I am thrilled to post some information here about an incredible documentary that I just viewed:
Asiklar: Those Who Are In Love by film maker David Grabias. This is an absolute must-see for
anyone interested in traditional music and folksong, spirituality, Sufism, Turkey, and is a divine gift for anyone who loves the Alevi/Bektashi faith and the ashik tradition of Anatolian poets and singers. I could not be more pleased with such a beautiful film.
You can purchase the film from DER.org
Here is a preview:
Here is a transcription of the documentary, but by all means try to watch it if possible. The music and interviews are absolutely lovely, mash'Allah.
NARRATOR I'm on a long narrow road traveling day and night, unaware of my situation traveling day and night. The moment that I arrived in the world, I started to walk inside in the end with two doors traveling day and night. I walked even while asleep trying to find a reason to stay. I see those who are leaving traveling day and night. For 49 years on these roads on plains, in mountains, and desserts in foreign lands I found myself traveling day and night. If carefully considered the distant appears near when looked at. The path is as long as a minute traveling day and night. The poet is puzzled by this case sometimes crying, sometimes laughing in order to reach the resting place traveling day and night.
A?IKLAR THOSE WHO ARE IN LOVE
A FILM BY DAVID GRABIAS
NARRATOR For the thousands of villagers scattered amidst the mountains and rolling step of Anatolia in Turkey , the spiritual and cultural identity of this land has been embodied in the Ashik . Throughout centuries Ashiks have been playing with saz and singing, telling tales of hero's past, loves unrequited, the earth's wonder and humanities beauty. Ashiks are consumed by Ashiq(ph) an irrepressible in a passion that compels them to express themselves in song. Ashiks of old to forsake their home to wander alone from village to village keeping their listeners connected to a communal past, while releasing them momentarily from the sufferings of the present. It is in search of the remnants of this culture that I set out, wandering from village to village, telling stories of bards of old.
Bahattin Kader Ever since 1943 , I've had a saz in my hand. The moment I was born and given a name, I began to play. Since then, up to 1990 , I played and sang. And this is a gift earned from the Great God.
Mizrap Jihangir I take both of them; I play one, leaving one aside, then play the other, depending on the place or what's requested. In some places, young people ask me to play for them, and I take my saz and play a folk song.
Bahattin Kader Being an ashik means to love, to be loved, to be kind to everything. Love the one that loves you and the one that is poor, but not the one that is a traitor to you in this world.
Mizrap Jihangir From within me came such a passion. It was then that I made myself this saz and sang with it.
He started to play scales on the saz 25 times. He began by going up and then gliding to the end, started afresh and went up and down again. "My God," I said, "Hasn't he learned this already?" And so I dedicated a rooster as a sacrifice.
Bahattin Kader When one speaks of "love," the most important thing that people need is love. As every person is in need of water, in need of bread, everyone is in need of love. So much, so much in need of love. "My heart is troubled if it looks at you," for example. My heart is heavy with its love for you. In this way, the ashik is in us from the very beginning.
We couldn't sleep at night. He began to play and play until morning. The children got upset. One of the kids said, "Father, forget this song, play it tomorrow." "I don't like it either," he said. But from then on, the children never slept.
Bahattin Kader You need patience to be a good ashik . Patience, first patience. After that, you have to beg God to help you be a good ashik .
Mizrap Jihangir She sacrificed a rooster it began with that. At last, I, by myself, decided to play the saz. It was an offering. I started something myself. I, myself, played and sang. And the master of the house didn't say a word. She also sings well. We were even able to sing together. My God be content, she is the mother of my children. This ashik tradition, this love of playing the saz, has been around for a long time, from the time of the Ottomans , from our descendents and ancestors. We liked it a lot, and we still have a lot of fun with it.
A lot of songs came from my father. I taught him some of the old songs I had known and learned from my father.
Bahattin Kader We sing for what we drink, we sing for the flying bird, we sing for people and for friends. We sing everywhere; whether it's good, whether it's bad, we try to sing well. And thus I have enslaved myself to it. I cannot live without the saz. It stays beside me. Sometimes, when I'm bored, I just fool around with it. This is basically how my days pass.
