The official release date for Sezen Aksu’s album “Bahane” was February 16, 2005. I remember vividly though that it was in the record stores on Tuesday, February 14, 2005. It was a lonely Valentine’s Day, also a poor one so I had to wait until February 18, when my allowance would arrive from my parents. Those four days were painful. I would hear bits of the album from the shops of Istiklal Caddesi on my way to my apartment every evening, but I would turn up the volume of my Discman, to prevent ruining the incredible experience of listening to a Sezen Aksu album for the first time. The day came; I finished school at noon, left immediately. I was walking on Ciragan Caddesi towards Besiktas, thinking how lucky I was for going to the school I had dreamt all my life, learning the most romantic language on earth, and being about to listen to Sezen Aksu’s latest album.
I had no idea how this day would change my life forever. And maybe for the first time, Sezen Aksu had very little to do with it.
On the same spot where I had met “the loud girl from diplomacy club” a month ago, I received a text from her. Just like a month ago, she was inviting me to a party at her house. I knew my roommate’s weird classmates would be there, and I honestly didn’t want to go. I had a musical gem to discover, and I was finally able to purchase it. They were nice people actually, just like my roommate, but also a bit weird, just like my roommate. The depressed and short girl, the tall and loud Albanian girl, the cheerful gay kid, the pouty law school girl, the cool bald guy, and of course the loud girl from the diplomacy club. She probably had invited some other people, and I was dead sure she insisted relentlessly that they attended her party. I also knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this invitation. In text, she was saying that we would have fun just like last time (and I was saying inside: yeah, I will crack some graphic jokes making people think that I am total nutcase) and my roommate would also join us in the evening (and I was saying inside: yeah, as if his crazy girlfriend would let him join us.) Best thing about this party was that it started in the early afternoon. I could spend some time with them, drink a couple of beers, and then run off to Sezen Aksu’s “Bahane.”
I showed up with four beers in my hand, and they were extremely glad to see me. My roommate wasn’t there, and I was in equal distance to all the party attendees. All of them were sitting on the big, orange couch in the living room with drinks and munchies on the coffee table, and smoke was all around the house. They were playing some “alternative” music, which translated back then into Muse, Placebo, and Radiohead. They had the party started; I joined them with my beer in one hand and a ciggy in the other. I was having an OK time, thinking that attending this party actually turned out better than I expected. We had a great time for about four hours, and it was becoming late—at least for my album purchase. As they were about to have dinner and drink more, I told them I was leaving. My roommate was “still on his way to the party.”
Suddenly, the cheerful spirit of the party changed, and they were genuinely sad that I was leaving. I remember telling at least five lies contradicting with each other. I didn’t want to leave; I was having a great time. But Sezen Aksu was also waiting for me in a music store. When I left, I remember how I found my mind completely changed. I remember how much I wanted another party, and how much I would love to hang out with them, again.
I arrived to Taksim tipsy, bought the album, listened to the album as I chain-smoked. I fell in love with the album immediately, just like the rest of Turkey. That year, “Bahane” became the most selling album of the year producing super-emotional hits like “Eskidendi, Cok Eskiden” and “Ikili Delilik.” My night was complete with Sezen Aksu although my heart also wanted to be with my new weird friends.
I didn’t know this night was the simple summary of my last 8 years, my present, and probably my future. Those people, those weird friends I made through my roommate, with some additions and departures, became my family in Istanbul. Each one of them still holds an important part of my life or my memories or both. Most of them are still in my life, knowing every single detail of my everlasting academic struggle, wrecked love life, and perpetual drama. They are still the ones I make the first phone call to when I have the best and the worst news. They no longer hold these parties, especially in the early afternoon; but they still come together for me whenever I visit Istanbul.
However, no matter how much I love them, they can’t always be with me or answer the phone every time I call them. They have other lives at a different time zone than mine. In those moments, though very few, I turn on Sezen Aksu, and feel home, around my weird family. When my friends are sleeping or flying to Portugal, when I am running in the desert and they are defending people in courts, when I am teaching in the classroom and they are translating theory books, I heal their absence with Sezen Aksu with a beer in one hand and a ciggy in the other.
Filed under: art, music | Tags: academic writing, album, multilingual individuals, optum, sezen aksu
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.