unfortunately she did not live as well. He says in one of his poems:

“Faith associated itself with suffering,

It does not leave me in peace wherever I go.”

In short, a chain of redoubled pains...

“Now, he wanted to get away from the world, from this place and was in a mood to emigrate. He decided to immigrate to Adana with his best friend, İbrahim in 1928. But a person named Deli Süleyman from the village Karaçayır of Sivas persuaded him to give up this idea. Let’s listen to Veysel:
“This man listened to me when I played the saz, interrupted me when I started singing. When I say, let me go, he says “oh, my friends, the kids and everybody are crying, please don’t go.” Finally, I could not take it and gave up the idea of leaving this place.”

Veysel’s first trip away from his village takes place as follows: Someone named Kasım from the village Barzan Beleni of Zara took Veysel to his village. There they lived a couple of months together. Deli Süleyman and Kalaycı Hüseyin from Sivas accompanied Veysel on the way. On the way back, Veysel dropped by the village Yalıncak of Hafik and Girit of Zara, and bought a nice saz for 9 liras. On the return trip from Sivas to Sivrialan, his friends were stopped by a group of “swindlers” and lost all their money. His friends took 9 liras of Veysel and lost it in gambling. After a short while from this event, Veysel got married to a girl named Gülizar from the village Karayaprak of Hafik.”

In 1931, Ahmet Kutsi Tecer who was a literature teacher in Sivas High School and his colleagues founded the Association For Preservation of Folk Poets. And on December 5, 1931, they organized the Fest of Folk Poets that lasted for three days. Thereupon, a new turning point started in Veysel’s life. This encounter with Ahmet Kutsi Tecer led to a new beginning for Veysel.

Until 1933, Veysel played and sang the poems of master ozans. In the tenth anniversary of the Republic, upon the directives of Ahmet Kutsi Tecer, all folk poets wrote poems on the Republic and Mustafa Kemal. Veysel was one of those poets. The first poem of Veysel that came into the daylight was the poem starting with the line “Atatürk is the revival of Türkiye...” This poem also came to be more known only after Veysel left his village.

Ali Rıza Bey, the mayor of Ağcakışla to which Sivrialan was then affiliated, liked this tale of Veysel very much, and wanted to send the poem to Ankara. Veysel said he himself would like to go and visit the Great Leader Atatürk, and set out for Ankara on foot with his faithful friend İbrahim. These two pure hearts that started their travel on bare foot under tough winter conditions arrived in Ankara after having trampled down the roads for three months. Veysel was hosted by his hospitable friends for forty five days in Ankara. Although his aim in traveling to Ankara was to present the letter to Atatürk, it was not possible for him to do so. His mother Gülizar says “He felt bitter regret for two things in life: first not having been able to visit the Great Leader, second not being recruited in the army...”. However, his tale was published in a printing house named Hakimiyeti Milliye (in Ulus) and it appeared in the newspaper for three days. Then, he started to travel around the country playing and singing everywhere he went to. He was loved and respected.

He tells us about those days as follows: “We left the village. We managed to arrive in Ankara in three months after having passed through the villages of Yozgat, Çorum and Çankırı. We did not have enough money to stay at a hotel. We thought a lot about “What to do? Where to go” People told us, “Here lives a Pasha from Erzurum. He is a very hospitable man. “The Pasha had a house built in the then called Dağardı (which is now known as the Quarter of Atıf Bey). We went there. This man really put us as a guest in his house. We stayed there a couple of days. In those days, there were no trucks or anything in Ankara, like today. Everything was run by horse carriages. We met a man named Hasan Efendi who had horse carriages.He took us to his house. We stayed at his house for forty-five days. During our stay there, we used to go out, rambled around and when we got back to his we were met with prepared dinner, beds and everything. Then I told him: -Hasan Efendi, we are not here to ramble around! We have a tale. We would like to give this to Mustafa Kemal. How can we do that? What can we do?

He said: -To tell you the truth, I don’t know about such things. There is a deputy here. His name is Mustafa but I cannot remember his surname. We have to tell this to him. May be, he can help you.

