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Translation and Popular Music

Transcultural Intimacy in Turkish–Greek Relations


Şebnem Susam-Saraeva

Research on translation and music has so far focused mainly on «art music» and on issues such as quality, singability and accessibility. Studies which seek to embed translation and music within their historical and sociocultural contexts are relatively rare. This book aims to shed light on how translations of popular music contribute to fostering international relations by focusing on a case study of Turkish-Greek rapprochement in the last two decades. It provides a brief account of the thaw in relations between the two countries and then examines the ways in which translation and music have played a role in these changes. By looking at the phenomenon through the music’s various forms of materiality (on paper, in audio and through the internet) and the different forms the accompanying translations take, and by drawing on a range of disciplines (popular music studies, sociology of music, ethnomusicology, social anthropology, comparative literature and fan studies), the book aims to foreground the multifaceted nature of translation and music and their wide-ranging impact on society and international relations.
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Chapter 3: Music for remembering: Nostalgia, music and translation on paper


← 62 | 63 →CHAPTER 3

Music moves through time, it is a temporal medium. This is the first reason why it is a powerful aide-mémoire. Like an article of clothing or an aroma, music is part of the material and aesthetic environment in which it was once playing, in which the past, now an artefact of memory and its constitution, was once a present. Unlike material objects, however, music that is associated with the past experience was, within that experience, heard over time. And when it is music that is associated with a particular moment and a particular space […] music reheard and recalled provides a device for unfolding, for replaying, the temporal structure of that moment, its dynamism as emerging experience. This is why, for so many people, the past ‘comes alive’ to its soundtrack. (DeNora 2000: 66–7)

Today whenever I hear the tunes of the anonymous Istanbul song Kadifeden Kesesi [Velvet Pouch] I go back to my childhood, listening to my grandmother’s tentative voice singing along. The song was one of her favourites – to the extent that we murmured it during her funeral. She was an end-of-the-War child, born right after the Turkish War of Independence (1919–22), raised by her own grandmother who forbade her to wear any clothes in blue and white – the colours of the Greek flag. My great-great-grandmother’s twin sons were killed by the Greeks, while at work at a factory in Turkey. Did my grandmother know that Kadifeden Kesesi...

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