In this paper, I share my experiences and reflections as well as some released embodiment techniques that emerged during workshops I facilitated as a part of the Mother Tongues Festival 2018 and 2019. The program is organized by Mother Tongues (https://mothertongues.ie) to celebrate UNESCO International Mother Language Day with theatre, performance, dance, music, literature and visual arts. The creative workshops I facilitated were entitled “Yaz Dostum (Write my Friend)” (https://mothertonguesfestival.com/dublin/yaz-dostum-drama-workshop) and they were based on the songs of Turkish artist Barış Manço, who passed away in 1999.
Manço was one of the founders of the Anatolian rock movement, which is a synthesis of Turkish folk music with rock influences. His lyrics often follow a modernized version of folk poetry. These aspects of his songs aided me in designing 45-minute drama workshops involving rich bodily expression. The participants of the workshops ranged in age from seven to 55 years. There was a rich language variety in the workshops: Turkish, English, Romanian, Italian and German native speakers and Turkish-English, English-Irish bilinguals. Participants were invited to participate in Manço’s songs through role-play, improvisation and some body movement. In addition, they were asked to produce some language or use some language through experiencing his songs. Similarly, this paper aims to share the artist’s work by way of embodiment. It can be said that this paper shares the concern of the workshops: how an environment for embodiment can be created with the help of Manço’s song lyrics and his music.
Starting with a semantic exploration of embodiment is a helpful first step to convey the practice of the workshops. The definition of “embody” as a verb is “to be an example of or express (an idea or another abstract concept) and to include as part of a whole” (Collins English Dictionary 2007, p.293). Roget’s Thesaurus categorizes “embody” under “abstract relations” and as one of the synonyms of “join” besides unite, unify, centralize, incorporate, integrate, absorb, take in, soak up and assimilate. Accordingly, the “embodied” (adj.) is given as a synonym of one besides integrated, joined up and centralized (2002, p.32). Additionally, “embodiment” is given in the “abstract relations” section of “existence” and as a synonym of substance (2002, p.3). In addition to dictionary explanations, it is important to connect the meaning of embodiment with drama learning. Anderson (2008. p.461) articulates embodiment as knowing through physical awareness, which has a resulting somatic action. Somatic is defined as “a term that relates to knowing by means of doing” (p. 473). Drama connected definitions of embodiment help to provide a practical map for hands-on practice.
Workshop 1: “Yaz Dostum - Write My Friend”, 24 February 2018, Dublin.
The facilitator welcomed everybody with the song “Dostlar Merhaba” (2 minutes 3 seconds). The title of the song means “hello friends” and the most repeated word in the lyrics is “merhaba”, which means “hello”.
After the song, the participants were invited to write anything they wanted on the papers titled “Yaz Dostum - Write My Friend”. The papers were already on different walls of the workshop space.
The facilitator guided the participants to a picture of yellow boots and asked some questions about it. The picture was important as one of the songs used in the workshop describes a man with yellow boots.
This part included two songs of Manço’s, “Yaz Dostum - Write My Friend” and “Ali Yazar Veli Bozar - Ali Writes Veli Ruins”. The facilitator repeated “Yaz Dostum” with some melody and then invited participants to join her. It was a free rhyme session, as participants were all free to produce these two words how they wanted. The facilitator, as well as the participants, added some beat with their feet. When the rhyme and beats became smooth, the facilitator directed the questions in the lyrics to the participants, such as, “who does not love beauty can be called human?” and “who does not greet can be called brave?”. The participants automatically continued saying “Yaz Dostum” in their own ways.
After this step, the facilitator performed a repeated part of the song in order to create an embodied expression:
Yaz tahtaya bir daha (Write on the blackboard one more time) - Right hand writing something on the blackboard.
Tut defter kitabı (Take a note on notebooks) - Left hand like counting the fingers.
Sarı çizmeli Mehmet Ağa (Mehmet the Agha with yellow boots) - Bending and showing the boots on your feet.
Bir gün öder hesabı (will pay the bill) - Standing and making a half circle in the air.
The movements performed by the facilitator were almost the same as those performed by the artist. After practising the movements, the song was played and shown on the screen at the same time to invite participants to embrace the song and music together in their own way. When the song was played for the second time, the participants were invited to join in the song freely with their full body.