Then we went by Mustafa Bey and told him the issue. We said that we have a tale that we want to give it to Mustafa Kemal. We asked for help!
He said: -My God! This is not the right time so loose time with poetry. Go and sing it somewhere else!
We said, “No, this is not possible! We will sing our tale to Mustafa Kemal.!”

The deputy Mustafa Bey said “Okay, sing it to me first!” We sang him and he listened. He said he would talk to the Newspaper named Hakimiyet-i Milliye that was being published in Ankara at that date. He said “Come and visit me tomorrow!” We went by him the other day. He said, “I can not do anything!” We thought a lot about what to do. In the end, we decided to go to the printing house ourselves. We had to renew the strings of the instrument. The bazaar in Ulus Square was then named Karaoğlan Bazaar. We walked to that bazaar to buy strings.

We had sandals on our feet. We were wearing woolen baggy trousers and woolen jackets. We braced a big cummerbund on our waists. Then the police came. He said: -Do not enter! It is forbidden!

And he did not let us get in the bazaar to buy strings. He insisted: -I say it’s forbidden! Don’t you understand what I say? It is crowded there. Do not get into the crowd!

We said “Okay, let’s not get in there.” We went on walking pretending as if we got rid of him. He came by, and rebuked my friend İbrahim: -Are you nutty? I say do not get in! I’ll just break your neck!

We said: -Gentleman, we do not obey you! We are going to buy strings from the bazaar!

Then the police said to İbrahim: -If you are going to buy strings, then have this man seated somewhere first. And then go and buy your string!
Then, İbrahim went and bought the strings. But in the morning we could not pass through the bazaar. Finally, we found the printing house.
-What do you want Said the Director.

We said: -We have a tale; we want to have it published in the paper.

He said: -Play it to me first, I want to hear it!

We played the tale and he listened.

-Woo! Very well done! I liked it a lot. He said.

They inscribed the tale, and said “It will be published tomorrow. Come and take a paper tomorrow.” There, they gave us some money for the copyrights. The other morning, we went there and took 5-6 copies. We went to the bazaar. The policemen came by and said: -Oh! Are you Âşık Veysel? Relax sir! Get in the coffeehouses! Take a seat! And they started making compliments. We rambled around in the bazaar for a while. But still we had no leads about our visit to Mustafa Kemal. We said to ourselves: This is not going to come true. But they published my tale in the paper for three subsequent days. Again nothing about my visit to Mustafa Kemal... We decided to go back to our village. But we did not have any money for the traveling expenses. We met a lawyer in Ankara. He said: -Let me write a letter to the mayor. The municipality can meet your traveling expenses.

Then he gave us a letter. We went to the municipality with the letter. There they told us: -You are artisans. You can go back the way you came!
We came back to the lawyer. He asked us what we did. We told him. He said “Let me write another letter to the governor this time”. He wrote a letter to the governor. The governor undersigned the letter and told us to apply to the municipality. we went to the municipality. But they said: -No! We don’t have any money. We won’t help you.

The lawyer got offended and yelled out: -Go! Go away! The municipality of Ankara does not have any money to spend for you!
I felt sorry for the lawyer.

We thought about what to do, how to solve the problem. And then we decided to stop by the Community Center. May be something useful would happen there! “If we can not visit Mustafa Kemal, let’s go to the Community Center.” We thought. This time the doormen did not allow us get in there. As we were standing by the door, a man came by and said: -What are you doing here? What are you looking for?

-We are trying to get in the Community Center but they won’t let us, we replied.

-Let them get in! These are well known men! This is Âşık Veysel! He said.

That man who came by us sent us to the director of the literature department. There people said: -Oh, please come in!

There were some deputies in the Community Center. The director called them: -Come here! There are folk poets here, come and listen to them!

Necib Ali Bey, one of the ex-deputies said: -Well, these are poor men. Let’s take care of them. We have to have good clothes sewed for them. They can give a concert at the Community Center on Sunday!

They really bought us a pair of suits. That Sunday, we gave a concert at the Community Center of Ankara. After the concert, they gave us some money. We returned from Ankara to our village with that money.”

The first folk song Âşık Veysel recorded is the poem of Âşık İzzetî, an ozan from the region of Emlek:

“I am the Mecnun, and I saw my Leila,Who looked but once and passed by.Neither she talked, nor asked I

she knitted her brows and passed by.

