Özay Gönlüm
Özay Gönlüm

The old Turkish audience knew him in elegant suits with his hairpiece, his rosary on his arm, handkerchief on his leg under his “saz” a stringed instrument, boats in legs and songs from Aegean region, most especially with “Ninenin Mektupları” (Letters of Grandma). Özay Gönlüm was an idol with his theatrical skill, region adaptive talking, vocals and “yaren” in Turkish Folk Music.

With the recent folkloric – psychedelic revival of Turkish music in the World, mostly due to likes Gaye Su Akyol and many more, unfortunately this idol is missed by nearly all.

The Turkish Folk Music Idol Özay Gönlüm was from Denizli because of his father. He was born in 1940 in Erzincan where his father was in the military at that time. He started music in young ages when he was playing the harmonica and then he started to play the violin in secondary school. Bağlama (a musical instrument with three double strings played with a plectrum) which he met in Denizli Industrial Arts Institute in 1953, became his best friend until he has passed away.

He started to compose music in 1965 while he was visiting different villages. Especially, he composed many pieces of music from the Aegean region. He worked as a guest artist in Ankara Radio, Sounds from the Country (Yurttan Sesler) program with the invitation of Muzaffer Sarısöz, the founder of the program that concentrated mostly on Turkish Folk Music.

Then for a short period of time, he worked at the National Education Ministry Filın and Radio Television Centre. After he left there, he worked in “Sounds from the Country” as the “senior saz artist”. However, he got his real fame in İzmir Fair when he went on stage in 1973. For 10 years, he went on stage in İzmir with many famous singers such as Zeki Müren. So, he became a popular, well known and followed folk artist in whole Turkey.

During this period, he recorded many 45’s and long plays. He recorded some of his own folk compositions that he provided to TRT (Turkish Radio Television) repertoire among hundreds of songs such as “Çöz de al Mustafa Ali”, “Sobalarında kuru meşe”, “Denizli’nin horozları”, “Evlerinin önü bulgur kazanı”, “Avşar Beyleri”, “Cemilemin gezdiği dağlar meşeli”; “Tepsi tepsi fırıdıklar’; “Şu dağlar tepe tepe” into discs. However, he broke the track record with “Ninenin Mektupları” (Letters of the Grandına). He read a mass amount of letters to the discs.

His stories and jokes that he was telling with Denizli accent were very much liked by many people. He added his show and copying skills to his playing and singing. The Turkish Folk Music Idol Özay Gönlüm, taking the songs of particularly Denizli region to the microphones with his stringed instruments and voice, has that way added a richness to the folk culture.

Although Özay Gönlüm was playing baglama in radio programs, he gave importance to other similar stringed instruments such as cura and selpe. He played cura (a plucked string folk instrument) in all sizes in the radio programs he joined and he played with many artists such as Ramazan Güngör and Hamit Çine from Aegean Region.

Özay Gönlüm who worked in different areas within TRT (Turkish Radio Television) played in the VAT commercials during the ’80s prepared by the Ministry of Finance.  Besides, he took place in radio theatres and television programs addressed to agriculture and kids. While he was giving concerts in 42 countries with his “Yaren’, he was a member of the Ministry of Culture Repertoire Commission, TRT Turkish Folk Dance Repertoire Commission and held judge memberships in many exams. He gave unbelievable performances to Turkish audiences with his personally created and crafted Turkish folk music instrument ‘yaren’, ‘cura’ and his songs in his last show in Turkish Folk Music Most Wanted Program in TRT l television.

He passed away on 1st of March 2000 in Ankara.