January 9, 2008

Filed under: Essays, Writings


Hrant Dink memorial speech

On January 19, 2008, writer/genocide scholar Desmond Fernandes presented a text written by Diamanda at a memorial event for Hrant Dink, the Editor-in-Chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos, who was assassinated in Istanbul one year ago by a Turkish nationalist. The tribute was held outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Diamanda’s speech was subsequently read during a brief presentation Desmond Fernandes made for a Hrant Dink Memorial lecture at London’s House of Commons on January 21, 2008.

Spanish Translation
Italian Translation

Diamanda’s Speech:

The longer it takes to address the mandate of applying Turkishness to all things good–and good to all things Turkish, the longer it will take to redress the financially-supported cultural disinformation spread by those institutions and persons in Turkey who, using as a criminal mandate the necessity to translate all aural arts (songs, poetry, theatre, and other human ritual practices) into Turkish before they are allowed to be performed by the general public, effectively cleanse it of its owners’ names and claim it as Turkish invention, innovation.

Once the art is performed in Turkish it may then be claimed as Turkish, and thusly as a Turkish art form. With the censored owners under control or in prison for performing the work illegally (in their own languages), it can then be safely deposited under “anonymous” or a Turkish name into a vault that has been protected and in fact proclaimed as an ethnically inviolate treasure, with the help of Turkey’s good friends, America and Israel.

It is no mystery that the Greeks, the Armenians, the Assyrians, and the Kurds were for centuries expected to provide their own boys and young men to the Turkish military (in order to ensure protection of their families and land from the the Ottoman Republic, for example), but this enlistment also included composers of music, performers, singers, poets, and so on, who were NOT allowed to perform in any tongue but Turkish. Later, when their arms were taken away and they were slaughtered, the works they left behind were claimed as Turkish, as are Hagia Sofia, Assyrian and Greek sculpture, and Armenian poetry.

In the obvious case of the great blind oudist Udi Hrant, he cannot be heard on record singing in Armenian, although he was an Armenian, and one of the most famous Armenians who lived in Turkey. He can only be heard singing in Turkish.

The melodies of the amanes, amanethes, shared throughout Greece and Anatolia are now still claimed to be shared by all the cultures who have lived in Anatolia, since the agora of Smyrna/Izmir was the meeting place for Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, Jews, Arabs, and Assyrians. They all shared verses and sang this music to “a god invited by despair.” The word “amanes” refers to “mana,” or mother, in Greek. In other words, it is the last cry of the soldier on the battlefield, and it is the universal cry of the lonely.

Fortunately the word “aman” is permissable in Turkey, but how soon will it be written in Turkish books of musical education that this great vocal tradition is initially a Turkish one? What then will the Greeks who hear our finest amanes singer Dalgas think in 100 years? In even 50?

As the daughter of a Maniate Spartan and an Anatolian hailing from Smryna/Izmir, the Black Sea, and Alexandria, I find the ethnic cleansing of art to be preposterous, but also to be dangerous. If an Armenian is told to reject what may be his by birthright because he is later educated by disinformation passed down through Turkish ethnic music institutes that the music he loves is not Armenian but in fact Turkish, what does he have left? How many dromoi/makams (scales) does he have left to sing? This is true for all the cultures I mention above.

Robbery is not just the robbery of money or human flesh; in involves the soul murder of cultures which will soon die if it they have no more songs to sing. Especially in the desert. And survival in the desert has been proven to be perilous.

Diamanda Galás