Mizrap Jihangir This holy saz has a sound that caresses my insides. And because of that, I enjoy myself; I'm relaxed. Now when I begin to play, I leave this world entirely. I am happy.
Bahattin Kader In the old days, an ashik would come to a cafe and write a poem on the wall. He would play the saz and write poems on the wall. Some other ashiks would then come to the cafe, read the poems on the wall, and would add some lines to the poem, would continue it. This is what I have seen. But it was long ago, even more than fifty years ago.
Mizrap Jihangir Playing the saz has given me a smooth, healthy life. After exulting the Lord, I'm inspired and start to play. I never sat around miserably. Once I took the saz in my hands, I relaxed and my depression was gone.
Bahattin Kader The saz is not played for money. Once an ashik has been bought for money, he has no value. Neither the saz nor I have any value. It's finished. Money doesn't work what is money; is money love? It is love, humanity's love, that should be inside you. Love for God, for people, for friends, for brothers. That's it.
NARRATOR I've thrown myself on so many considering them friends, my faithful lover is the dark earth. I wandered in vain, I've gotten tired for nothing, my faithful lover is the dark earth. I've attached my myself to so many beauties, I haven't seen loyalty in them nor I've found the use for them. I've gotten whatever I want from the dark earth, my faithful lover is the dark earth. It has given sheep, lamb and milk. It has given food, bread and meat. It has given less if not beaten with the pickaxe, my faithful lover is the dark earth. It brought my kind from Adam to today, it offered me all kinds of fruits, each day it carried me on its hills, my faithful lover is the dark earth. I have split its belly with pickaxe and blade, I have torn its face with nails and fingers, still it has met me with roses, my faithful lover is the dark earth. It laughed as I tortured it. There is no lie, everyone has seen it, from one seed it gave me four gardens, my faithful lover is the dark earth. The earth hides all our faults, it dresses my wounds, with arms open it looks forward to having me, my faithful lover is the dark earth.
NARRATOR From the 11th century onward a steady stream of Turkic tribes moved west from central Asia to Anatolia in search of new grazing for their livestock.
NARRATOR Continuing with many of their original shamanistic traditions even after having been converted to Islam, their approach to religion was further influenced by the Buddhist, mystical, and Christian sects they encountered en route.
NARRATOR Many of these tribes drawing from all of these dispersed influences created their own belief system, ostensibly Islamic but entirely unique, known as Alevis , they saw the world as physical manifestation of Allah, God. And in this way each objects and being was to be treated with the respect, tolerance and love offered to Allah himself.
NARRATOR Repressed for centuries by the Ottoman Empire as a hieratical and politically dangerous minority Alevis have always worshiped in semi-secrecy with no real texts and no set rules or liturgy. In the jam(ph) the Alevi religious service all prayers and discussion are focused around the Ashik culminating in a swirling dance that illuminates the world's transcendental nature. Here Ashiks have sustained the culture through their oral tradition using metaphor and music to convey history and philosophy, giving voice to a people who had no other representative.
Dervish Kemal One has to be very honest to be on the side of the common people. Whoever you are, being an ashik is expressed in this way: No actions should contradict your performance, certainly not. As an ashik , I work for humanity, but if how I act contradicts what I write, then I am not an ashik . Because of this, an ashik is always close… to the troubled, poor and destitute.
Shaturna When I was ten, I finally got a saz- but it wasn't easy. My father always wanted to take me to a doctor to cure my sight, but I always wanted a saz. "Daddy, I want a saz, not eyes," I'd say. One day, he took me to the doctor, and on the advice of the doctor, who said a cure was impossible, he bought me a saz. After getting that saz, it was as if I was consumed by longing for it, as if I had played before.
Dervish Kemal Being Alevi , my background has led me towards being an ashik . It all stems from this. And I really love those works of art, the Alevi perspective… its mysticism and all that. Thus, most of my poems are about spirituality, society, and humanity. Our culture gives a lot of importance to humanity.