As a pause, the facilitator wanted participants to walk in the space and relax. Then they were divided into two groups. One group was given the sentence of “Ali Yazar-Ali Writes” and the other “Veli Bozar-Veli Ruins”. They said the sentences to each other several times. The facilitator paused them and continued with the rest of the sentences “Ali Yazar Veli Bozar - Ali Writes Veli Ruins. Küp suyunu çeker azar azar - Water gradually evaporates from the jug. Üzülmüşüm neye yarar - I am upset. How could this help? Keskin sirke küpüne zarar - The strong vinegar erodes the jug it is in”. The facilitator embodied these sentences by singing quietly, at high and normal pitch. The participants naturally picked up the embodiment and showed similar moments by trying to sing with the facilitator.
Picture 1-Mother Tongues Festival 2018, “Yaz Dostum-Write My Friend”, Workshop Performative Part
The facilitator brought a carton role and asked the participants to write their names on it. When everybody finished writing, the facilitator read out loud all the names on the carton. She gave sticky notes to everyone and asked them to write a word in Turkish and put them all on a wall. Then, she left some papers on the floor and asked everyone to write a sentence in Turkish.
Picture 2-Mother Tongues Festival 2019, “Yaz Dostum-Write My Friend”, Warm-Up Part
The facilitator brought a handkerchief and started to sneeze several times by saying “hapşu”. In order to guide the participants about what to say if somebody sneezes, she showed a flashcard with some sentences which are also from the lyrics of BarışManço’s song, “Nane Limon Kabuğu-Mint Lemon Zest”.
The flashcard was as below:
Hapşu - Sneeze
Çok yaşa - Live long
Sen de gör! - You too
Rahat ve iyi yaşa - Live well and comfortably
After this step, the facilitator played a video clip of Manço’s song and invited participants to join the song as they wished.
The facilitator left out the stones that she collected from Dollymount beach. She wanted everyone to take two stones. The facilitator said “Hal Hal - Ankle Bracelet” while she was hitting two stones that she was holding in each hand. Participants naturally joined in the rhyme with the stones they took. There was sound in the workshop space with stones and the words "Hal Hal". Then, the facilitator added some more lyrics and divided the group into two sub-groups. Participants continued with the stones but this time adding the lyrics and sort of answering each other.
There was a box of objects in the room: a scarf, a necklace, a glove, earrings and a postcard. The facilitator asked participants to look at the objects while they were listening to the song and create a story of a woman in pairs. They could write, draw or just tell the story. After providing some time, the facilitator asked participants to create a piece of the story in a “still image”. After a short discussion, all the participants listened to the “Hal Hal - Ankle Bracelet” song.
Lomas (2007, p.214) states that "if art is viewed as mediator in relation to nature and culture, then we may also view it as mediator of the authentic (nature) and the adaptive (culture) behaviors". In this sense, I regarded art as the main mediator and Manço's songs/art as the sub-mediator. I gave the role of facilitator to myself and partly to the participants also. I provided a fully participatory and interactive workshop environment as a result of Manço’s art.
Diagram 1 - Mediation
In terms of reflection, it was clear to me that not only did the participants affect the flow of my workshops but the songs of Manço also emerged as a mediator in the workshop. We did not change the lyrics of the artist but we focused on some pieces more than others, used some pieces only briefly, and we changed the tone and rhyme of some of the chosen word patterns (For example "Hal Hal - Ankle Bracelet", "Yaz Dostum - Write my Friend"). Embodiment came naturally through the creative process. During the creative process, it was difficult to recognize the shift from the facilitator’s pre-planned plans to the outcomes that emerged at the end of the workshops.
Diagram 2 - Flow of the workshops
As shown in the diagram, while songs were shaping the context, participants were shaping the facilitator's practice at the same time. The interaction can be best described with the metaphor of a river. A river sounds and seems different from a waterfall because it lets the smooth water flow inside, not directing from the top. This is similar to what Leman and Maes (2014, p.242) propose: "an interaction cycle with music is established, and this cycle can be considered as the basis for a sense-giving experience".
As the environment of the workshops was multilingual, body movements more than words helped for communication, not only among the participants but also between participants and between participants and the artist’s songs. This phenomena follows what Moore & Yamamoto (2012, p.11) suggest:
"Researchers agree that nonverbal communication is crucial to understanding one another; nevertheless, awareness of movement is often relegated to the periphery of consciousness, guiding our actions and reactions subliminally …The enhanced ability to study brain and body function is leading to a new understanding of the relationships among sensation, perception, cognition, emotion, and action."
