Turkey: Sanar Yurdatapan: ‘There is a lot of work to do for all of us’


03 March 2012

Chronicle by Şanar Yurdatapan:
‘There is a lot of work to do for all of us’

In 2012, there were no acticities marking Music Freedom Day in Turkey. “This means the work is not over yet,” wrote human rights activist and musician Sanar Yurdatapan in his chronicle on the day

It’s the 3rd of March, full of music. There are various musical activities around in 16 countries. Concerts, forums, radio and television programmes… Music and rhythm will flutter in the air from Denmark to Sudan, from Argentina to Afganistan despite the bans, the suppressions.

Today it’s March the 3rd, Music Freedom Day.

Some day kids will ask “What does that mean? How can music be enslaved, sent to prison?

It will be difficult to explain that music was sent to prison in Ruhi Su’s or Mikis Theodorakis’s body, was broken in Victor Jara’s fingers, was burned among books in cristal Berlin nights.

Yes, several times I have witnessed music being enslaved.

I was not born yet when a la turca (1) had been banned in my country, but heard about it later. However, I witnessed the banning of Bouzouki personally. Actually it was labelled on both shores of the Aegean Sea, with the same accusation: “unnational”. In Turkey for being “Greek”, 3rd of March while in Greece for being “not Greek, arrived from Anatolia.”

We on this side could not incorporate it into our music, could not compose stuff that resembled it. Deli Dumrul(2), disguised as TRT(3), was holding the gate to the only bridge our music could reach its public.

On the other side same Deli(4) – in colonel disguise – declared “I won’t have Ellen culture degenerated!

Yet, when the strumming begins neither the Greek nor the Turk can stop from joining in; the common sounds touch the heartstrings on both shores.

Kurdish music has never been banned, don’t believe if you hear so.

Even though not banned, it had to be in a “comprehensible language” (5). One could sing “Bir mumdur, iki mumdur…”(6) but “Yek Mumik, dü mumik…” was definitely out of the question!

As Şivan, Gülistan, and Melike Demirağ(7) were travelling the globe in the mid 80s with their concert-tour titled “Türkülerimiz Kardeştir/Sıtranen me Dostin/Our Songs are Sisters” the only country they could not enter was Turkey. They could not, but their music could, through any gap, any crack; even if the listener had a lot of trouble when caught.

In my 12 years of exile, I did experience a lot of distress, a lot of heartache. The most distressing images were on the front page of Hürriyet (8) belonging to those young people photographed at the police – after who knows how much torture – when captured with prohibited publications at their homes. With a huge Turkish flag in the background those young kids standing like criminals in a line and a table full of their offensive eqpuipments: Books, magazines, records, cassettes, and our album titled “Yeter Artık” (Enough is Enough) enjoying pride of place. And the irony of the newspaper’s name: “Hürriyet”.(9)

Is it all over? Is everything OK now?

Not yet.

Days, when the members of “Grup Yorum”(10)  are all out, are not that many. Kurdish has broken its chains but roaming the unfrequented corners, Armenian still finds itself suppressed everywhere.

Today it’s the 3rd of March, full of music. Today it is the international Freedom of Music Day.

For a while I mulled over in regret: “Is it up to a retired musician to write for such an occasion? Where are all the young ones?” I became depressed furthermore when at Freemuse website, which strives for global freedom for music, saw the commemorative activities in Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and Sudan, alas nothing in Turkey. Well, this means it is not over yet. There is a lot of work to do for all of us, until the last note is emancipated from enslavement globally.


Şanar Yurdatapan

3 March 2012, İstanbul




1) Alaturka (A la Turca/Tukish style): A general name for classical and old popular Turkish music


2) Deli Dumrul (Crazy Dumrul): A Turkish legend. Dumrul is a young man called “Crazy” because of his unusual actions. He builds a small bridge on a small river and collects money from passers forcefully


3) TRT: Turkish Radio Television Corporation (State momopoly at that time)


4) Deli means “Crazy” in Turkish


5) In court cases, if somebody speaks in Kurdish, the judge usually dictates the following sentence to be recorded in the minute: “The accused spoke some words in an ununderstandable language”, not wanting the word “Kurdish” to be mentioned in the records


6) Because of the official assimilation policy (Since 1925) Kurdish traditional songs were played and sung with new Turkish lyrics on them and young generations knew that music as regional Turkish music. “Yek Mumuic/ Bir Mumdur/ One candle” is a very popular folk song


7) Şivan: The most popular Kurdish singer, still lives in exile. Gülistan: His ex-wife, also a well-known Kurdish singer. Melike Demirağ: A famous Turkish actress and singer, who had to live in exile for 12 years, after the military takeover in 1980


8) “Hürriyet” the best selling daily newspaper in Turkey


9) “Hürriyet” means “freedom” in Turkish


10) Grup Yorum: A political music group, making protest music, members arrested and imprisoned very often

Şanar Yurdatapan

Click to read more about Turkey on freemuse.org

Source (word doc)

Read the chronicle in Turkish language

Bianet.org / Biamag – 3 March 2012:

‘Bugün 3 Mart, Müzik Doluyor İnsan’

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