The 22nd Aydın Doğan Award Given to Arif Sağ

Created 05 April 2018

This year’s recipient of the Aydın Doğan Award, given by the Aydın Doğan Foundation (ADV) to reward cultural, artistic, literary and scientific works through the relevant artists was Arif Sağ, renowned Turkish Folk Music artist. Speaking to members of the press upon receiving the 22nd Aydın Doğan Award, Sağ noted that it is noteworthy for him to be deemed worthy of such an important award. When asked about the interest of the new generation in folk music, Sağ said, "They do listen to folk music. But of course the language has changed, maybe the rhythm of the music has changed. Maybe the harmonization has also changed. But ultimately they refer to Karacaoğlan, Pir Sultan Abdal, Aşık Veysel; so this new young generation does know these names. They do know them, and they do listen to them”.


The Aydın Doğan Award, which is given since 1996 to award individuals who are creative in their profession, and who work towards promoting our country and culture in both national and international platforms, and which is deemed as one of the most prestigious awards in Turkey, is to be given this year in the area of “Turkish Folk Music”. In association with the purpose of Aydın Doğan Foundation to further the society, to bring it to a contemporary level, and therefore to support education, it has been announced that the Aydın Doğan Award would be given this year to performer Arif Sağ who has intensified his unique efforts in Turkish Folk Music and in bağlama instrument, who has significantly contributed to the promotion of Anatolian music across the world, who has trained and educated new generations, and who has created a new école in bağlama instrument.


The award ceremony was held at the Hilton Convention Center yesterday evening. During the awards ceremony, the Master of Ceremonies was Gözde Atasoy, and many renowned individuals from the media, business world, politics, and arts attended the ceremony including Aydın Doğan, the Founder and the Honorary President of the Aydın Doğan Foundation (ADV), and the Honorary Chairman of the Doğan Holding Aydın Doğan and his wife Sema Doğan; Hanzade Doğan Boyner, the President of the Aydın Doğan Foundation and Doğan Online Chairwoman; Begümhan Doğan Faralyalı, the Chairwoman of Doğan Holding; Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, the Deputy Chairwoman of the Aydın Doğan Foundation and Member of the Board of Doğan Holding; Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ, the Chairwoman of Doğan TV Holding; Arif Sağ, his son Tolga and his daughter Aslı Sağ; Yağmur Şatana, CEO of Doğan Holding; Aydın Doğan Yalçındağ, the founder and the CEO of BluTV; Candan Fetvacı, the Head of the Steering Committee of the Aydın Doğan Foundation; Erol Çamur, Member of the Board of ADV; Volkan Vural, Member of the Board of ADV; Kaya Erdem, former Speaker of the Grand National Assembly; former ministers Hüsamettin Özkan and Namık Kemal Zeybek; Fikret Bila, the Chief Editor of Hürriyet Newspaper; Erdoğan Aktaş, the General Manager of CNN TURK; Süleyman Sarılar, the Chief Editor of Kanal D Haber; Rifat Akkaya, Managing Director of Doğan News Agency (DHA) Board of Directors; Şükrü Genç, Sarıyer Mayor; Handan Toprak Benli, Avcılar Mayor; Ali Kılıç, Maltepe Mayor; Semahat Arsel, the President of the Vehbi Koç Foundation; Taylan Bilgel, Berna Tokar, İlhan Kesici, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi, Fikri Sağlar, Güneri Civaoğlu, Sedat Ergin, Murat Yetkin, Ozan Sağdıç, Mehmet Özbek, Nebil Özgentürk, Altan Öymen, Ferhat Boratav, Murat Özyeğin, İlhan Kesici, İbrahim Tatlıses, Yücel Paşmakçı, Eşber Yağmurdereli, Belkıs Akkale, Seher Dilovan, Erdal Erzincan, Hüseyin Turan, Ahmet Arslan, İzzet Altınmeşe, Sebahat Akkiraz, Sümer Ezgü, Mahsun Kırmızıgül, Onur Akın, Zara, Kubat, Ümit Tokcan, Ali Rıza Binboğa, Suavi, Koray Avcı, Zafer Mutlu, Kanat Akkaya, Mehmet Özer, and Verda Özer.