Shaturna At that time, throughout Turkey , there weren't really any women who sang and played - certainly not any female ashiks . In those days, a girl wouldn't even think of playing. It was a big thing for a girl to play. What do girls do at home? They do housework. In villages, they work in the fields. Because of all this work, they have no time to play the saz. When would they find the time? Besides, they wouldn't be allowed to play.
Dervish Kemal For us, it's enough to say that you are human… our doors are open and we embrace you. Accordingly, our philosophy is about people, compassion and tolerance. It's founded on equality and freedom. I have chosen that path and have continually written about those themes.
Shaturna In my opinion, to be a woman ashik is much more difficult. Especially for someone in my position, because I represent social and political positions. Some artists oppose this, and when you're successful, they begin to envy you. If I were a man, everything would be different. Why should it be different if you're a woman? As a woman, you are always struggling with these issues.
Dervish Kemal Even if our philosophy appears to be religious, there are sides of it that go beyond religion. For example, everyone believes in the concept of God. We believe that God is manifested in human beings. For that reason, we value people. There's a religious side to this, but it stays in words. People are God's greatest form, his most beautiful and mature creation. Because of this, it's necessary to treat people very respectfully. For example, for us, to break a person's heart is to injure God. Absolutely. To kill a man, to wound a person, sure, but to even hurt a person's feelings goes against our philosophy.
Shaturna Eventually we moved away from the village. We were mainly staying in the city anyway. At that time, I saw the difference between the village and the city, that is, as an ashik . The village is one thing, the city another. There are poor and oppressed, and there is somebody who crushes them, who is master over them. I really saw this, and in 1972 , I first performed this song on-stage: "For years you've kneeled to the master, haven't you been crushed enough, citizen? Always you cried, they never made you laugh, isn't it enough that you're unhappy, citizen? If you're rich, your well-being and time is asked for, if you're poor, your heart breaks. The one that tells the truth has his gallows built, isn't it enough that you're hanged, citizen?" And so on the song continues. Because I sang this and other songs, I was arrested. At that time, there was martial law.
Dervish Kemal It's very risky to be an ashik , in the true sense of the word. You know the risks: Nobody loves the one who tells the truth. But these are the real ashiks . In history, all the worthiest people, the ashiks , have been oppressed, unhappy, hanged, and skinned.
Sivas , 1993 37 Alevi intellectuals and ashiks burned to death by an Islamic fundamentalist mob.
Shaturna Because of my songs, they said I was making communist propaganda. I didn't really even know what communist propaganda was. I was only telling what I saw. After that, the government began to look for politics even in all my love songs and my songs of passion and longing. On tour, if I was giving five concerts, I'd be arrested by the second one. All together, I was detained for five years.
Dervish Kemal We ashiks are the dogs of the people. We guard the people. A thief comes to the house and, since we're a dog, We right away bark, "ruff, ruff!" and let the people inside know that a thief is coming. The homeowner comes outside and sees us showing who the thief is. Of course the man knows the thief; the thief is the one exploiting and oppressing the people. But the homeowner, out of fear, grabs us and hits us on the head to shut us up. We serve as dogs of the people, and all they do is hit us.
Shaturna I went abroad, both for medical treatment and musical work. After the 1980 coup, Turkish-language broadcasts On German TV and radio called for me to return home, saying that if I didn't, my citizenship would be revoked. Legally, someone who is undergoing medical treatment cannot be interfered with, but our country's government in those times was different. The report I sent was not accepted. Despite going to my consulate to inform them of my situation, despite saying, "Look, ask some of our people, a bunch of generals can't throw me out!" They took away my citizenship.
Dervish Kemal This feeling is more than curiosity. I have an aim. And one day, our work will definitely see the light of day. After I'm gone, researchers will come and maybe even print something. It's so that I might shed some light on humanity. I proposed being more human; I stress this aspect. In this way, if I could have a beneficial influence on just 5% of the people… this is my aim and I don't expect anything in return. I'm not in this for profit. If I can just be a benefit to people, I will be very, very, happy wherever I go.