Did not dare saying anything

was it the moon or the sun, her face

Thought it was the Venus

Burnt me down and passed by.

So destroyed that I could not stand the fire

that I could not solve the mystery

could not see her at dawn

She flew like a star and passed by.

Don’t know which constellation she is

this sorrow wounds my feelings

your dimples, the arrows at times

Sweetheart stroke me in the heart and passed by.

İzzetî, what to do now

I had a dream sleeping

her lock of curls, the love-locks

And wound around my neck and passed by.”

Upon the establishment of village institutes, with the initiatives of Ahmet Kutsi Tecer he worked as saz teacher in the Village Institutes of Arifiye, Hasanoğlan, Çifteler, Kastamonu, Yıldızeli and Akpınar, respectively. In these schools, many intellectuals who later stigmatized the cultural life of Türkiye found the opportunity to meet the artist and improved their poetic capacity.

In 1965, Turkish Grand National Assembly resolved upon allocating a monthly salary in 500 TL to Âşık Veysel in return for “his contribution to our native language and national solidarity.”

On March 21, 1973 at 3.30 a.m., Veysel closed his eyes to this world in Sivrialan, the village he was born in, which is now used as a museum.
The following words of Erdoğan Alkan would be the best depiction to sum up his life: “Kızılırmak looks like a question mark. It sources from Zara, and leaves the territory of Sivas passing through Hafik and Şarkışla. Taking the from of a bow, irrigates the lands of Kayseri, Nevşehir, Kırşehir, Ankara and Çorum. Spills its water to the sea in the District of Bafra of Samsun. The life story of Âşık Veysel is like that of Kızılırmak. It has one end in Bafra, and the other in Zara. A tragic life stretching up to Bafra, leads to an end after being fed by the abundant waters of Kızıldağ in the east of Zara.”

The Art of Veysel

His philosophy of life

Due to the effects of the village / town culture he leaned upon, and the fact that he could not have a modern education, the fatalist philosophy is very dominant in him. I believe it would be very beneficial to consider his mood as well. There is no doubt that we could not ignore how the negative factors that he experienced in his childhood and adolecence affected his philosophy of life and pushed him into a disagreement.

Of course, an artist’s philosophy of life is shaped by the social environment he lives in. To make it more concrete, it is the financial living conditions that shape his philosophy. The social environment Âşık Veysel lived in contained all the peculiarities of the village and town culture, it was based on agriculture in economic terms, pre-capitalistic means of production were dominant and the industrialization even did not emerge... Also, in addition to the economic structure, if we consider the poorly qualified education-training opportunities, the economic inefficiency of a community beaten by war, and the geography of the people dying of smallpox, it would be easier for us to grasp the social environment that shaped Veysel. Furthermore, understanding the facts that the communal / social environment was so deprived of the written culture, and that all the literary / artistic accumulation was based on oral culture, would help us a lot in perceiving the type of artists we are dealing with. Moreover, when the physical disability of a person having lost his sight is added to this social environment, one would clearly understand Veysel and interpret his poems very easily.

The lack of sight affected him so deeply that he emphasizes the depth of his aspiration in his poems:

“Could you not dare escaping from me, even if you were a bird

If only I could see you with my eyes”

Adnan Binyazar, making an interpretation of his lack of sight through his lines, says “Salt was added to honey.”

Although Âşık Veysel largely accused faith and searched for the reasons there, he recited poems on investments and positive aspect that contribute in the life concretely such as the schools, factories, hospitals, etc. In this respect, one should not perceive his faithbased approach as fatalism against science and a careless obsession.

“The world changed, so did the conditions
One goes to moon, and the other to heaven”
In these lines, he pricks up his ears to scientific developments, on one hand, and creates a significant perspective in terms of evaluating the factors he makes comparisons with. He uses the concepts of “moon” and “heaven” as two different means of believing, in one sense.

