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RUHI SU (1912-1985)

ruhisu.gif (7183 bytes)Ruhi SU has brought a new life to Turkish music with his unique compilation, selection and performance of folk songs for more than forty years. He was a virtuoso of the Turkish folk instrument, saz; a hard working folklorist compiling folk music; a pioneer at Turkish opera; a gifted Turkish composer and poet; and a beloved teacher of young intellectuals for decades. Naturally, these features dissolved into his charismatic personality that has affected the whole nation and even many people abroad who listen to his music.

He was born in Van, an Eastern district of Turkey and grew up in Adana, in the Southern region. He started playing violin at the age of ten. In 1936 he graduated from the Teachers School of Music and in 1942 from the Opera Department of State Conservatory in Ankara. For ten years he performed at the State Opera in Ankara as a celebrated bass baritone, appealing in operas such as Madame Butterfly, Fidelio, Tosca and Rigoletto. During his contemporary music education he also studied Turkish folk music and consequently made regular radio programs, playing saz and singing folk songs, while he worked at the opera. A political arrest in 1952 and imprisonment for five years ended his career in the opera. After serving his sentence for thought he dedicated himself to folk music in his unique way.

He compiled numerous folk songs while he roamed all over Anatolia from one village to another, and then he rearranged and performed them using western techniques His western music career formed the basis of his approach to interpreting and performing traditional Turkish music. He argued that the authentic music should not be imitated as it is found locally but rather elaborated into a national music with the enriching support of the international music. That is why the international audience would feel closer to and more familiar with his music, perceiving it as a contemporary of Atahualpa Yupanqui's and Pete Seeger’s.

Su combined his efforts of creating a national musicality from the folk songs with his compositions based on poems by famous Turkish poets, as well as his own poems. He has a rich folk song repertory with more then ten LPs on Traditional Turkish Folk Music, including Yunus Emre and Pir Sultan Abdal. He also established and trained a choir in the 70's and conducted them in many concerts and recordings His approach in bringing forth the sufferance, rebel and love of people in his musical work has gained a great respect and support from his audience and had a deep effect on many musicians who still follow his path.