Musical Roots and Companions

Muzaffer Gürenç’s musical roots trace back to Anatolia. The region has been a melting pot for countless cultures and people through the centuries; this great cultural diversity, in turn, created a rich basis for Turkish folk music.  

Muzaffer Gürenç was born in Ormanözü, a village in the northern Anatolian province of Tokat’s Turhal district. From young on, Turkish folk music and traditional Alevi music is an integral part of life for those who grow up in an Alevi village like Ormanözü, as the ideas and values of the community’s way of life are passed down from generation to generation through musical lore. Whether at work, in the fields, during religious feasts, at family celebrations, or during the community’s ritual worship, known as the cem, Alevi music, song, and ritual dances (semah) play a very important role.

 In the contemporary world, Turkish folk music is not restricted merely to rural regions, it is also an integral part of daily life in the country’s large towns and cities. Such music mixed with the genres found in this urban environment and was brought to Europe when Anatolian people migrated there.

Seeking a better life, Muzaffer Gürenç and his family immigrated to Germany in the mid-1970s; a bağlama and a repertoire of folksongs naturally made the journey as well.

As he was learning to master the bağlama as a 16-year-old, Muzaffer Gürenç soon came to meet Osman Aydemir, a teacher and bard in his own right. Muzaffer Gürenç didn’t just learn to develop his bağlama skills under Osman Aydemir’s direction, he also came to love Turkish poetry. In time, he became moulded by such poetry and folksongs.

Osman Aydemir was also responsible for awakening in Muzaffer Gürenç a deep love and interest in the folksongs of Turkey’s Aegean region.

One of the premier singers of Aegean folksongs was Özay Gönlüm, who sang such songs with the distinct accent of his native Denizli region. Gönlüm gave a number of concerts at home and abroad while also making a number of TV and radio shows for both children and adults; at the same time, he also delighted fans after starring in a film produced in the late 1960s by Yeşilcam – Turkey’s cinema industry – that has since gained cult status. Moreover, he also took the stage with world-renowned artist Zeki Müren at the İzmir World Fair in the 1970s.

Gönlüm passed away on March 1, 2000, but is now immortalized by a statue in Denizli depicting him with his trademark, a three-part bağlama which he referred to as his yaren (companion). 

Muzaffer Gürenç was influenced by a number of people in terms of his artistic and intellectual worldview, including iconic Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet; writer and humorist Aziz Nesin; writer Yaşar Kemal; and singer, film producer and writer Zülfü Livanelli. He was also greatly influenced by the traditions of great figures such as Yunus Emre, Pir Sultan Abdal, Karacaoğlan, Aşık Mahzuni, Aşık Veysel, as well as the musical work of Ruhi Su.

Muzaffer Gürenç staged his first concerts at a variety of Turkish associations and events put on by multicultural organizations in Germany. Over the years, he has given bağlama lessons in North-Rhine Westphalia for a number of organizations, such as Alevi associations and youth organizations.

In 1990, he released an album with Özlem Plak called Marklar Çarklar, and was also a guest artist 13 years later for Ergün Aktoprak and Grup Tan’s album Yar Yar Diye, which was released with Oriente Musik-Berlin.

Later, in June 2006, he also played bağlama at the Alevi festival "Ağıttan Umuda" (From Sorrow to Hope), which was organized by Betin Güneş and Zafer Gündoğdu at Köln Arena. Other musical appearances include performances for television shows on Yol TV, Euro Türk and the radio show “From the Bosphorus to Gibraltar” on Westdeutsche Rundfunk’s Funkhaus Europa.

A songwriter like Muzaffer Gürenç sees it as a duty to put lyrical works to music; in fact, one of his most recent works, "Gidenlerin Dili", puts the verses from Aziz Nesin’s Leyla and Majnoun poem to music.

At the beginning of 2011, Muzaffer Gürenç released the CD Hasretim, which is also the name of a poem by Ali Haydar Avcı that give voices to deep longing and fulfillment of hope.

Hasretim was created in close collaboration with music producer Hakan Akay, the international ensemble PerSound, as well as the vocals of Esra Dalfidan and Devrim Gürenç.

At the moment, Muzaffer Gürenç is working with the international ensemble "PerSound".


Translation by Murat Gürenç (Erkrath/Germany) and Stefan Martens (Istanbul/Turkey).