Then in another poem, he says:
“I saw the wealthiest mind in the world
Asked it the outlay, the school it replied.
It is serving the humanity, the help you provide
My mercy, my feelings, the school it replied.
Creating fire from water that is the best art
The idea to spread many more light
Did I discover them with this thought
These are my guides, the school it replied.
Is that a miracle or a talent
would the heart perceive that if the eyes do not
would an unclaimed soil be plowed
with the combine, the school it replied.
You would fly in the sky, if you wear wings
you would pass through the seas ungratefully
how would you perceive the cold and the rain
They have built observatories, the school it replied.
Various vehicles, and the trains
Doctors who find cures for all pains
Is it you who did that
this is not all it can do, the school it replied.
I was amazed by the radio
Can speak in every language, but not alive
Created by science, by the human mind
Its light is its wave, the school it replied.
Human mind is inventing these things
It is the science, the essence of the world
The core of all those works
Believe in this Veysel, the school it replied.”

This and other similar examples prove that metaphysical concepts such as god / faith are not reflected as fanaticism or as the only solution to problems in Âşık Veysel. Therefore, he does not appear to be strict. He is flexible.

Although he gets faded away with the feeling of desperateness and nothingness, he does not give up holding onto life. His struggle to understand and explain life always prevails. Furthermore, the concept of “the next world” is not that strong in him.

Ruhi Su replies the question “Did Âşık Veysel have a specific philosophy?” as follows: “If you ask me whether the world ‘philosophy’ contained a way of thinking proposed or adopted by Veysel within the society or not, I would reply yes, of course. Like all the good-willed and dependable people, he used to advise working. Depending on the situation, there were times he used to advise adhering to traditions. His own belief was based on love, tolerance and the creative power of human, but when he was asked what he thought about the developments in the society, he was clever enough to discern what people wanted him to say.”

“Another thing that is peculiar to Veysel is that he could not stand the pressure of religious formalism and he talked to God in familiar terms. Better to say, he was so loyal to the Bektashi tradition. Like he said in his poem addressing the God:

“It was you who created the universe
It was you who brought everything into existence
It was you who kicked me out
Is this your generosity?”
Nejat Birdoğan says “In his very first poems, we see Veysel as emotionally enthusiastic, but poetically inefficient. In fact, even in the later versions of this kind of poems, we see Veysel as a public educator, rather than a poet. In his works, Veysel considers poetry as a tool for preserving the Republic and helping in the solidarity of the nation. His actions are also in parallel to this approach. One can observe a man with pure ideas, with honest, self-devoted actions and with correct diagnoses. The fact that he traveled village-to-village to have a bridge built over the Stream Kaplan onto the River Kızılırmak, is a good evidence on how deep the feeling of responsibility manifested itself in him.

But according to us, the most mature poems of Veysel are those that focus on the human beings and elements related to human beings. In those poems, he tells about the revival of human within a body starting from its very first source, how he works throughout this process, how he should behave and his return to the source at the end of this road. In other words, there lies Veysel, the Sufi poet in those poems. These feelings instilled in him by his beliefs in an isolated Anatolian village, blossomed in Veysel in the heart, and he solved the great mystery of Alevism in his heart.”
Veysel being against superstitious beliefs and outdated approaches, is very sensitive in this matter as well.

“It is the Republican period, it is the twentieth century
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
The world in revolt, going to moon
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Let the blond ox go lazy
Don’t block your eyes, let them get sober
Let’s have a factory in each corner
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Don’t pull back the going traveler
Take notice of the ant and the bee,
When it goes this way, can’t you reunite with the houri
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
It ain’t hurt you, don’t be afraid of the saz
We can’t get rid of the far of sin
Not telling you to give up praying
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Help the poor, get the orphan educated
Are those charities bad in our religion?
Learn the hydrogen and the atom
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
The kilogram of the rain dropping
Measured by you say meter, I say square
If you sleep a lot, you’ll deepen my pain
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
So many rockets are launched in the sky
Ain’t those works lessons to be learnt for us
He wants us to find out the mysteries of the moon
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
The existence of God prevails in human
Science, mind and perception are the wealth for you
Make the ship go and steer the rudder
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Don’t you know anything, plant some trees in earth
They will call you vagabond if you wander around this world
Don’t close your eyes, take a look out
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Veysel, why do you stay still, everyone on their way
Time won’t fit you, you should fit time
Science is swallowin’a huge miracle
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.

