An Insight Into the Art and Life of a Modern Female Aşık

“What does it mean to be a female âşık in the patriarchal art of being an âşık?”

We based our article series on this question and we will continue following the existential adventures of female âşıklar in the beginning of the 20th century. We will be focusing on the musical adventures of the female âşıklar who have been active in the second half of the 20th century.

I can give details on lives of these female âşıklar during this transition. This is because, as I mentioned in my earlier article, I have been in contact with these women since the beginning of the 2000s. This is the story of a process which resulted in us becoming a family.

I have to emphasize that I will be questioning how their gender and identities as women reflect in their art within the societal conditions and give examples to such occasions directly from their lives.

These female âşıklar whom we will be mentioning in this article and the future articles are found on the list made by the Ministry of Culture and by visiting various cities, districts, village organizations, houses of culture and âşık cafes. The biggest challenge during this process, which started in 2004 through phone calls, was that these female âşıklar were located in various districts within Turkey instead of in a single region. Therefore, a long journey awaited me. I have visited many cities including Ankara, Sivas, Çankırı, Çorum, Adana, Eskişehir and Balıkesir. I was lucky because I experienced the welcoming nature and the sincerity of the Anatolian people are known for during this field work. Without further ado, here is the story of a female âşık…

I visited Âşık Gülçınar in Ankara in 2006. Before my visit, I mentioned her that I would live to visit on a day when she had a stage performance planned but Gülçınar made me an offer that was even better. She invited me to Kars and Iğdır Foundation, which I knew she frequented.

The majority of the members, including âşıklar who knew we were coming, were there that day. In addition to having a conversation with Âşık Gülçınar, I witnessed a female âşık who played her instrument and sang on her own as well as her encounter with a male âşık, Âşık Paşa. I was able to listen to the works of other âşıklar on this day, which was reminiscent of a “Âşıklar Evening” event. This gave me an opportunity to observe the attitude of male âşıklar towards Gülçınar, who was the only female performer there. The most important moments of this meeting happened when Âşık Paşa asked Âşık Gülçınar to perform together (question and reply) after her performance. Gülçınar reluctantly accepted this offer and successfully completed this task while choosing to give a short performance.

I had the opportunity to listen to Gülçınar once again in 2007. We were in an âşık café. This cafe was a rare example of its kind, located in the Dudullu district of Istanbul. A female âşık was invited to an âşık café in Istanbul and I was an audience member; this was exciting. I listened to and recorded Gülçınar during this event, in which she was the only female âşık to be invited. Âşık Gülçınar confidently performed her folk songs and received a lot of attention from the audience. I still remember the young listeners curiously paying attention.

Âşık Gülçınar made dialogue with the audience members during this performance at Dudullu Âşıklar House of Culture in Istanbul and her confident attitude was very interesting. The Âşık performed her own compositions in her repertoire and started with the poem titled “Atatürk”, written for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. She continued with “Koca” which was a “taşlama” (satire) and then “Baba” which she wrote for her late father who passed away in 1993. Âşık finished her 27-minute long performance with “Vicdansız”  and “Döne”, which tells of a childhood friend who committed suicide. Her performances in such venues contributed to her livelihood, however small.

Now we will witness the struggles of a mother, who is financially and emotionally responsible for her kids, to exist by herself without a mentor. We will see how she learnt the traditions of her art and how she persevered.

Ayten Çınar [Gülçınar] was born to Nuriye and Musa Çınar in Şarkışla, Sivas (04.01.1960). The family moved to Niğde due to the father’s work situation. She finished elementary school here but couldn’t continue with her education. This period would influence the projectile of her life.

Gülçınar learnt about life and her place in it as a child bride. S. A. Gencer asked for her hand when they were visiting their home village in Şarkışla in 1973 as a family and then she was married off to this man, who was 25 years older than her. She returned to her village, which she left when she was 1, as a 13-year old bride. This marriage lasted seven years and she had two children during this time. However, one of her children passed away at the age of 4.

She was a 20-year old, divorced mother who lost her child. She returned to Niğde and found a job but her ex-husband didn’t leave her alone. The solution to this was the beginning of another problem. She remarried, this time to another man from her home village called H. Bektürk due to the pressure of her family and community. Gülçınar gave birth to another child. This marriage also lasted seven years. Gülçınar moved to Ankara in 1984 and got the opportunity to learn about the âşık culture closely in the city/district foundations and houses of culture she frequented. She took an interest in this tradition through the poems her father Musa Çınar wrote and beautifully recited. She really wanted to exist in this culture. She really wanted to play her instrument as well. Even though late, Âşık Gülçınar received the answer to her wish in her 20s. She attended lessons to learn how to play bağlama, but wasn’t able to spare too much time to this due to the fact that she had to work to make a living. However, she starts writing music for the poems she has written since she was 15.