During the dinner following the cocktail party, the guests watched the foundation and the award introduction film. Speaking at the inauguration of the ceremony, Hanzade Doğan Boyner, Chairwoman of the Aydın Doğan Foundation, said that ADV has deemed it an important mission, for over 20 years, to award hard work, production, and success, and said, "We therefore give the Aydın Doğan Award every year to persons and institutions noteworthy in their accomplishments in culture, arts, literature and science. And this year we are very happy to be awarding a very respected artist who has been a pioneer in his field. Folk music is very important for all of us. However, it is folk music that comes to mind first, especially for my father. He is so passionate for folk music, he knows, and even sings, many songs. We are so happy to inform you that this year we decided to give awards in the field of Turkish Folk Music, adored very much by our board of directors, my father and my entire family. We are delighted to draw attention to the unifying nature of folk music for feelings, and to commemorate this universal asset altogether tonight. We have songs and melodies from different regions ranging from taşlama to uzun hava, lyric songs to ağıt, from zeybek to horon. But they all reflect the happiness, pain, joy, and sorrow of the people of this land. In short, folk music talks about us. These folk songs are what makes us who we are, they unify us, they make us stronger, and therefore, they are our biggest wealth".


Emphasizing that the Ministry of Culture has intense efforts to convey Turkish Folk Music to the following generations in the best possible way, Hanzade Doğan Boyner said, "Various music associations and entities provide important contributions to folk music. Our conservatories educate students. Our esteemed instructors are working selflessly in this field. It is our duty, altogether, to keep our folk music alive, to own up to our works of art, and to carry this unique music to universal dimensions. As a foundation, we are happy and honored to make a small contribution to this joint effort. One of the first names that comes to mind when we talk of Turkish Folk Music is no doubt Arif Sağ. Arif Sağ has been a representative of many innovations, continuing his unique searches in the field of Turkish Folk Music and bağlama."

Noting that Arif Sağ played a big role in introducing Anatolian music to the world arena, Hanzade Doğan Boyner ended her words as follows: "Not only did he not become a master artist rich in repertoire and emotion, he inspired and guided many young individuals at the Istanbul State Turkish Music Conservatory. Tonight, it is a great excitement and honor for me to present our award to our beloved Arif Sağ who has given his very soul to bağlama. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to him for embracing our culture and introducing this valuable art to different cultures, in addition to the huge wealth he has brought into Turkish Folk Music. I would like to congratulate dear Arif Sağ with all my heart, and I hope that his contributions to Turkish Folk Music and Turkish culture will continue for many more years to come. I wish you a long and healthy life, dear Arif Sağ …"


After Hanzade Doğan Boyner's speech, Arif Sağ's introductory film was shown. Then, Aydın Doğan, the Founder and the Honorary President of the Aydın Doğan Foundation (ADV), and the Honorary Chairman of Doğan Holding gave the award statuette to Arif Sağ.


Answering the questions of the members of the press after receiving the award, Arif Sağ said, "The Aydın Doğan Foundation deeming me worthy of such an important award is a significant matter. All artists are good. They all have their own talents. Some make beautiful paintings, some write good poems, some write good novels, some make good music. They all do something, but they are all artists. I accepted this award because of the fact that the Aydın Doğan Foundation is a non-governmental organization. It is therefore important for me..."

When the members of the press asked, "Do you have any messages to the recipients of this award after you?" and "How, in your opinion, does the young generation see Folk Music?", he said, "Those who are worthy of this task should undertake it. I cannot make the decision for that. The Foundation decides on that. They sit, discuss it among themselves, come to a decision, and then award the prize to whoever is worthy of it. And they do listen to Folk Music. And they are loving it, too, in my opinion. But of course the language has changed, maybe the rhythm of the music has changed. Maybe the harmonization has also changed, but after all, you take a look and see that they talk about Karacaoğlan, Pir Sultan Abdal, Aşık Veysel. Apparently this young generation knows these names. They do know them, and they do listen to them". When asked, "How did you feel when you received the award?", he answered "If I did deserve this, then there is nothing wrong there. But if it is merely out of respect, there is a problem. I would not believe that brother Aydın would just hand out awards out of respect."


In his statement on the first page of the booklet prepared for the ceremony and handed out to guests, Aydın Doğan noted that the traditional folk songs (türküs) are the language of the society, and said "Our people have always told about both their love and their sadness through türküs. These folk songs are the mirrors for the society. It is possible to follow the traces of social change from centuries ago up until the present through türküs. They are what makes us who we are, they unify us, they make us stronger, and it is without any doubt that they are our biggest wealth. I have grown with traditional folk songs. Their place in my heart is very special. There were songs that accompanied various periods in my life, that I always found myself singing. I love folk music. What can you replace with a song you listen to from a master performer?"

