Who is Hisarli Ahmet?

(Cited from the proceeding book of the first Hisarli Ahmet Symposium, in 2009, titled "Hisarlı Ahmet and Kütahya Folk Songs Symposium")

Hisarlı Ahmet was born on 13 July 1908 in Kütahya Kale-i Bala (Yukarı Hisar) as the second son of Ayşe Hanım and Musta' (Mustafa). He spent his childhood and youth with his father, who was a kavaf (shoemaker). Although not noteworthy, Hisarlı states that they played war games with the youth of Karşı Tepe (Hıdırlık) by putting stones on the leather between two long ropes called “sapankaya”, throwing stones at each other; He used to happily talk about the news that his voice was heard from the surrounding villages when a folk song was sung in a place called Topbaşı.

He met the baglama that would change the course of his life and carry him to the world, thanks to a young man he knew in prison, where he entered to serve a three-day prison sentence because he did not or could not pay "road tax". As soon as he comes out, my grandfather breaks the baglama he bought with a lump of clay or a mintan [1]. He buys it again; my grandfather breaks it again. In the end, my grandfather gave up. He advances in the baglama. He was inspired by the masters of that period, Hüseyin Ağa of Dülger and Ethem Efendi of Circassians. The beauty of his voice, the breadth of his repertoire and his mastery in baglama are legendary. He bounds up with his family. He loves nature. He can be friends with people of all ages. On top of that, his friendliness and devotion make him a sought-after traveller for the weekly meeting of the youth.

These travellers, who have great benefits in raising, educating, and adapting to social life, have strict rules. Do not be late for the meeting. During a lecture, words are not interfered with. Silence prevails when the song begins to be sung. Since it is comfortable to sit on floor cushions and on places called cedars at a height of 15-20 cm, the feet are collected [2] immediately. Kneeling or sitting cross-legged. No smoking. When these rules are violated, the penalty deemed appropriate by the Gezikbaşı is applied. If the person is rich, two trays of baklava; If he is poor, he is asked to bring water from a distant fountain. I would like to tell an anecdote I heard from my father: One day, the meal begins. Since he is a lively person, he cannot stand it, my father throws a samsa (slice) out of baklava. What does he feel! Instead of taste, he has something awful in his mouth. Immediately, my father signs with his brows and eyes to the young man of the house on the pretext of bringing water from a distant fountain. Baklava is taken away. When the young man arrives, it is said to him, "It was very nice, we did not leave it to you." At the end of the meeting, when the lady of the house saw the sherbet pot full, it was too late. He realizes that his wife is not aware of this incident either. This graceful gesture of the guests embarrassed him. He wants to repeat the invitation immediately to correct his mistake. There have been many other beautiful events similar to this in social relations. Young men's experiences, their knowledge about life, especially having done their military service, young girls growing up among girls, etc, all these are very important in terms of leaving positive impressions on the young people of travel.

Attending these meetings is almost a reference for young people. They are also complimented for playing the "Friday song". Then military service comes. As my father tucked his three strings under his arm, he goes to the military branch. When the commander who chose my father for the artillery class because he was a well-built young man, asked about the bulge under his arm, my father showed him the bag. “Then you are also a member of the band,” says the commander. Thus, Hisarlı learned the clarinet, which he would later play in the Kütahya Municipal Band and learned how to read musical notes while in the military.

The events of the soldier's return direct the course of my father's life. The death of my grandfather, the death of his Aga (brother) and his marriage with his aunt (his brother's wife, my mother) put the burden of the family on him. He continues his father's profession as a Kavaf. For a long time, my brother, the son of my deceased uncle, my sister from the same father (Hisarlı) and I, three siblings lived without ever separating from each other and feeling privileged. We owe this to my dear decedent mother and father's indiscriminate love and care.

