'Susamam': I can't keep silent

The 15-minute rap bombshell 'Susamam' that was posted in social media last week reminded all of us that words and music can still be used to express certain issues, that courage could erupt from the least expected place and, most importantly, it showed us where our hearts were.

Zehra Çelenk

On the night of September 5 and early morning of September 6, a kind of rap rebellion took place. It sounds intense when you put it this way but it was, at the very least, quite an action, causing goose-flesh all around. It showed that a group of young musicians who looked as if they were not interested in anything else but themselves, seriously cared about the country's problems. It reminded us that words and music can still be used to express certain issues, that courage could erupt from the least expected place and, most importantly, it showed us where our hearts were.

It is difficult to call it a song, the 15-minute long "thing" called "Susamam" (I cannot remain silent) that Sarp Palaur, known as Şanışer, a talented 31-year old enticer created by gathering nearly 20 rappers from different segments. It is a kind of musical short film; it is possible to call it a manifest. From environmental issues to femicides, to refugees, press freedom, animal rights and traffic, it is a shared problems anthology.

The part of the song which contains white-collar confrontation has been imprinted on our minds with these words: “You've acquitted child-killers just because they are cops/you didn't say a word, which means you're guilty!Because you mourned for two days, and moved on/You forgot the name of the judge who released Tuğçe and Büşra's killer..."

The part performed by Deniz Tekin on female murders was also quite impressive. Tekin just like Şanışer is an extraordinary young artist equipped with the magic of sincerity and authenticity. This part where Emine Bulut's and her daughter's screams, the woman who was murdered by the man she divorced, in front of the eyes of her daughter is the most moving one. On the other hand, it justifiably drew certain criticisms that only one woman rapper was included in a 15-minute video. However, in the final analysis, some of us thought this is the correct direction.

In the meantime, the male voice that dominates life in various forms from sarcasm to aggression, is clearing its throat and starting really to "talk" on other matters; which has a transforming power in itself. Silence, even though it has different causes, is among the character traits of the hegemonic masculinity also in the West as it is in the East. Talking which is a means of communication skill among people, is a quality that is mostly attributed to women. Basically, silence is functioning as a factor of the mechanism of suppression or distortion.

In these circumstances, the fact that men have the loudest voices in every social issue, for instance, in a panel where femicide is discussed, no woman panelist is invited. On the other hand, men who are undergoing difficulties to express themselves under similar pressures, coming together to create a common discourse can serve as something else other than the neverending reflex of dominating.

With its "let the chips fall where they may" attitude, this song addresses fundamental issues; it is able to become, to a certain extent, the voice of everyone who do not feel safe for various reasons. Having said that, let us hope that the voice of women becomes loud in collective rap also because otherwise, it is again not possible to have a meaningful talk.

While September 6 was rocking with "Susamam," the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul Provincial Chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu was sentenced to 9 years 8 months 10 days in prison for certain posts she shared years ago. When Kaftancıoğlu tweeted, "Young people, I also cannot keep quiet (#Susamam) today and forever," then everything was in place.

Apart from the part I referred to above, the song was also highly criticized in two other aspects: Its political calibre and musicality. I, to a great extent, found it satisfactory in both aspects. I was not completely disinterested in rap all along. I am not bothered by it being dominated by lyrics; it's its thing.

This revolt is quite a chattery one. It is the rebellion of those segments who sometimes don't exactly know what they are saying, who have a say in life with the speed of consumption as well as confusion. Its monotony and adaptability create an opportunity to reproduce and getting stuck in our heads.

It has a very high probability to reach wide segments and easily excite them; so why not touch the untouched? I am not meant to evaluate the musical aspect in detail but I can say a lot for what it corresponds to.

Another significant aspect of "Susamam" is that even though it is targeting the young audience which is the essential buyer of the genre, it is able to address a wide segment from the while-collar to the intellectual. It is the song that does not really orchestrate a rebellion but does excessive self criticism, with a high level of inclusiveness. In this sense, it is really a well intentioned song.

Immediately after the wave "Susamam" created, the tweets one of the contributors posted, corrected and at the end erased, did not shadow the power of the song, I think. Most of the group stood quite strong, especially Şanışer who makes you want to include him in your smallest family circle from the quota of a friend, a brother or a cousin. Well, this is Turkey, you cannot even go fishing with 20 people without a few of them making serious accusations.

Şanışer made a few statements, I will not repeat them to avoid being a documentary. They are on Twitter. I don't think his attitude was apolitical or a step backward. This attitude that aims to call out from an inclusive platform is quite politic as itself.

The soul and the heart want to beat regularly, want to believe that some things can change. A courage that, even slightly, activates masses should be appreciated. Constructive criticism is ok but first of all, the credit should be given. I don't know how much of a permanent consequence a rap manifest can bring but I know it is better than sitting in one's comfort zone and groan.

Unfortunately, I did not know Şanışer beforehand. I listened to his former songs and watched one of his interviews. I saw the same guy who organized, designed and shot the video and I liked it. Very honest, very clear. He is sincere. You can feel that he is genuinely concerned about the issues he says he is concerned about. Any kind of fame in this land starts with extreme praise, followed by humiliating with the same speed. There is not even a thin line between extreme admiration and hate. I do wish he comes out clear of all this and as himself; we really need such genuine voices.

I was going to write this piece earlier but I had a trip to İznik, near Marmara Sea, over the weekend. This town has layers of history beneath it, grasping your soul. I cannot think of anything else more refreshing than changing the scene. Now and then, one should absolutely change the scene. However, it does not happen by traveling from Istanbul to Bodrum. Different places, different encounters are needed. Only then, curtains of this life that we tug along with all its cruel speed and load is a bit opened.

Meeting diversity is a shortcut to coming to terms with one's self. We have silent cities under our own inner cities. Let us see them, embrace them, try to understand them. Let us not settle; let us not keep quiet. We are not stones; we cannot keep silent forever.

*This abridged article first appeared on GazeteDuvar on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.