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tanburaThis deyiş appears in the all of the earliest collections of Pir Sultan Abdal lyrics, including Besim Atalay’s 1924 publication Bektaşilik ve Edebiyatı (originally in Ottoman Turkish but translated into modern Turkish by Vedat Atila and published by Ant Yayınları in Istanbul in 1991). It also appears in Sadettin Nüzhet Ergun’s 1929 work on Pir Sultan Abdal and in the 1943 publication by Gölpınarlı and Boratav. Comparing these editions is interesting since there are minor variants in the texts – the minor nature of the variants is of itself interesting and perhaps gives a glimpse of how a traditional lyric may be adopted into the Pir Sultan canon. The lyric is not overtly on the central themes associated with Pir Sultan such as the kızılbaş devotion to the Imam Ali (but see below) or subjects associated with his life story; rather it seems closer to Sufi themes and the lyrics of Yunus Emre. The text I have translated is based on that presented in Gölpınarlı and Boratav’s 1943 edition. This seems to be something of composite text, though Gölpınarlı’s method of presenting the texts, while stating sources does not make clear how variants are used. The authors cite the sources as Atalay, Ergun and an undefined number of cönk and mecmua in Gölpınarlı’s possession. The most interesting of the minor variations of text is found in the version presented by Atalay who gives the last line of each stanza as ‘Ali deyu inilerim’ (‘I moan crying Ali’) thus revealing somewhat more overtly the Alevi theme in the lyric. The one line that is different in the three versions cited is the third line of the second stanza which in Gölpınarlı reads ‘Oldum ayn-i cem bülbülü’, in Ergun reads ‘Olmuşam Şah’ın bülbülü’ and in Atalay reads ‘Oldum muhabbet bülbülü’. While the signficance of the line is hardly altered, the approaches ranging from the specific mention of the ritual ceremony (ayn-i cem), to the hoped for Shah and to the general idea of love and unity (muhabbet) is instructive.

The tanbura mentioned is one of the names for the long necked lute played by the aşık-s. Other names commonly encountered in the Alevi deyiş are saz, kopuz and bağlama. Interestingly, in the version of this lyric published by Ergun the word tanbura is used except in the last stanza where it states ‘Bağlamadır benim adım’ (‘My name it is bağlama‘). In organological terms the tanbura (or tambura) is a larger member of the bağlama family with a narrow-ish body tapering into the long neck – a rather beautiful form. The reference to the yellow (sarı) lute may suggest the pale spruce soundboard or the belly, often made of chestnut (kestane) which is of a pale yellow hue.

Pir Sultan Abdal: Gel benim sarı tanburam

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Come my yellow lute

Why do you moan?

I am hollow within, my grief is great

This is the reason I moan

They attached string to my arm

They made me speak countless languages

I was the nightingale in the ceremony

This is the reason I moan

They attached fretting to my arm

They had me meet with countless sorrows

Who settles here and who departs

This is the reason I moan

They lay my chest upon the seat

They stroked me without stop

They opened up my breast as they struck

This is the reason I moan

Come my yellow lute

I shall lay you upon my knee

Again my heart is broken

This is the reason I moan

Yellow lute is my name

My cry rises to the heavens

I am Pir Sultan my master

This is the reason I moan


Original text from Gölpınarlı and Boratav Pir Sultan Abdal (1943)

Gel benim sarı tanburam

Sen ne için inilersin

İçim oyuk derdim büyük

Ben anınçin inilerim

Koluma taktılar teli

Söyletirler bin bir dili

Oldum ayn-i cem bülbülü

Ben anınçin inilerim

Koluma taktılar perde

Uğrattılar bin bir derde

Kim konar kin göçer burda

Ben anınçin inilerim

Goğsüme tahta döşerler

Durmayıp beni okşarlar

Vurdukça bağrım deşerler

Ben anınçin inilerim

Gel benim sarı tanburam

Dizler üsünde yatıram

Yine kırıldı hâtıram

Ben anınçin inilerim

Sarı tanburadır adım

Göklere ağar feryadım

Pir Sultan’ımdır üstadım

Ben anınçin inilerim