While Kavafism was still going on, they gave a place to the residents of Hisar because a sanatorium would be built in the Hisar in 1944. In 1945-46 I started primary school. In the following years, my father starts to run a coffee house in the bazaar where there are coffee shops and kavaf shops called kavafhane or arasta. Naturally, the three strings is hanged on the wall. I just remembered: One day my coachman (who has a one-horse carriage) İbrahim (Abraham) came to the cafe. İbrahim started playing with my father by tuning it with the baglama he took out from under his arm. I still hear the ringing in my ears. You would feel yourself among the sounds of nightingales in the rose garden in an inexplicable harmony. In our baglamas, the upper string is tuned to an octave treble and the fret is in the middle of the neck, and there is an addition called “harmonic string”. After the other strings are tuned, the harmony string auger is done with the teeth. This is the trick of the job. The tea and coffee service stops. While everyone is listening in awe, as is always the case everywhere, someone who "has not played a cüme debşeği" [3] in that day’s words, makes a request. Hisarlı instantly ends the conversation and says, "You don't look for a peşrev on drums and zurna [4], the luck of the draw," he shows the way to that impertinent, but the conversation also ends.

I know that bards such as Âşık Veysel and Âşık Davut Sulâri and other vocal and saz artists did not leave without stopping by my father when they came to Kütahya.

In 1940-42 and later, the Kütahya team was also invited to the program of Ankara Radio, which promoted the folklore of the provinces as "Province to Province Anatolia". Tailor Sadık (Turkish), Kambur Celal (Tavukçuoğlu), Nuri Çavuş, Fındık Hüseyin and my father, and also local dance team performed the local folk songs and dances. They received the admiration and appreciation of all artists, especially Muzaffer Sarısözen, the master commentator, teacher, and compiler of that period. The mastery of the Hisarlı's saz and the agility of his voice and glottis (hançere) did not slip past the attention of the teacher. He was offered to stay on the radio. However, my father gave a negative response to this offer, thinking that he was the only protector of the family.

While life goes on in Kütahya, my father teaches the curious young people who come to coffee, for a small fee, and those who fall out of their tune or pitch find themselves with my father. If someone says "Ahmet emmi teach saz to me", he marks the stem of the instrument with chalk, "sol sol re re sol sol re (Tren Gelir Hoş Gelir)” and says "Come on! The rest is after you learn this".

Meanwhile, my relationship with my father was distant, as was my brother and sister. I mean, there was love and affection, but there was also a distance between us. The flame of the saz engulfed me in middle school. I couldn’t tell my father, but I went and told my mother. I said, "My father teaches everyone, so he can teach me too." My decedent mother scolded me for complaining about my father playing the saz. “Are you going to be an instrumentalist too?” she said. However, I had a background, so I started playing something in baglama in a very short time. Cemal Bey (Kamacı), my late gymnastics teacher at school, heard about it. "Teach me too!" he commissioned me. One day, I hide my saz under my arm as if I am doing something shameful. Now I commemorate them both with mercy, my two very precious teachers, mathematician Recep Hodja, and my French teacher, Kasım Bey, saw me with my instrument. Both of them scolded, as my mother said, "Are you going to be an instrumentalist?" However, later on, I was fortunate to hear from both of them that they were proud of my being an artist. This is why I told you this: Nothing has changed in the half-century between my father and my youth. My primary school is over. He asked me because he did not or could not educate his other children. When we got a positive response, we went to the health center to get the health report required for school registration. The health officer on duty knows my father. He says: "Ya Amet’a! What is the need to make your child read? Give it to a tailor or barber to learn the craft”. I remember my father's face. "Mind your business. Give us our report," he said. "Let Ahmet Mehmet Bey's [5] sons read but not Amet'a’s, huh? Get off!" he scolded.

I started middle school. Those who come to the coffee shop and ask my father for saz, those who come for repairs, when the number of people who wanted to buy mandolin, flute, trumpet, etc. for schools increased, my father started to go to Konya to Istanbul to meet the need. When the shop was filled with musical instruments, the coffee house turned into a music shop where musical instruments were sold. The coffee shop was also oversized. Naturally, the number of saz students increased. Later on, we used to see my father as a teacher for many years in music events of associations such as Kızılay and Yeşilay. The incident that took place during my secondary education was repeated for higher education. "Son, do you want to study?" said my father. I know my father's income. When I hesitated a bit, he said, “Son, if you want to study, I will sell my jacket and have you read it again”. It was an expression of sacrifice and determination. By the way, I remember he quit smoking right away. Unfortunately, in our society, some unknowingly make judgments. Just like my dad used to drink. He once said that he used to drink raki in his youth, but after starting a family and since I was a child, I have not seen my father ever drinking alcohol. I even witnessed that once, when he noticed that the chocolate that was offered has liquor, he split it out appropriately.