Even this poem alone can clarify what I have told about him above. As you can see, he criticizes the values in the society by showing examples from the concrete realities of life. He becomes a side at this point. He becomes a side supporting the science, illumination, development and concrete realities. Saying “Let the blond ox go lazy”, he mocks with the belief that “the world stands on the horns of the blond ox”. He says don’t block your eyes. Then he personifies God, and says The existence of God prevails in human.

“However, if we consider the basic views, perspectives of Veysel, we would understand that he did not approach this matter from the point of view of a socialist consciousness, from a conscious perspective. Veysel, mentioned all these privileges that are so natural to him in reference to God, faith and several other natural powers. It is not the social order, but the natural order he is against.”

Approaches such as “His way of art is the art that praises the accessible and that is satisfied with the existing” oriented towards recognizing Veysel from a narrow perspective, and making estimation based judgments, would neither contribute in understanding Âşık Veysel, nor prove the efficiency of the researchers, the tradition and the ones carrying the tradition forward. However, Âşık Veysel exists with his life, with his works, with his poems. If we make our evaluation based on this reality, we would have a meaningful contribution.

As I have underlined above, Âşık Veysel is a person grown up in the social environment of the village-town and was shaped by the social order fed with the values of such environment. Another typical peculiarity of peasantry is inconsistency. To say in the terms of the culture he arose from, “unfaithfulness” can be seen in him as well. Especially, Veysel always supported and wrote praising poems about the institutions such as Community Centers, Village Institutes that contributed in his development, that made his voice and poetry be known, but he did not show any reaction when these institutions were closed. This is his greatest weakness.

Tradition and Âşık Veysel

Like in every community, the oldest pieces of art of Turks also are based a magical ceremonies. The way of thinking of primitive communities is also magical.
The reason why there does not exist perfect sources on the history of Turkish literature is not only that they have spread over a relatively large area and they were continuously moving from one place to another, but also that written literature started to emerge late in history. Even the fact that we do learn the oldest information regarding Turkish literature and history from Chinese sources, clearly manifest this point. “The most ancient Turkish poets are the sahir-şairls who were named as Shaman by the Tungus, bo or Bugué by Mongolians and Buryats, Ouiun by Yakuts, Kam by Altaic Turks, Tadibei by Samoyeds, Tietoejoe, the attendant, by Finnoas, Baksı-Bakşı by Kyrgyzs, Ozan by Oguzs. These men who possessed many skills such as magic, dancing, music or curing, had an important status and prestige within the society. The level of importance attributed to those men in different times and places, varied depending on their clothes, music instruments they used and the content of the work they conducted, however it was always their duty to present evil works such as wickedness, diseases and deaths caused by evil spirits, to cure diseases, to send the souls of the deceased to the skies and to keep their memory alive. Of course, there were several rituals for this variety of tasks. Although some of those rituals were forgetten or altered in some way, some of them still survive in Kyrgyz, Altaic and Kazakh traditions. Shaman or baksı gets totally immersed in ecstatic contemplation, reads some poems and plays those poems with his own music instruments. These lyrics accompanied by a melody and considered to have a magical content, constitute the oldest from of Turkish poetry.”

There is no doubt that one of the music instruments used in those rituals is drum, and that the other is the kopuz which is a lute-like instrument. Based on the information provided by Gardizi, a historian of the Xlth century, Abdülkadir İnan states that the ancient Yenisey Kyrgyz tribes played saz, a stringed instrument in shaman rituals. Abdülkadir İnan further states “The Kyrgyz Kazakh baksıs today use kopuz. In ancient Oguz tribes, the ozans continued with the traditions of shamanism after Islam, considered kopuz sacred. Dede Korkut emerges with his kopuz in each tale, and plays it while naming, praying (applauding). The hero of the Oguz beats after being strengthened by the sound of kopuz.”
There exist many evidences demonstrating that the instruments played by our ozans were used in those rituals. We see some examples of sacred behaviors related to kopuz in Dede Korkut stories. The tale named as “Uçun Koca Oğlu Segrek Boyu”, reads as “He said –You, the unbeliever! I did not play it since I respected the kopuz of Dedem Korkut. If you did not have kopuz in your hands, I would break you into two pieces, I swear. He took the kopuz away from his hands.”

