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Sezen Aksu and My Lingual Bafflement by bayripley
30/05/2011, 08:51
Filed under: art, music | Tags: , , , ,

Sezen Aksu has finally released her latest album last week. In her last album dating 2009, she sang her own songs that were previously sung by others, and there were only 2 “new” songs in it. She kept a low profile in 2010, except her surprise in Tarkan’s album, and her involvement in the Referendum debate. I was among those who did not cared what she said but appreciated an artist’s bold stance taking in that intense discussion. As always, even her involvement in politics was different than her peers in music industry. Anyway, she finally released some marvelous 10 songs this month, and I feel like I have been drugged since the first moment I listened to it.

But this entry is not about Sezen Aksu, or her new album. This entry is about how I can’t write about Sezen Aksu in English, and why this is a great thing.

When I was 15 years old, something terrible happened, and I was introduced to literature. I did not only read some great writers, but I also learned that literature, as a life component, was like food, alcohol, and sex: Mind-blowing experiences that years of tradition offer to a 21st century individual. However, as American commercials for alcoholic beverages put it, they should be “consumed responsibly”.

I personally succeeded limiting myself before I got too much of them. (Yes, food topic is debatable, given my “development”, “framed” by more uncomfortable jeans every month) Only literature, which should be understood more than texts, was kept out of this limitation, and the results might have been catastrophic. After a painful undergraduate experience in International Relations, I am doing anything but IR now. I have incorporated my love for moving images with sound, and my Proustien point of view to my studies, but I have reached to a point of speechlessness when a friend of mine asked what my hobbies were. I replied; I study my hobbies, those moments when you escape from this world. I read theories that frame them, with a determination of writing my own one day. I consume so much literature, now I may have lost my affection for literature. Sezen Aksu proved me wrong.

English is the academic language of the era, and even in Turkish Studies, I am entitled to publish firstly in English to accomplish whatever I am trying to accomplish. My training for the last year has heavily been in English, and I have managed to express even some very personal issues in this language. The more I mastered the language, the more it became vocal in my personal expression. Turkish has been reserved for amicable moments, or depression, or silenced memories as well as for some kick-ass poetry or novels. I can’t and probably won’t write about Cemal Sureya in English, ever. I did not know that until I listened to Sezen Aksu’s latest album.

I wanted to write something here about her fantastic songs, or how they are connected with each other, or how you can trace Cemal Sureya’s shadow in them; but I couldn’t. Her songs were so sacred, were so emotional, so about human life and my own journey, they seemed too deep for my academic English. I wanted that motherly touch of Turkish, for expressing such intense experience. I needed words that grew up with me. I needed expressions that only Sezen Aksu could tell and understand, and we would pick Turkish to depict our eternal connection. She definitely succeeded her goal, she kissed me, and I did not have enough competence in English to describe that moment. I did not transfer her to my academic realm, and she stayed in a very reserved lingual space for me.

Listen to her, she will probably do the same for you, and maybe you will find your own language by that.


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I find it amazing that we can all recognize our mother tongues so easily. Although it’s pretty cool be able to express feelings in another language (I find myself experiencing that in German just now…), I find it comforting that, somewhere deep in our hearts, there will always be little somethings that can only be explained in our languages. Our language makes us who we are – or, should I say, “nuestro idioma nos hace quienes somos”. 🙂

Comment by Natalya

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