Under his very serious appearance, he had a kind and playful demeanour. Even at a time when he could make money from his instrument, he did not use it as a means of earning. Our life passed in a harmonious way, like every family from Kütahya, in the context of relatives, friends and neighbours. Either a pot or a tin-plated dish was used in the dishes that were eaten on the floor tables. The food taken with a piece of bread sandwiched between two or three fingers would not mess the fingers. In fact, in dishes such as moussaka, sets of food were formed in front of each person. No one would reach out in front of anyone. Anatolian dishes are the places where etiquette and table manners are best practiced. Unfortunately, in some documentaries, Anatolian food is portrayed as a battlefield, and forced and contrived images are displayed.

My family showed the experience and maturity they acquired from the traditions and customs of their members, even when I chose the daughter of an Anatolian family living in a different place from their lives, in Istanbul, as my wife, and they adapted to the new life as much as possible.

A "Kütahya Night" was organized to cover the expenses of the dormitories for the young people studying in Ankara and Istanbul, to give scholarships to some students, and to keep the Kütahya compatriots in the home together. A local folklore team was called from Kütahya. Folk songs were sung, local games were played, and local food was served. Traditional customs were revived. Hisarlı is a must for these nights. While I was in high school, I was in the girls' institute and the folklore team of the high school once. In general, these teams would have my father, Aşık Ömer (Kocaoğlu), tailor Sadık (Turkish), Pepe Osman, Shoemaker Sadık and deblek (darbuka) Fındık Hüseyin.

My father was meticulous in the way folk songs were played and sung, angry that they were changed and corrupted under the name of interpretation, saying "they take gold and silver out of their mouth" Once he found out that I was playing the baglama, he would force me to play together. I'll never forget, I used to listen to the decedent Yılmaz İpek on the shortwave İzmir radio and try to play longas and sirtos [6] like him. My father used to force me to play to show my skills when his friends came. While I was trying my best and waiting for a good job (!) from them, I would hear the sweet reprimand from them, "Son, let's play something properly and we’ll listen", and I would be offended.

As I learned later, when I was in Istanbul, the decedent Nida Tüfekçi, Yücel Paşmakçı and Muzaffer Akgün found my father when they stopped by Kütahya on tour (1957-58). They were fascinated by his voice. However, the tape recorder they had did not allow them to record properly. They returned empty-handed. Later, I heard it from their own mouths.

During my education, while following the music activities in Istanbul, I participated in the folklore studies of student associations such as MTTB -MTTF. I continued the works and concerts of the Istanbul Municipality Conservatory Turkish Folk Music Executive Committee, which I passed the exam and directed by my very esteemed teacher Adnan Ataman, as a guest artist. On these occasions, it was my privilege to bring my father together with the values of this art community, who knew my father from afar. Sometimes I went to the house of the Tüfekçi family and sometimes to the Yücel Paşmakçı's and became an intermediary in transferring my father's repertoire to TRT. Although I did not know the notes, I felt more comfortable and peaceful because I was the mediator for the compilations and notation to be done by my teachers.

Even if some of our friends who did private work make it look like it was taken from my father it is not possible to forget these veterans; “Çömüdüm” from Terzi Sadık, “Tıpır Tıpır Yörürsün” from Asım Doğan, “Ahmet Bey’in Bir Küheylan Atı Var” from Ali Çavuş, and “Sepet Alıp Girmiş” from Hakkı Özevren.

There were some melody deficiencies or prosody errors in the writing of the notes, since the folk songs taken from my father could only be quatrains or couplets, not all, due to the quality of the tapes at that time and the scarcity of reel tapes. Although over time, these deficiencies and saz attitudes were resolved with one-on-one sightings, but unfortunately, the saz style of the Kütahya region could not be performed with care in some recordings.