Like in all primitive communities, these personalities known with names such as ozan or kam or baksı, undertook various duties besides their skills such as giving advices, casting spells, curing people, etc. In this respect, they are very effective on the community.

After the division of labor became more common, the personal characteristics of these respected members who used to run many affairs simultaneously, changed as well, and thus professions such as religious men to deal with religious rituals, doctors to deal with the wellbeing of the people, etc. developed.
Prof. Dr. Umay Günay saying “In our opinion, it is not possible for the Ozan-Baksı tradition which is considered to be quitted to emerge all of a sudden five centuries later in an Islamic from.” explains the situation as follows: “Unfortunately, the examples of the transition period of this literature could not be detected until recently. It is quite logical that Turks having spent great efforts and struggled a lot to a acquire a new motherland after the advent of Islam worked so heartedly to adopt and expand this new religion in this period, created art works in a style which is now known as the Tekke Literature (religious literature) and respected this style more when compared with other styles. However, one should keep in mind that the first art works on this subject were created not through the verse styles and elements adapted from the Arabian-Persian literature in later years, but rather within the framework of national verse styles and elements. Meanwhile, the Ozan-Baksı tradition was effective in the tekke style at a certain level, it also struggled not to disappear and fit its rules and models to new conditions by using the flexibility that always existed in its structure. The ozans and poetry performance tradition that exist in the stories of Dede Korkut which are accepted to have emerged in Xıth – XIIth centuries when they were cited, and also the tradition that the main characters of the tales recited folk poems with their lutes, namely their saz, to express their ideas and feelings on the events they come across from time to time, are not peculiarities that differ from the Minstrel (Âşık) Literature we have followed from the XVIth century. The personalities such as the magicians, curers, religious men, etc. were abandoned after Islam. Minstrels undertook the duty to train people and perform art.

The artist described as Âşık, the minstrel, is defined as the creator of a tale which is a mixture of poetry, prose and verse. Boratav says “...Âşık is an artist who on one hand, continues the ancient myth (épopé) tradition, and enstrusted with reciting ‘love poems’ (lyric poems) on the other, as is cited in his name. His creativity lies in extemporization: he does not write down the poem, but he rather performs it. In him, the poem is accompanied by music; that is, it is not only recited, but also performed and sung. Âşık distinguished between narrating and reciting by expressions as saying by words and saying by strings. In this manner, they highlight the fact that the music instrument, namely saz is the unique element integrated with his poem.” and adds “that is to say, the poems of minstrels originated and developed in the oral tradition. These poems can not be considered apart from music, they involve a “mixed” art of narrating encompassing “spectacular – dramatic” elements.

As far as Âşık Veysel is concerned within this tradition, we see that the concept of wine drinking is not preferred by Âşık Veysel, and that the relationship between the master and the apprentice appeared to be a way of leading by Âşık Veysel as explained in detail in the life story section. We see that the picture is not embedded in the tradition. The traditional master-apprentice relationship manifests itself in both learning the tradition and how to play the saz from the master, and wandering around together for some period. This is not exactly the case with Âşık Veysel. For instance, Âşık Veysel does not drink wine. He is a minstrel without wine. He did not experience the privilege to drink a glass of wine offered by a master that is told by some contemporary minstrels. Also, Âşık Veysel does not narrate tales which is considered as the essential characteristics of the minstrel literature. He also is not very much interested in the concepts of the tradition such as repatees, riddles or solving riddles. He sometimes uses repartees but these are not the typical examples of the tradition.

Although Âşık Veysel refers to the names of some poets (ozans) who have an important place in our folk poetry (In my race of Karacaoğlan, Dertli, Yunus / In my habit of Mansur), this is not a common way of referral as in the traditional folk poetry. In one of his poems, he says:“I drank a glass of drink in your hand

I fell into many troubles”

Although these lines are associated with the tradition of wine drinking, they do not have such function in real terms. Adnan Binyazar goes a little bit further, and says “Veysel also drank a glass of drink” and thus should be regarded as the generation of God Lover poets. However, this view should be deemed as extremely exaggerated.