Shaturna In Germany , I still have a message for people. I tell them, "Let's all be one." I talk about discrimination against Turks . But the government there doesn't put me in jail. On the contrary; they sent me a notice thanking me for informing and warning them When my Turkish citizenship was taken away, they took me into their country as a citizen. And I became German , with a ceremony, even. "We embrace such an artist," they said, and it was as if my eyes could see.
NARRATOR Your beauty would be worthless if I do not have this love. You will find no enjoyment if the house were not in my heart. You cannot be described by pen. Your sorrow is the cure for my wound. Your name would not spread around the world if it weren't for lovers compositions. Who would read, who would write, who would untie this knot. Sheep would travel with wools if opinions were not different from each other. Your beautiful face would not been seen, this love would not become alive in me. Roses would not be valuable if lover and beloved did not exist. I got this cry from you this is the world's taste. The poets name would not be called if you are not in love with you.
NARRATOR The ashik culture that was, is no more. No more do ashiks wander the countryside, instead old men sit in cafes and tell stories of the past. Their children have forsaken the life of the village for the promise of the city, losing touch with the folk culture as they dream of becoming the next pop star. As modern industry changes the face of village culture and is the political and intellectual round for Turkey slowly begin to broadening the possibility of and the need for an old tradition faiths leaving behind the memories of a generation about the disappear as the culture is transformed into something entirely new.
Bektash Aktash I was an ashik , a real ashik , not some sort of fairy-tale ashik . I sat over there, crying and making people cry. But look what's happened to my voice. It's gone. But I've lived to be a healthy 94 years old.
Seyrani Because I was poor, I married a little late. I came back from the army in 1961 , worked a little, and married in 1965 . Except that I had several illnesses inside me. My wife really loved me a lot, but then she also fell ill; she became a little crazy. We went to one doctor; she went to another doctor. The doctor said that we should separate. And my wife, unwillingly, crying, gave a petition and left me. "What can we do?" I said. And so we separated. Then I retreated into solitude since that day I have been alone.
Bektash Aktash I started when I was about 15 and played right up until I was 70. The pleasure I get from the saz I haven't found anywhere else, Ten yellow sazes helped me live in this life and brought me to this age.
Seyrani Even if I have troubles from head to toe let's be honest: who cares about a little guy like myself? What's important are the world's struggles and beliefs. Thus I have embraced the sufferings of people and nations.
Bektash Aktash If God took this old age and converted it to youth, then I would play again.
No one reads our kind of poetry anymore. It hurts me to see the young go in different directions. And more so in the direction of pop music, this worries me.
Seyrani Ours is not only a moral knowledge; it's spiritual knowledge. And it embraces the need for everyone to have a sense of the past, of honesty, and good virtues. Not just professionals, knights or monarchs; everyone from the shepherd to the king needs it. Therefore my writing is spiritual, filled with goodness and beauty. But I write all kinds of things: I've written a play, a scenario and two children's books. This winter I'll go home and retype them. These books give children love, knowledge and culture. But nobody is holding my hand.
Bahattin Kader Now people have TV's and cassettes; everything is opening up. There are no words left for the saz. There are TV's, cassettes, amplifiers. It's "Come on, dance!" right away. But this has no value. The one that lives the saz knows its value. The one that plays, understands. Not everyone can understand the saz.
Seyrani Generally, I write poetry on every subject, no matter what it is. But when a sick person goes to the doctor, does the doctor give him medicine before the patient says anything? The doctor first listens to the patient's complaints. In the same way, you come to me with a problem, and depending on how well I know its causes, I'll write about it.
Dervish Kemal In this life, I have gotten the most pleasure from the yellow saz- Nothing else gives me this pleasure. If all the world's goods were mine, what would I do with them?
Dervish Kemal All the ashiks passed through here, all of them. But today, nobody comes. Why? Economic problems cause us to break away from the tradition and grow cold towards it. I definitely link this to money. But regardless, the ashik's form and idea will not change. Whatever happens to the culture happens; it is still true to itself. But people still break away from it.