From time to time I am asked, "Did your father make these folk songs?" that. I say, "These folk songs are not my father's composition, but his "interpretation." If these folk songs would have been taken from someone else… I do not want to go into too much detail, and I leave the decision of this to you with the examples I will tell below. We have two examples of folk songs. “Gar Mı Yağdı Kütahya'nın Dağına" and "Mustafa’m Kaşların Kara". These two songs were borrowed from my father. When the notes are examined, the effect of Hisarlı's Kütahya plectrum style and the melodic structure of his folk songs and glottis technique can be seen.

Hisarlı is summoned to the Kütahya Municipal Band upon learning that he plays the clarinet. He accepts it as a contribution to the family economy. He used to make a variation on the anthem they played at the time I passed on public holidays and school walks. My hands and feet would wander for some reason. My father was a religious person. He was in his prayer. From time to time, he would go out to the minaret to call the prayer or give sala on Fridays or in the morning. He even prepared to be a muezzin, took the exam and was successful. However, they said, "You will leave the instrument Amet’a.". “Mind your business. I am closer to Allah than you are with my saz”, he told with sadness, resentment and anger that he slammed the door. In the meantime, he went to Hejaz, became a pilgrim, the same warnings from the right and left, but he had found the way of worship and being human.

Here's what comes to mind. What did his fellow countrymen do to this person who served the Kütahya culture so much? On March 17, 1997, I received a plaque given by the Kütahya Chamber of Commerce and Industry to those who passed the outstanding service to Kütahya, on behalf of Hisarlı Ahmet, as his son, from the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. This is my source of pride. Also, the street where his shop is located was given his name by showing a good example of appreciation by the people of Kütahya. His bust was put in the cultural park, but now both are gone. His name is not on the street, and there is a fountain at the place of his bust. It’s okay. People of Kütahya should not forget this. For as long as I have known myself, if you don't count my childhood, Kütahya's name has been mentioned with Hisarlı for over sixty years. By saying "A Kütahya folk song taken from Hisarlı Ahmet" or "This Kütahya folk song was taken from Hisarlı Ahmet".

Although I find it very exaggerated, they say that one of the conservatory teachers said to his students, "You may not know the National Anthem by heart, but I will not forgive you if you do not know Hisarlı Ahmet". Looking at all these and relying on my service to this culture for more than half a century and your great tolerance, I would like to say that Hisarlı Ahmet is the "summary" of Kütahya.

I am in this art community. Both the artists on the radio, the conservatory students and those who know the quality keep Hisarlı in their hearts. I can see and feel it. This is enough for me.

You can come across the surname “İnegöllüoğlu” in folk songs in the TRT repertoire. My grandfather, who was a Kavaf (shoemaker), used to go to İnegöl from time to time for the sale of Yemeni (flat-heeled shoes). He was also known as Eynigöllü among his friends. When the surname law was enacted, the population clerk recorded it in the register. When I stopped by the PTT to receive the pocket money my father sent me during my education, I was having problems with İnegöllüoğlu on my identity card because of the different spellings in the posts. When I told this to my father, we decided as a family and took Hisarlı, which has now become my father's nickname, as his surname with a court decision.

As I continue my education, when my father came to buy musical instruments and to see me, we were together with the artists in the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory Turkish Folk Music Group and with the radio artists. This pleased both my father and the artists, and both parties were feeling wonderful. Bringing together my father and the decedent Ahmet Gazi Ayhan created a flood of emotions. The meeting of two masters who admired each other so much without seeing each other was indeed worth seeing. It was as if they were both flying in the sky. He was saying “Play Ahmet Ağa and let me listen to you” the other was saying “no, I want to listen to you live”.

My father's favorites were Neriman Altındağ, Nida Tüfekçi, Adnan Ataman, Yücel Paşmakçı, Seha Okuş, Kemal Koldaş, Şahin Gültekin, Tuncer İnan, Hamdi Özbay, Güner Karabacak, and my friends whose names I can't name, from 66 period. Because these artists were performing the folk songs taken from my father in the most appropriate way to their originality and attitude, and this made my father very happy. It is the common view of the art community that Kütahya, which experienced the Seljuks, the Germiyan Principality and the Ottoman Empire, has a high level of artistic structure with the richness of its folklore and lifestyle. The delicacy and elegance of the tile work with needlework, embroidery and thread embroidery in handicrafts also manifest itself in folk songs. The agility, breadth, rhythm differences of the melodic structure and the clarity of the emotional expressions in the lyrics are also seen in folk dances. In folk songs with the same play, while you feel the toughness and bravery in men, you see the grace and naivety in women. In henna folk songs, it is aimed to make brides and mothers of the girls cry. Just like in the folk songs "Altıntas İçinde Kınamı Ezdiler" and "Gül Kuruttum".