Âşık Gülçınar made a following in the foundations and houses of culture she attended for five years and finally gathered courage to share her own work in these environments. She has finally proven herself to her family and friends, and they accepted her wish to perform this art. Ayten Çınar didn’t receive her “mahla” (pen name) Gülçınar [Gül Çınar] from a mentor or peer. She decided to use this name herself. The Âşık mentions that male artists use the adjective “Kul” in front of their names and she chose to use “Gül” adjective with her last name instead.

Âşık Gülçınar raised her children with great sacrifices while also knowing how to improve her art at the same time. She didn’t only attend many events in the country using her connections she made in village foundations, âşık foundations etc., but also was invited to other Turkic Republics. Gülçınar aimed and succeeded in creating a performance environment for herself and also released a cassette. She didn’t forget to write and publish poetry books while being also very active in her art life. Âşık expanded her areas of activity and reached bigger audiences.

However, we can observe that she has stepped outside the boundaries of traditional ways of reciting in her cassette titled “Kan Kusturdun-Vicdansız”. For example, the folk songs she Âşık Gülçınar has recited were performed by other musicians and (possibly due to the financial concerns of the production company) the musical character of her works were lost due to this approach to their arrangements. Especially in “Vicdansız” (, in which influences of Arabic music can be seen similar to arabesque music, the rhythm is achieved through the darbuka drum while the shrill pipe can be heard louder than the bağlama for the most part. The bağlama is played in a very embellished style.

Gülçınar describes some of her work as “works of masters” even though she never had a mentor. However, these works belong to Âşık Veysel, Mahzunî Şerif, Muhlis Akarsu whose cassettes she has listened to. This means she never had a chance to meet any of them and they never became her mentor.

She performed characteristic works of âşık music in the album she recorded with Âşık Behramî. Their exchange especially received attention from the listeners. In addition to examples such as Baba Kız Atışması, Kadın Erkek Atışması, she has proved that she has caught the soul of the period by performing examples like Huylar Bozuldu. Âşık Gülçınar used her personal struggles –very private family ones at that—as the subjects of her poems. Her language is very sincere. For example, the satire she wrote for her ex-husband illustrates the reasons for their divorce while also portraying the raw emotions of the artist.

İşi gücü yalan dolan numara, Kocanın böylesi düşman başına, Yuvamızı kurban etti kumara, Nice emeklerim gitti boşuna, Pilav yerken taş gelsin otuziki dişine 

(All he does is to lie and pretend, Such a husband is suitable for an enemy, Sacrificed our home for gamling, I sacrified much for nothing, May stones get stuck in all your thirty-two teeth while eating your rice)

Gülçınar was an unstoppable voice of her era; a female âşık. She didn’t allow any of her life struggles to get in the way of her beliefs and dreams. She said “Here I am” in the art of the Âşık. However, something unimaginable happed on the 5th of March, 2018 and this put a stop not only to Âşık Gülçınar’s adventure, folk songs, voice and instrument but also to many songs she had yet to sing. Âşık Gülçınar was assaulted by the gun of her husband-to-be’s son. As she wrote in her stanzas, Gülçınar entrusted her dear poems and songs to those who love and cry after her.

Gülçınar’ım sözde yaşamaktayım,
Ne yerde ne gökte muallâktayım,
Bir meçhule doğru yol almaktayım,
Sürünür giderim elden ellere

Baba, gardaş, koca vurur başına 
Ne acılar çeker kadınlarımız 
Dertlerini katık eder aşına 
Çok gözyaşı döker kadınlarımız

(I am Gülçınar, I barely exist,
I am somewhere in between the ground and the sky,
I travel towards an unknown
I grovel from here to there

Father, brother, husband hit your head
The suffering of our women
She seasons her food with her struggles
The many tears of our women)


Çınar, Ayten (Gülçınar). Personal Conversation. Ankara: March 2006. 

Personal conversation. Istanbul: September 2007. 

Personal conversation. Istanbul: March 2008. 

(2002). Zaman Kara Gözlerinde Güvercin Olsun. Ankara: Gece Publishing House. 

(2002). Gözyaşımdan Kızılırmak Beslenir. Ankara: Gündüz Publishing House.  Çınar, Sevilay. (2008). Yirminci Yüzyılın İkinci Yarısında Türkiye’de Kadın Âşıklar. Doctorate Thesis. Istanbul Technical University, School of Social Sciences

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