Bektash Aktash Before, wherever you went you would find an ashik , but now there is no such thing left. There isn't even anyone who plays the saz. No one takes the saz in their hands and plays. No students says, "I will do this work; I will learn." Now there is TV; TV is stirring up everything. Everyone has gone down the wrong path because of those TV's. We would come home late from work, and at night we would play and sing until dawn. In the morning, we would go to work again. We didn't know what being tired meant. Now you sit down; you watch TV; and as you stare and stare, your heart grows tired. The day ends tired. You wake up tired. And in the morning, without coming to your senses, you get up tired. You see this nation tired.
Seyrani Give me a program on TV. Wait, hold on a minute. Look, I went a while ago and gave these TV scripts to the President. Look at these programs: In the future you'll see what meaning they have. Look: this is the program description. Look at this: "The Damage of Unprotected Waste." A question without an answer. These programs are about the most important topics. Look: "The Negative Effects of Bad Habits." I prepared the questions, and if they had accepted the program, I would have spoken from memory.
NARRATOR I leave, my name will remain, friends remember me, during weddings, during feast friends remember me. The soul doesn't stay caged it flies. The world is an inn, whoever alights migrates. The moon revolves, the years pass, friends remember me. The soul will leave the body, the chimney doesn't smoke, the furnace doesn't burn. Salutations and arm (inaudible ) from me, friends remember me. Various flowers bloom and wither who was happy, who will be happy. Desire is fake, death is real. Friends remember me. Its afternoon, the evening approaches see what may happen to me, the poet leaves his name will remain, friends remember me.
PRODUCED, WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY DAVID GRABIAS THE ASIKLAR (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE) NURi KILIC BAHADDiN KADER MiZRAP CiHANGiR & WIFE DERViS KEMAL öZCAN SAHTURNA THE EDREMiT ASIK SEYRANi CAMERA JUSTIN SCHEIN SOUND NICOLE NEWNHAM PRODUCTION MANAGER M. ADiL YALCIN DIRECTOR'S ASSISTANT AKiF ERGÜLEC EDITORS TUYGUN DiNCEL MERT YASUK iBRAHIM AKIN DRIVER CAGLAR CANDAS SAN FRANCISCO P.A. JANE GRABIAS TRANSLATIONS (INTERVIEWS) MAJA BIEHL DAVID GRABIAS (POETRY) ARMAGAN TEKDÖNER POEMS IN TRANSLATION (BY ASIK VEYSEL ) UZUN iNCE BiR YOLDAYIM KARA TOPRAK GüZELLiGiN ON PARA ETMEZ DOSTLAR BENi HATIRLASIN POST PRODUCTION FACILITIES SiNETEL - iSTANBUL THANKS TO KUTAY KUGAY BiRSEN DAVIS MUHiTTiN ARPACI ALi TOSUN ILANA NAVARO MATTHEW VURAL FEZA TANSUG HASAN ALEMDAR ERDAL TANSEV iLHAN BASGöZ CAROL WOODALL JEAN FINLEY NATASHA CURRY AYSEGÜL GöKCE TONY GREENWOOD NURDAN ARCA ALEJANDRA PERO BENJAMIN GALDSTON BAHADIR iNöZü MAHAL ABDALLA NATACHA COLOMBANT CHRIS DEVILLIERS BUGDA SAVASIR EFFENDi PRODUCTIONS TURKISH - AMERICAN ASSOCIATION iSTANBUL FiLM FESTiVAL TURKISH MINISTRY OF CULTURE FOLK CULTURES RESEARCH DEPARTMENT AND ALL THOSE WHOSE ADVICE AND SUPPORT MADE THIS FILM POSSIBLE, ESPECIALLY: JOHANNA SUNBORG STANLEY GRABIAS BARBARA DARHUN GRABIAS COPYRIGHT 1995 SiNEMA PRODUCTIONS