Is Üsküdar song a Turkish folk song ?

Üsküdar song

Kâtibim or “Üsküdar’a Gider İken” (On the way to Üsküdar) is Known as a Turkish folk song about a woman and her clerk (kâtip) traveling to Üsküdar. It is famous in Istanbul music history.

Üsküdar song is considered one of the most wandering melodies, It had spread all over the Ottoman Empire, every nation adopted it and each country’s citizens passionately claim the song to be their own and can even furnish elaborate histories for its origins, so we can find many versions of this song in countries neighboring Turkey (Like Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Arab world..), usually with entirely different lyrics. However, a documentary film entitled “Whose is this song?” documented many of these versions.

 

Some of Üsküdar version

In the Arab world with the same melody is known as “Ya Banat Iskandaria” meaning “Oh Girls of Alexandria”. Another Arabic version of the Levantine folklore, mostly sung as part of the Aleppine genre, is “Ghazali Ghazali” meaning “My Gazelle”.

This video below is From the concert at Léonie Sonnings music price 2012, given to musician Jordi Savall. At the Trinitatis church in Copenhagen. In this version singers  sing turkish lyrics (Üsküdar) ,Arabic lyrics (My Gazelle) hebrew lyrics ….

Üsküdar - Jordi Savall
Üsküdar - Jordi Savall

In Greek the song has several versions. Today the best known is Apo xeno topo – “From a foreign place”.

Από Ξένο Τόπο Apo Xeno Topo Philharmonie de Paris
Από Ξένο Τόπο Apo Xeno Topo Philharmonie de Paris

An Albanian version is titled “Mu në bashtën tënde”.

Akustika - Mu në bashtën tënde
Akustika - Mu në bashtën tënde

Serbian adaptation is called “Ruse kose curo imaš” (“Red-haired girl”), traditionally sung in southeastern Serbian dialect. 

Usnija Redzepova - Ruse kose curo imas - (Audio 1977) HD
Usnija Redzepova - Ruse kose curo imas - (Audio 1977) HD

The Bosnian adaptation of the song is a traditional Sevdalinka known as “Anadolka”.

Afion - Anadolka
Afion - Anadolka

Also, Loreena McKennitt’s studio album An Ancient Muse (2006) has a track named “Sacred Shabbat”, which has the same tune as “Katibim”.

Loreena McKennitt ~ Sacred Shabbat
Loreena McKennitt ~ Sacred Shabbat

Finally: Boney M’ band features a melody similar to the tune in their “Rasputin” dance song.

Boney M. - Rasputin
Boney M. - Rasputin

Also listen: Turkish flamenco – Berk Gürman & Öykü Gürman

 

Origins of Üsküdar song

There is no clear answer about the origins of this song. Some defend its Armenian origins, saying that it was first sung in 1883 the operetta Leblemitzi Horboraga by Dihran Tsohatzian, which became highly popular all over the Ottoman Empire. Others saying: it was composed by a Scottish musician when the Scottish military bands – who wear skirts – were on the Asian side of Istanbul leading to Üsküdar during the Crimean war of 1853-56.

Üsküdar song English Lyrics (Translation):

On the way to Üsküdar, rain poured down.
My clerk’s frock coat is long, with its skirt muddied.
It seems the clerk just woke up, his eyes are languid.
The clerk belongs to me, I belong to the clerk, what is it to others?
How handsome my clerk looks with starched shirts!
On the way to Üsküdar, I found a handkerchief.
I filled the handkerchief with Turkish delight.
As I was looking for my clerk, I found him next to me.
The clerk belongs to me, I belong to the clerk, what is it to others?
How handsome my clerk looks with starched shirts!

“Üsküdar” videos playlist below:



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