katibim (üsküdar’a gider iken) – my scribe (going to üsküdar) (1929)

Folk song, recorded in 1949 in Istanbul. Sung by Safiye Ayla. Played with violin, kanun, ud and clarinet. This recording is in the public domain. You can download it HERE.

Üsküdar (Scottary), now a section of Istanbul on the Anatolian (Asian) side, used to be a village/town across the Bosphorus from Istanbul proper, where nursing began during the Crimean War (British and French assisted Turks against Russia, 1854-56).

There is much fascinating debate about the origins of this song. Whose Is This Song? is a documentary made about the subject by Adela Peeva in 2003. Here’s the blurb:

“In her search for the true origins of a haunting melody, the filmmaker travels to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria. The trip is filled with humour, suspense, tragedy and surprise as each country’s citizens passionately claim the song to be their own and can even furnish elaborate histories for its origins. The tune emerges again and again in different forms: as a love song, a religious hymn, a revolutionary anthem, and even a Scottish military march. The powerful emotions and stubborn nationalism raised by one song seem at times comical and other times, eerily telling. In a region besieged by ethnic hatred and war, what begins as a light-hearted investigation ends as a sociological and historical exploration of the deep misunderstandings between the people of the Balkans.”

You can watch the preview HERE.

Here’s a translation of the Turkish version’s lyrics (a compound I have made from various versions I found online), which have been credited in some places to Nuri Halil Poyraz (1885 – 1950) and Muzaffer Sarisozen (1899 – 1963):

On the way to Üsküdar, it started raining
My scribe (katip) wears a frock coat, its long skirt muddied
He has just woken from sleep: his eyes are languid

The scribe is mine; I am his; hands will intertwine
It looks so lovely on my scribe, that starched shirt of his

On the way to Üsküdar, I found a handkerchief
I filled the handkerchief with Turkish delight (lokum)
As I was looking for my helper, I found him next to me

The scribe is mine; I am his; what is it to others?
It looks so lovely on my clerk, that starched shirt of his.