Ozan Ata Canani, shared the story of his song “Deutsche Freunde” with us, which he sang in 1978 for the first time and got rediscovered and became popular after the “Songs of Gastarbeiter Vol. 1” compilation. With his own words…

Translated to English by Zeynep Beler.

I used to play at weddings a lot. Sometimes, among the guests, there would also be Germans - neighbors or colleagues of the hosts. As there was a lull during the meal, I would sing gurbet songs in the style of the folk bards known as âşık. That feeling of gurbet back then is worlds apart from what it is now. At one wedding, a German man and his wife came up to me at the end of dinner. “Everyone was having a rollicking good time until you up and sang those slow folk songs, and all the people around me just listened wistfully. What were the songs about?” he asked.

“I sing of gurbet, of longing, yearning, and the work conditions in Germany,” I explained.

The German guest replied, “Why not write and sing the songs in German? Then we could understand them as well.” There and then I had an epiphany.

Around the same time, I saw the picture of a worker on the first page of a monthly magazine. The accompanying title was: “Arbeitskräfte gerufen Menschen gekommen!” [Workers summoned, people come!”]

That was my incentive for writing Deutsche Freunde [German Friends], which I performed for the first time in 1978.

The Turks at the weddings then didn’t yet know German and couldn’t understand the words, whereas to the German ear, my music was too Eastern. In other words, my music set a precedent for the generation that came after me. Deutsche Freunde faded into obscurity after a few TV appearances. The weddings, on the other hand, continued on at full swing. Then after a while I took a hiatus from music.

Exactly 33 years later, İmran Ayata rang me one day and told me about the album they were making.

I thought he was yanking my chain after all these years, but realized they were serious once he said we could go in the studio if I didn’t have any recordings on hand. And that’s how Deutsche Freunde got included in the album. Now in concert, I notice these fledgling young people, the third generation so to speak, singing along in unison. Naturally it makes me extremely sentimental and fills me with pride.

Ata Canani, 1979, Duisburg, sanatçının izniyle.

This piece is written in the framework of #60JahreMusik project financed by Berlin Yunus Emre Institute.

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