Ahmet Güntan’s Esrârîler and its English translation, The Tribe of the Esraris.

While I am by no means a fan of arabesque music, I do admire Ahmet Güntan’s poetic prose vignettes of the arabesque pop icons Ibrahim Tatlıses and Müslüm Gürses (or Müslüm Baba). In each, Güntan treats his subject with just the right mixture of bemusement and awe. Their impact is to the extent that, however I may regard arabesque in general, by both singers now have me charmed. The two colorful poems in question sit nicely among others in the poet’s engaging collection, The Tribe of the Esraris. Translated from the Turkish by Ali Alper Çakır, it is published as a Koç University Press imprint (2018). The original in Turkish is a veritable cult classic published as Esrârîler in 2003 by Yapı Kredi Publications; and happily, a copy of a later edition published by Edebi Şeyler (2014) arrived at our doorstep by post earlier this week. Here I would like to set the original Turkish versions of both vignettes along with their Ali Alper Çakır translations side by side.

İBRAHİM TATLISES OLMAK KOLAY MI?

Mağarada doğmuş, çile çekmeden elde ettiği tek nimet sesi, bu nimetin kıymetini bilmiş, sesiyle meşhur olmuş. Kaderini değiştiren birinin değil, kaderini yaşayan birinin hikâyesi. O yüzden onun hayreti hepimizden büyük, bu ilahi çarkın nasıl döndüğünü ilk başta o anlamıyor. O yüzden herkesten iyi şarkı söylüyor, çünkü herkesten çok anlatmak istiyor. Dönüp baktığı zaman mağarayı görmemesi imkânsız. Bir ilahi boşluktan sıçramış, buraya gelmiş. Madem gözler kalbin aynası, öteden baktığı görülüyor. Kolay mı peki? O bir Esrârî , dalından koparılmış, rüzgâr sürüklemiş. Birlik olmaya herkesten çok ihtiyacı var. Elinden bir tek kendi tutuyor, hayır, kolay değil.

9 Ağustos 2000

(Güntan 2014, p. 84)

IS IT EASY TO BE İBRAHİM TATLISES?

He was born in a cave and the only blessing he acquired without an ordeal is his voice. He knew the value of this voice and he has become famous for it. His is not the story of someone challenging their fate, but the story of someone living it. Because of this, his astonishment is greater than ours. At first, he does not understand how this divine wheel spins. This is why he sings better than everybody else, because his need to understand is greater. When he turns around and looks behind, it is impossible for him not to see that cave. He has leapt out of some divine crevice and landed in the midst of all this. Since the eyes mirror the heart, it appears that he looks at this place from the beyond. But is it easy? He is an Esrari, torn from his branch, dragged by the wind. He needs unity more than others. No one but he himself holds his hand. No, it is not easy.

August 9, 2000

(Güntan 2018, p. 94)

MÜSLÜM BABA

O bir akordeoncu, ama akordeonunu kaybetmiş. Akordeonunu bir bulsa vücut hareketleri artık tuhaf olmayacak, arkordeon çalacak. Sesini kullanıyor akordeon yerine. Bu yumuşak ses ancak o tuhaf hareketleri yapabildiği zaman varolabiliyor, çünkü o zaman Müslüm Baba’nın akordeonu çalıyor. Bir de tuhaf bir geri çekilme: ben akordeonumu çalar giderim, ben kaderciyim.

3 Ekim 2000

(Güntan 2014, p. 69)

MÜSLÜM BABA

He is an accordionist, but he has lost his instrument. If only he could find his accordion, his bodily movements would no longer be awkward since he would be playing the accordion. He uses his voice instead of the accordion now. This soft voice can only exist when he performs these bizarre movements, because only then does Müslüm Baba’s invisible accordion play. And a strange resignation that comes with it: I’ll play my accordion and leave, for I am a fatalist.

October 3, 2000

(Güntan 2018, p. 79)

Ahmet Güntan originally comes from Izmir, the Aegean port city badly shaken by the earthquake yesterday. I myself lived in Izmir for several years up until last August. My heart goes to my friends and all else affected by this all too overwhelming event.

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