Folk poets representing the aşık tradition, which is a bard practice that plays an important role in transferring ancient Anatolian culture to future generations, continue the custom by indulging in call-and-response duets online, all while adhering to COVID-19 measures.
Kept alive in eastern Erzurum province, home to famous folk artists such as Emrah, Sümmani, Reyhani, Mevlüt İhsani, Mustafa Ruhani and Nihani, representatives of the tradition play verses defining the important elements of Anatolian culture, especially death, love, longing, love, social events and divine love. Accompanied by the bağlama – a Turkish lute-like stringed instrument – folk artists challenge one another by indulging in verbal duels called call-and-response duets in the virtual environment since the venues where they used to come together prior the coronavirus outbreak are currently closed.
The folk poets, who stay in their homes to protect themselves from the pandemic, perform their songs on the internet.
Producing solutions to the negative effects caused by the pandemic and addressing the virus in their verses, the artists contribute to the transfer of Anatolian culture, keeping the aşık tradition alive.
In a statement to Anadolu Agency (AA), Mevlüt Mertoğlu, one of the representatives of this custom, said they are trying to follow in the footsteps of the former masters of this very old Anatolian experience. “The aşık tradition is our custom and culture. COVID-19 cannot stop us. In democracies, solutions are endless. Although our people cannot come together, they communicate through social media and remote communication tools,” he said.
Mertoğlu stated that the aşık tradition is a significant value to Anatolian culture and that it will continue as long as the Anatolian people exist, stressing that they keep the custom alive by using technology. “My friends and I indulge in call-and-response duets at home by communicating online,” he continued. “As human beings, we have to love one other. This pandemic is a process that will come and go. We comply with the measures taken by our state, and we trust our government. We have a strong state, and we are not affected by the pandemic so much. We just say, 'Stay home, stay healthy.' We try to continue our tradition by means of communication.”
Mevlüt İhsan Taş, another representative of the Anatolian tradition, said that both the world and the country are having a hard time due to the coronavirus crisis, and that citizens should not get disconcerted during this period. “Turkish people are smart and agile. Therefore, whatever the conditions are, we are a nation that does its best in the context of surviving, having hope and keeping our spirits high,” he said. “If there is a possibility, there is a probability. No disease and oppression, including the pandemic, will be able to hinder the continuation of the aşık tradition and literature. This art will continue under all circumstances.”
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