2023, April 5th.
Istanbul, Kâğıthane District.

I'm back in Istanbul for the second time.
It's a warm evening in our apartment.
This living room feels safe. Peaceful.
The outside world is whirring. Stressful.
I was browsing mindlessly on my laptop.
I stumble upon a song, by islandman.
Kara Toprak.
My mind, my soul wander.
I can't help but closing my eyes,
let my body flow with the song.
I share the discovery with my girlfriend.
Only to learn that this song is inspired.
From one of the most iconic turkish poets.
Âşık Veysel.

A year later, this song still quiets me.
So much depth to these lyrics.
A feeling I can't explain.
There is something to this song.
Something that fuelled this telling.
This is the story of Veysel, and its song.


/ɑːˈsɪk/ - turkish
Literally, a lover.
A poet who grows up in the people.
In Folk literature, Âşık was traditionally a singer-poet, a bard who accompanies his song with a saz.

kara toprak

/kɑˈɾɑ/ /topˈɾɑk/ - turkish
Literally, black soil.
Mother earth.
The place we're destined to when we die.

the life



of Veysel

The bağlama,
at the heart of Veysel’s youth

Veysel Satiroglu was born in 1884 in the province of Sivas, Central Anatolia. He grew up at a time when smallpox was prevalent throughout the region. While he survived an outbreak in 1901, he became blind at the age of 7. Already destined to stand behind, to stand apart.

After the first World War, he got married to a woman who gave him 2 children. One died in his first days. His wife disappeared soon after. Veysel was left alone with his second child, who died in the following days too. A rough time of his life for Veysel who somehow found comfort in his art.

During his childhood, Veysel's father gave him taste for poetry and music. He offered him his first bağlama (saz), to which he devoted himself. The instrument was to be the sparkle of his artistic sensibility.

A man devoted to his art and culture

In 1930, Veysel meets with Ahmet Kutsi Tecer. Poet but also politician, Ahmet will help Veysel get recognized for his art. Together, they founded an association for "the preservation of folk poets". An association that will, at the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, give him the opportunity to write poems celebrating Atatürk. Not noticed immediately, Veysel started travelling to Ankara, eventually the whole country. A tour during which he will play bağlama, write and recite his poetry.

Though Veysel's legacy goes beyond talent and performance. Following the renown he started to receive for his work, he spent years teaching art, music and poetry in republican schools of many Turkish villages.
Aşık Veysel playing bağlama in a village

A living legacy

Today, the "Âşık" legacy lives on. His contributions to Turkish folk music are significant, and many of his songs have become classics. Some of his best known works include "Uzaklarda Bir Yerde" or "Kara Toprak". Songs always marked by simplicity, sincerity, and profound messages.

Those messages, likely influenced by the fate of his life, were ones of a humble human on the arduous path of life. Today, his work continues to be celebrated and admired in Turkey.


the meaning

of his poem


An ode to earth...

The lyrics to Kara Toprak speak of a deep connection with the earth. The poem mentions many friends throughout their life, but none compare to his true love and companion, "kara toprak", the black earth.

The earth is portrayed as a loyal partner that always stays with him, in contrast to the fickle nature of human relationships. The chorus "Benim sadık yârim kara topraktır" drives home the depth of this relationship, showing Veysel's devotion to nature.

Kara Toprak is a powerful ode to the earth and the special bond that exists between humans and the natural world. Both melancholic and contemplative, it encourages us to reflect on our relationship with the earth. On the role it plays in our life.

In many ways, Veysel’s life was a journey to darkness. But as this poem reflects, he found lights in a grounded spirituality, something he wishes for all of us.
“Turn your eyes towards the earth, not towards the sky!”


to a


Bringing people together

Almost a year after discovering this song, I see with hindsight what makes it so special. To me, Veysel's ballad is everything pure you can find in Turkish people. Humility, kindness. Melancholy, generosity. Joy of living. All the things that, if you get to travel Turkey a day, will make you feel at ease. At peace.

Through his art, Veysel became a figure bringing people together. Writing and singing for the society as a whole. Even bridging between people and the government. A unifying volition that had all its importance during the early days of the Turkish Republic, and that can still be felt in the songs of his Turkish counterparts.

This poem is an invitation to contemplate. An invitation to pause, exalt at nature, to appreciate each other. In their own way, Tarkan, Fazıl Say and Islandman have all prolonged this feeling and the message of Veysel. A powerful demonstration of what music can evoke and inspire.

Now tell me, which one resonates for you?