Music from the East meets the West: Üsküdar district, Istanbul

By | November 19, 2022

Istanbul’s music scene is unparalleled. The number of genres, devices and vocal kinds come to life within the mixing pot of East and West. Every neighborhood has its personal type – distinct structure, vogue, non secular expression, artwork and road life. Music performs a task in animating the tradition of a neighborhood.

Üsküdar, a sprawling neighborhood on the Asian aspect of Istanbul, has a robust style for custom and preservation and evokes the extra conservative features of Turkish non secular expression. On any given weekend, one can simply be overwhelmed with all of the scrumptious music to hearken to. It’s performed with the intention of evoking a spirit of divinity and oneness, or generally, the deepest reflection of the musicians’ soul.

Friday night, I had the pleasure of visiting two gatherings. One with a music instructor in Üsküdar named Hasan Kiriş, well-known as a tanbur participant, however recognized for his mastery of nearly each Turkish instrument put earlier than him. The tanbur is a long-necked fretted string instrument from Turkey, well-known for its derivation within the Ottoman Empire, used to play palace music. The musician should have a really delicate ear to differentiate and play fastidiously across the microtones of the instrument. Not solely is the instrument complicated in its look, however the sound additionally looks like it’s flying out of the instrument. For the sake of creativeness, it’s nearer to the Indian sitar, as an alternative of the excessive tone of the sitar, the tanbur consistently sounds a low tone, with its seven harmonic strings.

Hasan Kiriş in his studio in Üsküdar (photograph by: Hüseyin Kiriş)

Hasan Kiriş is consistently engaged on composition, and in Turkish music, composition could be very detailed and should at all times be written in particular types. For instance, Kiriş is engaged on making a Ayini, I piece which may final from half an hour to an hour which is performed in the course of the conventional Sema, a whirling dervish ceremony. The complexity of the Ayni Kiriş composes not solely should observe the shape that’s appropriate for the opening of the whirling dervish ceremony, however in his case he experiences the transition from a Makkam (or musical mode) to a different Makkam that has by no means been finished beforehand. Think about the concept of ​​two very distinct and even incompatible jazz scales, however that over the course of an hour the composer will intricately and delicately alter the trail of the music to deliver it to its finish level. That is the extent of element that’s current in Turkish music. The data wanted to play, compose and improvise (known as taksim), requires years of listening and apply.

One of many methods Turkish musicians apply is by becoming a member of mesh, one thing between a rehearsal and a ceremony. In a meshk, a sure sequence of tunes are chosen to elucidate a Makkam (musical mode), to point out the total vary of its variations and moods. Typically in a meshk a number of makkams are positioned aspect by aspect, slowly and thoroughly switching from one musical mode to a different, a lot as a composer is perhaps required to do in an extended composition.

Meshk doesn’t solely designate a time of musical research, it is usually with the purpose of bringing an elucidation to particular person and neighborhood spirituality. Every of the songs is non secular in nature, and the lyrics are each delicate and profound. Thus, a meshk is each a meditation on the subtlety of musical feeling for the musicians (and the viewers) and in addition a meditation on a sequence of poems that talk of divine love and human future.

Shaykh Issa Nessim Baba who hosts Friday Mesk each week on the dergah of Shaykh Issa Nessim in Üsküdar (Katherine Hreib)

A really well-known composer within the Turkish sema and meshk custom is Yunus Emre, who is understood to have composed 1000’s of Turkish Sufi songs. As a farmer and a poet, his lyrics converse of affection and land in a approach that at all times includes the factor of going past the world and love from human to human. In fact, we are able to solely know what’s in entrance of us, in order most poets do, they speak in regards to the mundane features of life to indicate the sentiments behind our ordinary emotions. On this instance, Yunus Emre has composed what would possibly at first be learn as a love letter, solely to exhibit a starvation for the depth of lived data: “My identify is Yunus, Every passing day kindles and awaken my flame, What I need in each worlds is identical: you’re the one I would like, you’re the one I need.” Yunus Emre’s compositions might be present in virtually each meshk, and with this instance, it’s clear that the meskh additionally intends to fan the flame of its listeners.

Meshk kinds differ extensively, normally reflecting the tradition of the band enjoying the music. Meshk is normally hosted not by a lay particular person, however at the least by somebody who’s both initiated right into a Sufi order or the grasp himself. As such, the type of meshk will immediately mirror the form of connection the Sufi order needs to elicit in each its college students and guests. For instance, if a grasp desires his college students to grasp the musical complexity of every musical mode, he’ll organize the items of music within the meshk to reveal the adjustments in each bit that may result in delicate internal emotions. One other grasp who enjoys the excessive vitality and neighborhood facet of a meshk might go for less complicated songs that many individuals can sing with out figuring out the music, very similar to easy people songs or lullabies. In every case, whoever arranges a meshk does so deliberately to elicit particular emotions within the musicians and individuals.

Every meshk or composition goals to deliver out or refresh a sense within the music, the musicians and the viewers. As we all know, in a efficiency, the performer and the viewers mirror one another. If the musician is bored, so is the viewers. If the musicians construct an area for collaboration, friendship and creativity, the viewers may also obtain a key to accessing these emotions inside themselves.