Rachel Zhu

“On a planet nearby,

All the things I’ve forgotten of

Each like separate memories

Are calling me back from their places”

— Universe Reconstruction, Büyük Ev Ablukada

This was the song that came up on shuffle as I was returning to my home city, Istanbul, this past June, and for the first time in my life, I felt like a song can express you better than you can ever express yourself. I knew that it wasn’t only going back home for me because as Heraclitus once said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on,” since the only constant is change. But it just always feels like I’m going to different worlds culturally, socially, language-wise and of course physically, all across the North Atlantic Ocean. I knew I was going to be bombarded with questions from family and friends like “How is life in America?” (which I never know how to answer), similar to ones I receive about Turkey at Yale. I won’t lie, it often feels quite empowering, sort of adopting the role of the wing-sandaled messenger god Hermes, but it is always confusing to find an answer to what to do with an identity on flux that is inside of me. Back home, I’m an abroad kid talking in a Turco-English hybrid language. Here at Yale, I’m an international struggling with English and trying to adapt to American culture. At the moment when “Universe Reconstruction” came on shuffle, with a sudden sparkle of inspiration, I decided to stay in Turkey for the entire summer (everything was remote anyways) and embark on a musical odyssey and see where my memory would take me: to decide what to keep with me and what to leave behind. 

Out of habit, I continued with the songs that I used to listen to in America. Because I knew that my dad would already know artists like Sufjan Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel and Elliott Smith (because I still maintain my childhood belief that he secretly knows everything), I decided to save the ones we always listened to together for him and opened them for my mom instead on our car trips. By the end of the summer, even though she doesn’t understand what they say, she turned to me one day and said: “I’ve learned these songs now, I will listen to them when you are gone and remember these moments.” At that instant, I knew that going forward I could only listen to those songs with her or alone. When Herman Dune’s “My Home is Nowhere Without You” started to play, I turned to her and said that this should be our song then. Her smile was even more beautiful to simply be a dream as the sunshine illuminated our faces. This was one of the moments I knew I would carry with me forever. 

When I went to the third house that my dad had moved into in two years, I found a very pretty sea view waiting for me on the balcony. I secretly wished he would still be in that house when I came back again. The house was different, but our routine was the same: I stole a few things from my dad’s Tolstoy, Kundera and Yalom collections, we cooked some vegan pastries, we traveled to my favorite district, Kadıköy (which is also where he spent his entire childhood), we went into some indie shops that had decorations from all across the world and we had beer and fries in our favorite communist cafe. I again inquired things about his past and love life to make him uncomfortable and see the shy smile he always tries to hide. Though, what made these moments familiar rather than a distant memory or a novel experience was of course the music on the background: our bipolar mood in the car, which swings between either Malmsteen, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Guns N’ Roses or Max Richter, Mozart, Schubert, Armand Amar, Karunesh and other kinds of meditation sounds. Ironically, as we passed by the beautiful forests of the turquoise Aegean coast that would soon perish in the Mediterranean wildfires, we were listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s “Burning” from his “In a Time Lapse” album. 

When I went back to my mom’s again, I couldn’t wait to see which shade of purple, pink or blue my airy childhood friend’s hair was, as they change it every month. Out of a coincidence, we ran into each other during the crazy quarantine period of early 2020 and linked back at that instant. I was once again drawn into their world that consisted of self-taught Chinese to study in China, the addiction of watching old, dusty or indie festival films and clothes with various alphabet letters and anime-characters. As they couldn’t go back to their university due to China’s travel restrictions, their obsession with neo-Turkish psychedelic rock increased, which echoes the voice of being trapped in a country where human rights and life quality decrease day by day. We listened to the voice of loneliness as we looked at the Tarot cards under a smoky red light to “create the bonding atmosphere” within our friend group: 

“Beautiful things

Quickly die, leave and decay

Expectations

Pull you to their own swamp

I hope not even a dust of me remains in this place

I hope that no one remembers me in this place”

(Dust, Jakuzi)

At that moment, I wondered if it was beginning to listen to these songs back in the day that made me such an individualistic person. How does music influence a person and a generation’s character? Later, I passed by the old record stores, second-hand booksellers, thrift shops, chaotic Middle Eastern bazaars, stinky bars that serve drinks to underage children, the longing voices coming from the taverns, 1000-year-old historical silhouettes from the Byzantine and Ottoman past and hopped on a ferry to watch the free seagulls that flew across the gray-blue sea in the tangerine sunset. Cem Karaca’s adenoidal voice from the 1970s accompanied me as I remembered my childhood thrill and hope for the future when Gezi Park protests, a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest to contest the development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, erupted back in 2013 on my way to the area. Karaca was deploring the conventionality of the class divide within society. While artists like Karaca became the voice of protest, rebellion and hope as they depicted the idiosyncratic views of everyday people and the life of a collective society, it felt like Jakuzi and others reflected the inner world and dichotomies of an individualistic generation-Z persona of the 21st century:

The boss came, slapped my back, and said “forget the novels”

“You’re a worker, stay as a worker,” he said, “wear your overalls”

(Mechanic Apprentice, Cem Karaca)

It was funny to have cheap ’90s-00s Turkish pop along with trippy electro and house together as the background music at the highlight of my holiday, since when one travels to the Mediterranean coast with friends in the summer, this incompatible combination is doomed to happen. The sound of music mixed with that of the salty waves and plied between the bonfires of the beach clubs and our dances in trance under the starry night sky. It was simply paradise, yet, all of a sudden, I found my eyes searching for my high school friend whom I don’t speak to anymore. I remembered our holiday in these exact places and, for the first time, confessed to myself how I still miss him. I’ve filled my fingers with new memory rings, surrounded myself with different faces, got a new tattoo on my belly, acquired the archetypal woman haircut that marks the transition from childhood to adolescence and it has been two years now. Maybe my tendency of rushing to move on became an artificial suppression mechanism that I did not have a control over anymore. Maybe that was also the reason why, even if I went to the other corner of the world, America, how our fragmented friendship was going to remain somewhere inside me for a long time.

When I hopped on the plane on my way back to Yale, I began to listen to my “Last Moments” playlist once again as I watched the cotton-candy clouds resting on the most hopeful shade of blue. As the moments of memory and contemplation hit me all at once, I decided to play “Universe Reconstruction” to let it guide me once again. It is always mesmerizing to see which part of something we pay attention to when our perception changes, which maybe explains why somehow only these lines stayed with me this time:

“I have to start from somewhere

Pictures, faces, riddles

whose birthday was it today

The guitar I forgot in the taxi, the key to the house

They constantly haunt my dreams

Bread crumbs in the forest

The noise of the day, the consolation of love

whose problem is this

who is not at home

Are all the illusions that I imagine mine

 

I will find them all

One by one

I will put them back to their places

One by one”

 

Gamze Kazakoglu | gamze.kazakoglu@yale.edu

GAMZE KAZAKOGLU
Gamze covers arts in the city news and writes for the WKND. She is a first year in Pauli Murray majoring in psychology and humanities