Victory March - commentary

Following a conversation recently at an Educators' Conference, I am compelled to offer some additional commentary about one line of the lyrics in Leyla Saz's Victory March. (First discussed here in the Feb. 26 post) It has always been known to me that the name Enver in the fifth line of the lyrics refers to Enver Pasha (General Pasha). While I make the case that this particular March reflects a revolutionary period in Turkey's history and a continuation generally towards Westernization and modernization in that country, it should also be apparent that the Ottoman Empire sided with the Axis Powers in World War I, and its humiliating defeat led to the collapse and break-up of the Empire. In addition, I should state here that Enver Pasha is known to be one of the instigators and orchestrators of the infamous Death Marches in 1915 that led large numbers of Armenians from their homes on foot across eastern and southern Anatolia, causing many deaths from exhaustion and starvation. These events are otherwise known as the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The reason I did not include this information in the article is that I felt strongly that bringing up this phenomenally contentious subject within a relatively short essay would detract from the aim of the article, namely, to shine light on a neglected topic in music history - the agency of women musicians within the Ottoman court and Ottoman society.

However, now that I had the chance to explain myself to an inquirer, I realize that Leyla Saz's specific formulation of the lyrics actually reflects and espouses her agency as much as the unique quality of her music. "Enverle Niyazi unutulmaz bu isimler." literally translates as 'Enver and Niyazi, these names are not to be forgotten.' That, to my ears is not an outright statement of praise, whereas "Niyazi and Enver are our country's heroes!" would be. If I were charged with writing an outright patriotic song to commemorate a state victory, and those were the words I chose for particular individuals - "not to be forgotten" - I wouldn't be expressly an unequivocally positive sentiment. On the contrary, her formulation strikes me as suitably duplicitous. The question is, what did she possibly already know about these leaders? After all, this is 1908 before the events of World War I. Perhaps she already knew enough to know where they could eventually take the Empire if given the chance. And the Empire did collapse after World War I. Maybe those in power didn't listen as carefully as she would have liked to her lyrics and possibly even to the use of subtle vacillations in her makams in the march melody. For those who know their Ottoman history, of course, the name Enver will glare painfully from the page. For those unfamiliar with this particular aspect of Ottoman history it is also an important lesson to learn. I would simply not want his name to overshadow Leyla Saz and her music in the article.