The song? Kalenin Bedenleri in Turkish, Siko Khorepse Gugli Mu in Greek, and, most commonly referred to by the musicians I often play with as, Hopa Nina Nay.
The singers? Stelios Kazantzidis and Ruhi Su.
The first impact from this song was in the 1960s. We were on summer vacation in Watertown, MA which was the most Armenian place I knew growing up. My father was from there and we would annually visit his mother, my grandmother Agnes, for two weeks in the summer. On one of these visits, my father went to the record store, the Armenian record store to see what was new. He came back with a small stack of Greek 45 rpms. "You've got to hear this song. It's fabulous," he exclaimed when he walked into the house. It was Siko Khorepse Gugli Mu sung by the inimitable Stelios Kazantzidis, which I did not know at the time as I could not yet read the Greek on the record label. I remember being mesmerized and instantly in love with the song and became a lifetime admirer of Kazantzidis.
My father played that record the rest of the day, nonstop, well into the evening when they had a barbecue in the back yard. The police had to eventually come and tell him to turn it off as they were getting complaints from the neighbors. This was pre-stereo system days, so it had to have been played on a record player. It couldn't have been that loud.
That song and that singer are certainly a larger factor for my getting into this music.
Here is the Stelios Kazantzidis version: Siko Khorepse Gugli Mu
Let's dial it forward a few years. I am a mathematics major at Michigan. A Turkish student I got to know (Çidem İnç - Thoughts and Dichotomies), finished her masters, was about to go back to Turkey, and handed me a few LPs and several 45s saying, "I don't want to take these back to Turkey and I know you will appreciate them." It was very kind of her. I am sad to say we never exchanged address and at this point, I cannot even recall her name. I want to say it was Ayse. She gave me recordings of fasils and Istanbul Turkuleri. I enjoyed the music but somehow for some reason left one 45 for last: Kalenin Bedeleri - Ruhi Su. The title did not ring a bell, so I did not listen to it right away.
During that summer, I had picked up Peter Najarian's book Voyages which was also a life changing experience that will have to wait for another blog post. I was listening to the Turkish records while reading Najarian's book in my parents home. I decided to play all the 45s and loaded them into the changer. The record I had yet to listen to came on somewhere in the mix and I just stopped and listened, over and over again. What a voice, so rich and deep. I was mesmerized. I already loved the song but this version took things to a whole new level in my soul. I thought I knew something about the music since I had already been playing and performing for several years. I knew then there was so much more to learn and experience.
Ruhi Su singing and playing the saz: Kalenin Bedenleri
Ruhi Su? Who was he? I asked my friends and relatives from Turkey. They told me he was trained as an opera singer who then became a troubadour. The opera training certainly explained his deep, clear, and exquisite voice. He was also a communist, which was not a good thing to be in Turkey back then.
Over the years, I moved from records to cassettes to CDs to mp3s. I no longer have a record player and very few records. The records Ayse gave me were long thrown out. I have since bought a Ruhi Su CD with Kalenin Bedenleri on it. There are numerous Ruhi Su recordings on YouTube though no Kalenin Bedenleri at the time of this writing. I wanted to read more about him but he did not have the notoriety of his comrade Nazim Hikmet.
The third and most recent "aha" moment came this past Saturday, April 28. Late in the evening, I was on Facebook and Anatolian Armenians posted the following (the English translation is compliments of Facebook):
Ermeni yetimi Ruhi Su (Razmig Sucuyan)Oh my, after all these years, like 55 of them, I find out the Ruhi Su is Armenian who was born in Van before the Genocide and was named Razmig Sucuyan. Çidem inç indeed.
1912'de Van'da doğan Ruhi Su bütün ailesini soykırımda kaybetti. Ermeni yetimi Ruhi (Razmig) ilk önce bir Ermeni Yetimhanesi'ne daha sonra da bir aileye evlatlık verildi. Evlatlık verilen ailenin yanında köle gibi çalıştırılan, okula gönderilmeyen ve her gün aile tarafından şiddete maruz kalan Ruhi Su'ya bölgedeki Alevi köylüleri sahip çıktı.
Küçük Ruhi'nin bütün okul masrafları ve harçlıkları yine Alevi köylüleri tarafından karşılandı. Ruhi Su büyüdüğünde Alevilere vefa borcunu ödemek için çokca Alevi deyişi seslendirdi. Eski bir Ermeni binası olan Sansaryan'da ağır işkenceler gören Ruhi Su, cezaevindeki koşullardan dolayı kansere yakalandı. Ruhi Su'ya "Ermeni ve Komunist" olduğu için pasaport verilmedi. Ruhi Su 20 Eylül 1985'te hayata gözlerini yumdu.
Armenian orphan spiritual water (Razmig Sucuyan)
The Spirit that was born in van in 1912 lost his entire family to the Holocaust. The Armenian Orphan Ruhi (Razmig) was first adopted to an Armenian orphanage and then a family. He was a slave to the adopted family, who was forced to go to school and had been subjected to violence by the family every day.
All the school expenses and allowance of little Ruhi were greeted by the Alevi villagers again. When he grew up, he sang a lot of fire to pay his debt to the Alevis. In Sansaryan, a former Armenian building, the spiritual water has been diagnosed with cancer due to conditions in prison. No passport was given to Ruhi Su because hewas " Armenian and communist On September 20, 1985, the spirit passed away.