Kurt Reinhard in his study titled “The Melody Types Used by the Âşık of Sivas” refers to the Âşık melodies of the Middle Anatolian region considered as the examples of the Âşık Veysel School other than the folk songs and melodies as: “Âşık melodies are related with the number of the lines in a lyric. The repeated words are expressed clearly. Certain motifs are frequently repeated in the melodies, and a certain section of the saz is used in the folk songs. The folk songs reach an end suddenly or rather softly depending mainly on the desire of the performer of the instrument. Although the sol sound is the main tone, there prevail some examples in which la and mi sounds are used as the main sound tones.

Âşık melodies are divided into two groups as the ones with a strong influence of the speech style and the ones with a strong influence of the melody. In examples which mainly adopt the speech style, the melody slows down and keeps pace with the rhythm of the speech. The melody is almost always overshadowed by the lyrics. Since the essentially important point in this style is to make the words clear, the melody is sometimes sacrificed. In other types where the melodies overshadow the words, one syllable is sung with more than one note. In such types where the melodies are enriched, the lyrics are relatively incomprehensible.

In this case, we reach two conclusions: First, Âşık Veysel is not an âşık in the sense we generally understand in classical terms; secondly the tradition was broken by Âşık Veysel.

Ahmet Kutsi Tecer makes an interesting comparison and evaluation on this point. “While Veysel Şatıroğlu reanimates in Âşık Veysel, Âşık Veysel disappears in Veysel Şatıroğlu. The difference in between the representatives of Tanzimat (Reform) and him lies in a sound difference due to the fact that he originated from the tradition. His strings are fixed according to us. But the strings of Tanzimat are rather imitatively fixed, like we call the former “tuning” and the latter “harmony”. Veysel, in one sense, recited his contemporaries. For instance, Şatıroğlu recited Ceyhun as much as Ceyhun Kansu did Veysel. There are some points that attract Veysel and his contemporaries. Like Ceyhun Kansu being different from Faruk Nafız Çamlıbel, Şatıroğlu can be distinguished from his contemporaries in this manner. The way that distinguishes him with the others is that he originated from the folk poetry tradition, not from the Tanzimat tradition. Veysel Şatıroğlu experienced the folk poetry tradition in Âşık Veysel, and has reached “today” from that point.

In my opinion, the most significant characteristic feature of Âşık Veysel appears before us at this point: He broke up the tradition. The fragility and the dominant didactic manner is purified in this way.

However one can not say that he can be isolated from the tradition completely. As Enver Gökçe says “Instrument-song accompaniment, tendency to idealism that has an important place in the aesthetics of the classical eastern literature and solitude that penetrates deep in this tendency are not only the common features of the works of our public poets, but also are dominant factors in the art of Âşık Veysel. In short, Âşık Veysel is a minstrel of saz with his compassion and sensitivity towards nature, his mystic sides that exist in him although he does not have a dominant character of a religious class and his understanding of existence and of universe.

Âşık Veysel is both tradition and renovation. We will see evidences on that when we get into more detail later. He does not do this himself automatically, but rather a conscious urges him to this point. For instance, although he was grown up in the Alaouite culture and his father was a fundamental member of tekke, the dervish lodge, he does not utter the name duvaz imam like all other Alaouite poets, he does not mention the name of shah or twelve imams even in one poem. However, this is the culture Âşık Veysel originates from; the villages he toured most of the time are mainly Alaouite villages. But on the contrary, this is not the case with Ali İzzet Okan who is another contemporary of Veysel. He has so much determination that he changed the line of Pir Sultan “Let’s go to Shah” as “Let’s go to the beloved one”. This shows either that the ones around Âşık Veysel conditioned him from the very beginning on this matter as well or that he himself chose such principle as his philosophy of life. No matter how, it is evident that Veysel is a strict person in this sense. Another point is that he evaded himself from being a pastoral poet. Although he used natural motifs and symbols very commonly, he goes beyond the village. As Erdoğan Alkan says, there exists another social environment that leads his life, his destiny: Şarkışla, the town.


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