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The musicians of Anatolia: Carnival of Myriad Sounds
2002 / AUGUST

'And every year when spring opens its eyes on Mount Ararat, to the accompaniment of flowers, overpowering scents, colours, and copper-toned earth, the mountaier tall burly shepherds with beautiful sad black eyes and slender fingers bring their flutes to Lake Küp. Tossing their woollen capes at the foot of the red cliffs, over the copper earth and the thousand year old spring, they sit in a circle around the lake shores. Even before daybreak they take out their flutes beneath the twinkling stars blending into Mount Ararat, and begin to play the fury of the mountain. This lasts from sunrise to sunset.' So writes Yaşar Kemal in the Legend of Mount Ararat, and goes on to say that the flute players 'draw a great raging mountain from one slender flute.' For thousands of years the people of Anatolia have voiced not just rage but also joy, sorrow and exuberance in music. When the groom and his relatives go to fetch the bride, they enter the street where she lives with drums and zurna (a type of oboe), and the air rings with sound. Who does not remember, too, songs sung to the sweet strains of the violin,

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The musicians of Anatolia: carnival of myriad sounds
2002 / AUGUST

or the exhilarating beat of the darbuka drummers, their fingers moving in a race against lightning, as they pass the festive tables? When people dance the horon on the summer pastures of the misty Eastern Black Sea mountains, the kemençe (Black Sea fiddle) and bagpipe players wink mischievously at one another. On winter nights in the villages of Şavşat near the Georgian border, young girls play the accordion while those gathered in the houses sing and dance. Lifting their voices in good cheer they forget that the village is cut off by snow. Meanwhile, all along the Aegean coast from Germencik to Nazilli the wrestling camels are met with drum and zurna. When the clarinet players and members of the municipal band which has come to play marches before the wrestling commences get together they play duets of musical repartee. Spring comes to the Aegean like a festival, and in this season nothing diminishes the joy of the people of the village of Asiklar near Ödemiş, where almost everyone is a musician. They have every reason to be joyful, since the spring brings betrothals,

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The musicians of Anatolia: carnival of myriad sounds
2002 / AUGUST
weddings and circumcisions, and for musicians their daily bread is not in the lio'sc mouth but in their clarinets. Knowing that they cannot expect to play overtures on a zurna, they are content with whatever reward their audience sees fit to bestow! As weddings and festivities take place everywhere, in a Seljuk kervansaray in Avanos in Cappadocia the dervishes begin to whirl in the name of God and Mevlana, their spirits taking wing on the sounds of the ney (classical reed flute). These notes echoing from the stone dome touch the heart in a way that perhaps no other instrument is capable. Every region has its favourite instruments, the baglama (long necked lute) in Afyon, the çiftekaval (double flute) in Antalya, the drum and zurna in Çorum and the kemençe in Trabzon. In Artvin the accordion takes first place, followed by the bagpipes, kaval (shephrd'so flute) and drum and zurna; in Denizli the darbuka and tambourine; in Giresun the divan saz (a type of baglama with twelve strings), cura (small baglama), baglama, and reed kaval;
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The musicians of Anatolia: carnival of myriad sounds
2002 / AUGUST

and in Edirne the yelteme (a short necked lute with two strings), spoons, cymbal, bulgarin (baglama with four strings), darbuka and tambourine. The people of Gaziantep love the baglama and play the drum in a unique style of their own. Their zurnas are ornamented with silver bands and coloured braid and make a bright show in the streets. The baglama is the dembure in the local dialect of Mus, and in Malazgirt they play a kind of kaval called the bülür. In Kars the tar, an instrument with 11-14 strings and a large triangular body and played with a plectrum made of bull's horn is popular among those of Azeri origin. This extraordinary diversity of instruments in Anatolia produces an infinite variety of sounds, and a feast for our ears! There is no need for a guide to a village within sight, as they say and loud rousing music also has its place, so I don't think anyone will object if I rank the bass drum known as davul and the zurna as the main instruments of Turkey on the grounds that they are the essential accompaniments of celebrations, feasts and dances.

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The musicians of Anatolia: carnival of myriad sounds
2002 / AUGUST

The baglama is the instrument of minstrels in their contests of needle-like wit, and its emotion filled strains are also perfect for such occasions as bidding farewell to young men off to do their national service. Sometimes it waits on its hook on the wall for a man to return from working far from home, and sometimes is played by a woman at the henna ceremony preceding a wedding. The sound of Madam Anahit's accordion is heard in the backstreets of Istanbul, a city of many interwoven cultures where the sounds of east and west mingle. At tavern tables people recall the renowned tanbur player Cemil Bey and ney player Tevfik, and classical music is played in Haghia Eirene, Yerebatan Cistern and Yedikule Fortress. On nights when Anatolia is suffused with melodies, a shepherd plays his kaval beside a stream in Ardahan, and on the Street of Musicians in Birecik a young man plays the violin he loves as passionately as his girl.

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The musicians of Anatolia: carnival of myriad sounds
2002 / AUGUST

Even when the names of melodies have been forgotten, their echos linger on in valleys, streams, streets, courtyards, woods and the memories of brides and grooms. In Anatolia emotions are voiced in music, and musicians are spokesmen for the unspoken.

* Erdem Kabadayi is a freelance writer

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