Apart from the days when young people such as gezeks and maidens gather and have fun, in ceremonies such as henna nights, hamamönü, gakmık, groom release (güvey salma), dowry, "Gar mı Yağdı", "Ahmet Bey", "Mustafa’m Kaşların Kara", "Meşeden Gel", "Portakalım Çaya Düştü", "Bedestene Vardım Şalvar İsterim", "Fincanın Dibi Noktalı" and "Aya Bak Yıldıza Bak"; In addition, the dances of the folk songs "Hisardan İnmem Diyor", "Çömüdüm", "İğnem Düştü Yerlere" and especially "Yasemin Dalını Yar Neden Eğmeli" folk songs are performed by the ladies. Other folk songs are also songs of harmony, and they are definitely not accompanied with dance. Unfortunately, as today's young people do, "Elif", "Ferace", "Kütahya’nın Pınarları (Kütahya’s Springs)" etc. are the songs of harmony and lament. Definitely should not be accompanied with dance. Especially our games are played with a kırık zeybek (broke zeibek) and a welcome type, it is played with spoons [7]. One person plays or two people play facing each other. It is not a group dance.

Some young people may not like it, but folk songs like Aydın Havası (Aydın Air) or Zeybek Havası (Zeibek Air) are not played with the hands and feet in the air. No one should have the right to say "My interpretation, I did it". If they do, the play figures of Anatolia, which are so rich and each expressing their own region, are reduced to a few simple figures.

It saddens me to see that even young people with conservatory education change the words in some folk songs, ignoring the meaning of their content. They use the word "Ah", which has a different meaning [8] (bewailment), instead of the expression "A" in "A İstanbul Sen Bir Han Mısın", and they use the expression of the phrase “Git Güzel Karşımda(n) Ağlayıp (Go away Beautiful and Cry)” to banish, instead of using the expression of begging “Git Güzel Karşımda Ağlayıp Durma (Go away beautiful, please don’t cry in front of me)”.

Instead of " Fincanın Dibi Noktalı Gelinler Kızdan Okkalı", they use the word "charming", which has a different meaning; instead of the Anatolian idiom describing "mother-in-law" in "Kocakarıları Merdivenden Atmalı", the adjective is used as "we must throw grumpy women off the stairs", which can be considered an insult; and in "Uçkuru Bezden Yaparlar, Gelini Kızdan Yaparlar” they change it into " they make the urba (robe) out of cloth”. However, the urba-robe is not made of cloth. Urba is either chintz, silk, or velvet. It is not possible to understand why the female artist who sings the folk song "Elif Dedim Be Dedim Kız Ben Sana Ne Dedim" uses the word "yar (dear) [9]" instead of "girl" to serve what reason.

In the centre, three-stringed baglama (I guess there is not much nowadays), tambura, deblek, def, spoon, zilli maşa [10]; in open areas, drums, zurna, shepherd's whistle and string instrument violin can be seen from time to time. Folk songs are generally up-and-down (such as "Çatal Çambaşına Koyudum Keseri", "Havada Durna Sesi Gelir") descending (such as "Feracemin Ucu", "Mustafa’m Kaşların Kara", "Yasemin Dalı") or ascending (such as "Gidin Bulutlar Gidin", "Eremedim Vefasına Dünyanın”). Folk songs are also rich in terms of style. The 9/8 (2+2+2+3) of the 9-time procedures is common. Some of the 9/4, 7/4, 4/4, 2/4 and mixed styles were used. I think “Yasemin Dalı” in 27/8 (12/8+15/8) style is the only example in folk music. Decision voices are usually "La". There are examples of folk songs ending in "sol" and "fa sharp". Despite his left-wing determination, Hisarlı would persistently play "Ben Kendimi Gülün Dibinde Buldum " in "fa", that is, in the müstezat order. There is no wordless play or melody as far as I remember. Hisarlı archive CD has two free airs, "Kuzu" and "Leyla'm Zülüflerin", which my father also read.