They continue that some parallels between music and movement may be beginning to suggest themselves. “For example, the succession of impulse and repose becomes visible in moment as action and stillness. As this succession develops over time, patterns of tension and release begin to emerge. Melodic phrases of spatial design are underscored by rhythmic accents and the delicate interplay between limbs of the body begins to suggest consonant and dissonant harmonies" (Moore and Yamamoto, 2012, p.81). In parallel to this discussion, Leman and Maes (2014, p.237) put forward a similar discussion from an embodiment perspective by stating that “embodiment assumes the existence of mirroring processes that facilitate the encoding of expressive gestures into sounds, and the decoding of sounds into expressive gestures. Expressive gestures thereby form the common basis on which humans base their sense-giving engagement with music”.
In light of the discussions above, it can be said that the two drama workshops based on the music of Manço created a platform to combine body movements with music for embodiment. The embodiment started with Manço’s music and rhyme within his songs. The participants had a chance to explore the music and show what they felt with their bodies. How they expressed themselves through his music was also what his music meant to them. Thus, changing the rhyme and melody in their own ways was a brilliant proof of the embodiment process. The other reason for this change was the multilingual and multicultural environment of the workshops. As native tongues of the people lead them to have different musical habits, they tended to change the rhyme and melody of the artist according to their own background. After internalizing Manço’s music, his lyrics played a big role in the embodiment process. Firstly, his lyrics are full of sound harmony that makes repeating them easier and more fun. In addition, harmony gave the participants enough time to embody the lyrics. Secondly, the meaning of the lyrics is very powerful and gives messages to humanity. Even though it was not fully understood by the participants, they understood the reflection of overall meaning in his music. This is why they participated in the embodiment of some lyrics without any difficulty.
In other words, the artist wrote the lyrics in Turkish and composed according to Turkish music features but the universal messages for humanity were totally felt by the participants, who had different languages and cultural backgrounds.
Another observation I made was that the participants enjoyed the embodiment process and they began to repeat the words and rhyme naturally even after the workshop. The artist’s video clips also helped the facilitators to have an idea about body movements related to the song lyrics. One of the most interesting things in the workshops was the change of facial expressions during embodiment. The participants’ facial expressions were almost synchronized with the lyrics and musical tone of the songs. For example, they reflected hope, sadness and pride on their faces, accompanying the body movements. The question of facial expressions leading to body movements or body movements leading to facial expressions needs to be explored deeply. This question and exploring the other songs of the artist will be the focus of other drama workshops.
In terms of “layer of meaning”, the workshops achieved the transference of different meanings to the participants while they were exploring t through embodiment. In other words, they attempted to reach deeper meanings in the songs with the help of improvisations, still images and the other techniques. For example, “Hal Hal - Ankle Bracelet” was not only a song written for a young girl anymore. The participants examined the “layer of meaning” and reached the conclusions like “a girl who loves her freedom”, “life cycle”. It was an amazing observation, as Manço’s songs mainly include hidden messages for the listeners.
I believe that the mirroring process between workshop participants caused embodiment as well. Mirroring was definitely a natural process because the workshops created an interactive environment. As a result, even though the participants were free to express their own feelings and thoughts during the workshops, at the same time they also mirrored each other and changed their body movements accordingly.
To conclude, Manço’s songs provided a rich context for embodiment and meaning-making, this is why not only the same workshops can be offered to different groups with the same music pieces and videos but also different workshops with different songs and pieces can be designed for future studies in order to compare embodiment process.
Elif Kir was born and grew up in Türkiye, Istanbul. She gained her PhD in Applied Linguistics, Ankara University, with a comparative research of language teacher education in Türkiye and Germany. She was a Fulbright scholar at The University of Pennsylvania in 2005/2006; visiting researcher at Humboldt University Berlin in 2009/2010; and postdoctoral research fellow at Trinity College Dublin between 2017 and 2019. She has been taking professional Drama in Education Courses and Creative Drama Training since 2005, both in her home country and abroad. She has offered several drama workshops in different countries. Her interests include language, culture and iconic figures in Turkish culture. Elif Kır is currently a university lecturer at Istanbul Medeniyet University, Faculty of Education.
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