Folk music interpreter,
composer and poet (B. 1912, Van – D. September 1985, Istanbul). Most of his
childhood passed in Van due to his father’s job as a civil servant. He lost all
family members during the First World War (1914-18). He stayed with a poor
family until he was ten years old. He received the primary education at Adana
Orphanage as a boarder. During this period, he drew attention with his musical
talent and the beauty of his voice. He took violin lessons with the support of
his music teacher. After having attended military high school for a while, we went
to Adana High School as a free boarder. After, he went to Musiki Muallim
Mektebi (Ankara Music Teacher’s Training College) and graduated from this
school in 1935-36.
He started working as a
violinist in Riyaseticumhur Filarmoni Orkestrası (Presidential Philharmonic
Orchestra) in the same year he graduated. After a while, he gave up playing
violin and focused on singing studies. He was one of the first four students
that were accepted to the Department of Opera that was founded at Ankara State
Conservatory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1942 and joined Ankara
State Opera. He took important roles in many operas including “Bastien und Bastienne”, “Fidelio”, “Satılmış Nişanlı”, “Figaro’nun Düğünü” and “Rigoletto”. Also, he worked at Ankara
Hasanoğlu Village Institute as the music teacher.
Ruhi Su made türkü (T. N. Turkish folk song) programs
that were broadcasted once every fifteen days for Ankara Radyosu; he formed a large
choir at AÜ Faculty of Languages, History and Geography. The classical Western
music education that he took created the theoretical foundation of his approach
towards interpreting and performing the türküs,
which he devoted himself during his life. He became famous mainly in the field
of folk songs as an artist. He studied bağlama
(T. N. a stringed instrument) in order to sing folk songs in an authentic style
that he developed. He sang folk songs at Ankara Radio between the years of 1943-45.
He gave his first concert in Ankara Community Center in 1944. In 1952, his job
in State Opera was terminated when he was arrested during the Imprisonment of Türkiye
He was tried by the court and
kept in prison for 5 years, and stayed under police supervision for twenty
months in Çumra town of Konya. He became famous in 1957 with a türkü named “Mahsusmahal” that he sang when he was in prison. After his imprisonment
and banishment were expired, he got on the stage in Taksim Municipality Club in
Istanbul in 1960. In the meantime, he took on the task of archiving the folk
songs by collecting and recording them. At this time, he made radio programs that
were presented at the radio with the announcement of “Basbariton Ruhi Su
Türküler Söylüyor”. Also, his job at the radio was terminated because of a türkü named “Serdari Halimiz Böyle N’olacak? / Kısa çöp uzundan hakkın alacak”
that he sang at one of these radio programs.
Although he mainly sang the
folk songs of Alawite poets such as Pir Sultan Abdal and Hatayi, he also
interpreted the songs of many poets from Yunus Emre to Karacaoğlan, and even to
Aşık Veysel, who was a poet of his period. Ruhi Su was also one of the first
people who composed the poems of Nâzım Hikmet. The artist, against whom the
campaigns were started and who lost his job because of the political emphasis
on the türküs that he sang, set out
on his own to collect the türküs and to
reinterpret them. He formed Dostlar Korosu (T. N. the Friends Choir) in 1975. He
contributed greatly to the spread of folk music with the cassettes that he
recorded after 1978. The artist, who is also known as “the person who taught
the intellectuals to listen türkü”, gave
concerts abroad a few times, and in the meantime he went to Australia in 1981
and gave concerts to Turkish immigrants there. He gave his last concert in
Turkey for Abdi İpekçi Friendship and Peace Week on February 6th,
1983 in Istanbul. Türküs such as “Kuvvayi Milliye Destanı”, “Evlerinin Önü”, “Drama Köprüsü”, “Ankara’ın
Taşına Bak”, “Uyur İken Yardılar”
that were among the compositions and türküs
that he sang became more famous than his voice and his saz.
Because of the obstruction of administration
of September 12th (1980), he could not get a chance to go abroad for
treatment and died on September 20th, 1985. His tomb is at Istanbul
Zincirlikuyu Cemetery. Thousands of people attended to his funeral ceremony and
it became the first mass demonstration of the period of September 12th.
163 people, who were taken into custody at the funeral, were released after
they were kept under surveillance at Istanbul Police Department Political
Branch for fifteen days.
Ruhi Su interpreted folk songs
with an authentic style that he developed by benefiting from singing technique
of Western music and influenced many artists such as Zülfü Livaneli, Rahmi
Saltuk ve Sümeyra Çakır significantly. He recorded sixteen 45s and twelve long
playing records during his art life. In addition to his own poems, he composed songs
to the various poems of Nâzım Hikmet in particular, and also to the poems of other
poets. He collected his poems, writings and speeches in a book named “Ezgili Yürek” (1985). Also a book named
“Ruhi Su’ya Saygı” was
published in 1986, one year after he died.
POEM-PROSE: Ezgili Yürek (1985).
REVIEW: Türk Halk Oyunları (1994).