I would like to briefly talk about a CD. I talked about how folk songs are transferred to TRT. All of the recordings on this CD were made at my request and insistence, even when my father came to us in Istanbul when he was tired or depressed. My wife, Ms. Tuncay, is also a witness to these.

Another event that I could not pass without recording was the meeting of Hasan Saltık, producer of Kalan Music. I skip the conversations. He reviewed my father's recordings, which I recorded on my semi-professional tape recorder at home and transferred them to CD. Thus, Hisarlı Ahmet joined the community of those who keep our culture alive. I express my gratitude and thanks to him for this service.

It was my grandson, İsmail Pektaş, that I, along with his grandson, İsmail Pektaş, had the folk songs that my father desired to but could not fulfil in his lifetime. With the support of respected businessman Nafi Güral, this book, which was printed in a thousand copies, was distributed free of charge to the entire art community and folk song lovers.

We built two Hisarlı Ahmet rooms in the Kütahya State Hospital and the Social Security Hospital from the income of the limited tickets I transferred to a friend from a very nice commemoration night held at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall. Hisarlı Ahmet and Kütahya folk songs are among the preferred subjects in the conservatory graduate studies. In addition, many commemorative programs were held on TRT's TV and radio channels. All this is a source of pride for me.

There may be some things I forgot. As the son of Hisarlı Ahmet and being the closest person to him with my artistic identity, I tried to explain what I knew and what I could remember as best I could.

The presence and work of you, art lovers, even those of Hisarlı Ahmet, is a source of honour and pride for us, the Hisarlı family. I would like to thank you, my young friend, Uğur Türkmen, who prepared this symposium, and those who contributed. BEST REGARDS…

MUSTAFA HİSARLI - Master Architect, TRT Artist

[1] TN: Mintan is a collarless long sleeve men's shirt. The author says that Hisarlı Ahmet sold clay or mintan in order to buy another baglama.

[2] TN: As it is rude to showcase your feet, lie down or sprawl in front of the elders, the feet are collected by kneeling or sitting cross-legged.

[3] TN: “Someone who has not played /or have not seen cuma debleği / cüme debşeği in Kütahya accent" means someone who has not gained experience in colloquial language. In addition, it is used for those who do not know how to sit, stand, eat, drink, and behave properly in social environments.

[4] TN: This idiom means that we should not seek a way out in works that are done haphazardly, not according to a rule. In such a case, it is not known how the work will end. Peşrevs are mostly instrumental works composed in major tempos, they are played after the introduction parts, and it is not possible to play on drums and zurna. Originally, the story of this idiom happens between a wealthy man from Istanbul and a zurna player at a wedding. The instrumentalist asks what he would want to listen, but the wealthy man responds “There is not peşrev on zurna. You cannot play what I want to listen to, I do not want to listen what you play”. Offended by his language, the zurna player plays the hardest pieces on zurna during that wedding after saying “The luck of the draw”.

[5] TN: Common Turkish names used instead of others. “You let others’ sons read but not mine”.

[6] TN: Longa is a Turkish/Eastern European dance that is usually performed at the end of a muavshah/poem. It is a form of play air consisting of four parts and two quatrains, which has a strong characteristic in classical Turkish music. While Sirto is a play air in Turkish music and a folk dance of Greek origin, which is very popular with Cypriots.

[7] TN: A wooden instrument that looks like a spoon played by clouting two of them together.

[8] TN: “Ah” is an expression in Turkish that means bewailment, while the expression used in the folk song “A İstanbul Sen Bir Han Mısın” actually works as a calling for, shouting to İstanbul.

[9] TN: “Yar” means dear/love/darling in Turkish that is used for the opposite gender. In the folk song, the female singers use this word instead of using ‘girl’, that is why the author is resentful.

[10] TN: It is a percussion instrument which consists of opposite bells placed at the ends of the two main arms in the form of clips.