Ottomans in America: 99% of the Karagozis occupy my armchair with music demands


Yesterday morning, the Karagöz interventionists (as well as the familial ones) encouraged me to stay in bed and prep for class from home so that I would be more rested and have no more near driving misses…some procrastination on class prep ensued…and the little puppets whooped with delight upon seeing me find this short trailer video via Twitter…

“To What Strange Place : The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929” is a film that has come out this year….the puppets want me to tell you that they are just SO VERY excited to see that they are NOT the first Ottoman immigrants to come to America…and they really want to know who these folks are, and where they went…where are the remnants of the Ottoman empire diaspora in the United States?  Well, here in New England, we have many Armenians who lived in Turkey for a time – either in this generation or before…but I do not know the rest of the answer.

The blurb from the website: Before the Golden Age of Americana on Record, immigrants from the dissolving Ottoman Empire were singing their joys and sorrows to disc in New York City. The virtuosic musicians from Anatolia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Levant living in the U.S. who recorded between WWI and the Depression are presented here across two discs, along with a third disc of masterpieces they imported as memories on shellac-and-stone. The intermingled lives and musics of Christians, Jews, and Muslims represent Middle Eastern culture as it existed within the U.S. a century ago.

Today, my puppet companions are still all worked up about this matter.  They tell me that they love me and M. very much and are completely devoted to accompanying us on our marital road trip forever (forever, I am forever going to be with these puppets?) but they also admit, somewhat ashamedly that they are also feeling more than a tad bit homesick as a result of hearing this old timey music.  They are all lined up now, on the arms of my Yankee Grandfather’s antique reclining chair, begging me in unison to play this short clip over and over again.  “We are the 99%!” the tell me “we are the 99% of the Karagözis in your head and we want to hear this music again!  We are occupying the armchair until you let us listen – again!”

My eyebrow raises.  “Where, my friends, are you getting this 99% and Occupy language? Do you know what this means? And do I really have to play this video again? Can’t I just play the Rebetika CD again?”

A photo of Kenne, one of the Karagoz shadow puppets that inhabit my head, standing by my side on my Grandpa’s antique recliner as I write to you – oops – she is invisible,that’s right, only I can see her!

“No, m’lady, we want no more of that Rebetika CD.  We know you try to make us feel at home with that music – but we don’t like all of that prison-inspired music.  We are used to live music played in the Sultan’s court in Bursa, and the scratches and scrunches of the taping of the old record are etched in our brains now and we are tired of those singers and musicians – as wonderful as they are EVEN if the music and sound of it emanated from common criminals, as some suggest.  And we really did appreciate your effort to educate us about the modern music of Mercan Dede (even though he was born in our hometown), but we are not so sure about him either.”

“What’s wrong with Mercan Dede and his neo-Sufi music?  That is wonderful music for meditation!” I protested, feeling a bit taken aback and shifting uncomfortably in my chair as I took care not to knock over the wax papery protestors.

“Look, m’lady, we are just here – as the 99% of the Karagözis in your head, to tell you that we want change!  We want change! We want change!  We want more Ottoman-inspired music in this house.  Forget Mercan Dede, we want no more classical oud, no more classical ney, we want singing for a change!”

Kenne steps forward, calling my attention to the pile of books to the right of my seat – she is hopping up the stack, until she is balancing on top of a stack of antique flower fairies children’s books and a tiny book of Gaudi’s Barcelona masterpieces.  “M’lady, I understand that in this modern world of yours, women go forth and represent themselves – and I am giving this a try although I do worry about losing my honor.  However, I really miss music “from home” and we think you need to accommodate the needs of the majority.”

My first thought is, “um,  M. and I are not the majority in the house – the puppets are? I am not sure wax paper people count, and aren’t we heavier and bigger than they are since we are humans in flesh and blood?”.  But, I do want to make them feel comfortable as they help me a lot in understanding the competing cultural and gender and other demands that exist in my world.  “Umm, Kenne, if you are the 99%, who is the 1% – you said you are the 99% of the Karagözis?”

“Oh – isn’t that just what you say when you protest?  Like what we see on the news?  And we snuck onto your iphone and saw the photo your friend sent this morning, of the Occupy protestors…there is no hierarchy in this group, well, other than gender hierarchy at times, that is….oh – they are done!  We had to take action, sorry m’lady, but trust us, you will like it, and we will be much happier.”

Before I realize what has happened, I realize that the puppets have been jumping on my laptop keyboard – and have managed to order the 3-CD set of all the music featured in the new movie about Ottoman-American immigrants.  Who knew the Karagözis were up to speed on either web surfing, google searching or ordering with PayPal?  Not me!

Now, it’s time to educate the puppets about the Occupy movement – and what the 99% stand for.  We’ll see how that cultural-time-warp translation goes vis-a-vis explaining the 99% vs. the 1%.

Karagöz interrupts me at this point…”Oh, m’lady, this 99% thing, it is not hard to understand, it is just like the Sultan and his immediate circles – they are the 1%.  No need to indoctrinate us, but we do wonder if you would take us down to Occupy Boston sometime.  We’d like an anthropological excursion.”

It’s a deal, Karagöz.

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This entry was posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Turkish-American Matters, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Ottomans in America: 99% of the Karagozis occupy my armchair with music demands

  1. Liz Cameron says:

    For more information (academicish) on Ottoman immigration to America – check out this book: http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/4434.htm

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