Aydın Doğan, "Arif Sağ is one of those master performers… He has dedicated his life to Turkish Folk Music, he touches us deeply with the lyrics he comes up with from the bottom of his heart, he plays the strings of our hearts as well with his bağlama, and a supreme master who has created an école which will be his heritage for the new generations! As the Foundation, we are proud to be presenting the Aydın Doğan Award to him this year. I wish Arif Sağ many healthy years to come filled with folk music, music notes, and the bağlama"


After the speeches, Arif Sağ demonstrated a brief performance with the drum. Then, the chorus constituted by TRT Chorus chief Zafer Gündoğdu, Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory students, and TRT strings gave a mini concert. Turkish Folk Music performers including Mehmet Özbek, İzzet Altınmeşe, Belkıs Akkale, and Erdal Erzincan performed live together with the chorus. Then a group of Sağ’s students and artist friends sang türküs altogether. İzzet Altınmeşe, one of the performers performing live, got down from the stage, went to the table where İbrahim Tatlıses is sitting, and they sang together. Then, Aydın Doğan went to the duo performing together.. Aydın Doğan, born in Gümüşhane Kelkit stood up, and sang along, when TRT performer Aysun Gültekin was singing the song ‘Kelkit’in altı bağlar’. Aydın Doğan congratulated Gültekin after her performance. During the evening, the guests showered Aydın Doğan and Arif Sağ with love and appreciation. Many guests came to the table where Aydın Doğan and Arif Sağ were sitting, chatted together, and had their photographs taken. On the other hand, İbrahim Tatlıses also went to the table where Arif Sağ was sitting, and kissed his hand (a gesture of respect in Turkey).

Following the concert, the award ceremony ended after Aydın Doğan, Hanzade Doğan Boyner, and Arif Sağ had photographs taken with the performers invited for the evening.


Who is Arif Sağ? Born in 1945 in Erzurum, Arif Sağ, established a connection with music starting from the ages of 3-4, through the rhythmic noises he heard at his father's mill. At the age of 5, he saw kaval, at the age of 6, he learned about gramophones and records; and at the age of 7, he learned of bağlama at the shop of Kumaş Dede in Erzincan. Until the age of 14, he learned about the âşık tradition here, and starting performing deyiş. When he came to İstanbul, he was a student of Nida Tüfekçi at the Aksaray Music Society. In 1963, he released his first record, ‘Gafil Gezme Şaşkın Bir Gün Ölürsün’. In 1965, he became a part of the İstanbul Radio as a bağlama performer. Arif Sağ became one of the most renowned names of the ‘45 record era’ which began around those years and lasted for approximately 20 years. During this period, he released close to 50 albums, and he composed over 200 songs. In addition to accompanying various performers with his bağlama, he also gave his compositions to numerous performers. He frequently used local motifs in his compositions. Arif Sağ, who became a lecturer at the Istanbul State Turkish Music Conservatory founded in 1975, started academic studies on folk music and bağlama during those years. In 1982 he left the conservatory, and founded 'Arif Sağ Müzik Evi' after his own name. In the same year, he performed his first bağlama recital at the İstanbul Şan Theater. In the 1980s, he started working outside the country, and he carried out activities to introduce our folk music and instruments in various European and Far Eastern countries.

He was the first folk music performer to have been elected a Member of the Parliament, and he served as an MP at the Turkish Grand National Assembly between 1987 and 1991. On May 5, 1996, he gave a concert with the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra at Cologne Philharmonic Hall, with the support of the German President Roman Herzog, which was a significant contribution in terms of promoting Anatolian music to the west. The concert he gave in 1996 with Cologne Symphony Orchestra, together with Erdal Erzincan and Erol Parlak in Cologne received great attention, and he was awarded a special prize by the Presidency the same year.

In 2000, he gave concerts in 12 different European cities with Spain's famous Flamenco guitarist Toma Tito, which in turn made sure he was recognized abroad, and received the appreciation he rightfully deserved In 2003, the performer gave a series of concerts together with the Lebanese performer Marcel Khalife, called "Kültürler Buluşması" (Cultures Meeting), and he also gave concerts in the Netherlands and in Turkey with another flamenco guitarist Gerardo Nunez in 2005. Among all these events, Arif Sağ did not neglect his instructor nature either. In addition to the courses he taught, the ‘Bağlama Metodu’ instructions he prepared with Erdal Erzincan were widely appreciated.