About the ‘me’ in this blog

Paul Koerbin with Arif Sağ

Paul Koerbin with Arif Sağ in 2002

I am originally from Tasmania, now living and working in Canberra. I have a long standing interest in Alevi song and sometimes perform them myself with bağlama and voice. This interest also led me to complete a PhD at the University of Western Sydney  titled: “I am Pir Sultan Abdal: a hermeneutic study of the self-naming tradition (mahlas) in the Turkish Alevi lyric song (deyiş)“.

This blog represents a modest ambition to contribute something to a greater awareness of Alevi lyric song. I hope is proves useful and helps to make the great works of oral tradition associated with Pir Sultan Abdal and Alevi expressive culture generally more accessible to the non-Turkish speaker.

My Turkish is self-taught largely through listening to Turkish songs (deyişler and türküler), reading poetry, studying grammars and brief excursions to Turkey over the past couple of decades.  Seeing Erden Kıral’s film of Ferit Edgü’s novel O (Hakkâri’de Bir Mevsim)in Istanbul when it was first released there in 1987 (after being forbidden for four years) started an enduring fascination with Edgü’s poetic novel and a long drawn out  project to prepare an English translation.

In my younger days I was a jobbing musician performing with Winsome Evan’s early music ensemble  The Renaissance Players, Davood (Ardalan) Tabrizi’s Iranian folk ensemble Nakisa, Doug Kelly’s ethno-jazz group Churinga and full time with seminal Australian ‘world music’ (we didn’t call it that back then) group Sirocco for which a few very rough film clips survive.

I can be contacted by email at: pkoerbin at gmail.com

My profile at Academia.edu

17 thoughts on “About the ‘me’ in this blog”

  1. Good one, Paul!
    Pir Sultan is a fascinating subject – the way you are investigating it as a music anthropologist, philosopher, linguist and performer.
    And it’s a pleasure to mentor you on this journey. Here’s a question: are you able to add mp3 soundfiles to your blog?
    Best wishes,
    Mike (Atherton)

  2. doug kelly said:

    I would like to hear mp3 files of the music also. It would help a lot in digesting your blog. It looks like you are doing some very good work here paul. kind regards doug

  3. Joel Parker said:

    Hi Paul,
    This is a great resource-I appreciate all the hard work that you have done. My wife’s family are Alevi and I enjoy a lot of songs based on Pir Sultan Abdal’s poems so it is nice to have some English translations! Good luck with the PHD. Joel

  4. Brilliant blog. I really enjoy the the poetry of Pir Sultan Abdal and have been listening to various versions since childhood without even realising. My particular favourites are sung by Selda Bagcan and Ahmet Kaya. Must put this in my favourites as I would like to learn more and am inspired by your self taught Turkish that mine probably could comprehend more than I think.

    • Thanks for the comments Zehra. I’m sure if you have been listening to Pir Sultan since childhood you understand a lot. I love the singing of Selda Bağcan and Ahmet Kaya too. What a pity that Ahmet’s Pir Sultan recordings came out only after his death. I would have like to have heard him record more.

  5. Sultan Dogan said:

    Hi Paul,

    It’s by sheer coincidence that I have come across your blog. How happy I am to learn a non-Alevi interested in the history of Anatolian Alevism, who among the major political corner stones is Pir Sultan Abdal.

    I am interested to read more of your academic writings. The choice of last translation is actually a reflection of your wholeheartedness in the philosophy of Pir Sultan Abdal.

    I live in Melbourne, and would be glad to keep in touch and provide you support in any way I can.

    Sultan Dogan
    The Interpreter
    Stories within Boundaries

  6. Hi,

    I was looking for Pir Sultan translations to use in my class on the Ottoman history, and I came across your blog. Thank you very much and good luck with Phd.

  7. Hi Paul,
    I’m impressed with your great translations. I could never imagine that these songs could be translated so well. You manage to conserve both the meaning and the melody. I hope you keep going!
    best wishes from Istanbul

  8. Hi Paul, great work, I have been reading your translations and articles with great interest, it is great that these beautiful deyisler and nefesler are translated. Although some of the beauty always disappear in translations, you did an incredible job in preserving the spirit of the poems. Keep on going. Aşk Olsun!

    • Thanks for the nice comment Felix. I haven’t been able to add much in the past few months and the blog has been somewhat neglected, but I hope to start adding more translations soon. Translation is a fraught enterprise and much is lost in the process, but for me, tackling those translation difficulties and challenges is the best way to work to approach at least a personal understanding. Eyvallah!

  9. Paul — I stumbled onto your site yesterday afternoon while on a Google search for something quite different. Thanks for such an excellent piece of work. My own website on Turkish folk song (https://binbirturku.wordpress.com) draws on the (generally) more recent music from the late Ottoman and early Republican eras. So it’s a delight to find something online from this much earlier and formative period. I’ve downloaded your thesis and plan to read it cover to cover. Turkish folk music is a continent barely known in the West. I only wish (at age 73 now) that I still had decades ahead to explore it. (from Fort Collins, Colorado)

    • Doug, thanks for you nice comments. I am rather ashamed to say that I was not aware of your website until I got your message. You have gone to great efforts to put the translations within the videos which I think is a great touch. I also fully concur with your comments on the ‘joy of translation’. I also agree that life is rather too short to do full justice to trying to communicate the wonders of Turkish folk culture through adequate English translations. Frankly, I’m not sure life is long enough to wade through my PhD thesis either, but I’m honoured by your intention to do so! I hope you find at least some of it of interest. I know myself the great pleasure I had in encountering theses that came within my area of interest, most notably Irene Markoff’s on bağlama players in the early 1980s and Amelia Gallagher’s thesis on the poetry of Shah Ismail (Hatayi). Both worth hunting out if you don’t already know them. Anyway, thanks again for your comments and I welcome any corrections or comments upon my translations. As you will understand, these are difficult works to translate adequately and I put them out there in public merely as works in progress. Regards, Paul

  10. Zeynep Gunal said:

    I came across your blog while I was trying to translate song lyrics, including Pir Sultan Abdal’s poems, from Turkish to Dutch for our performance on Ruhi Su. It is an extremely difficult task, to convey the meaning and the feeling of philosophical poems to a foreign language all the while not losing their poeticalness. You managed that, beautifully 🙂

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