Thursday, September 1, 2016

Star of Antalya, Turkey

Turkish Baglamas Hanging From Ceiling
I am a people watcher.  The people we met during our vacation were a real source of peace.   There were so many “regular” people, ones trying their best to make a go of it, and spreading a little kindness on their way.  That’s refreshing as we are all trapped inside a big space that media controls, and we tend to see the negative aspects of the world.

I would like you to meet a few “normal” people in the next few posts.  For readers who come here to learn about Italy, I apologize for the deviation, but I feel a need to discuss the people I met during my vacation.  With so much hate in the world being shown on a day to day basis, it’s good to have a down to earth look at our fellow world citizens.  We have especially been watching Turkey these past few months.  The average working people are real stars, they work hard to have a better life, they do good things for the world, and they desire peace for all.  

Eren In His Shop
While in Antalya, Turkey I wanted to revisit Eren Toprak’s  baglama shop where I bought my first baglama two years ago.  A baglama is a funky looking guitar with four strings, and it has a fret that allows notes that are between the keys found on the piano, hence the out of tune sounds to our western ears when we hear it.  The baglama is rounded on the back of the strumming area, rather than flat like a guitar.  It is used a lot in folk music, but also in modern Turkish pop music.  It is a challenge for me, a trombonist to learn baglama.  On my last visit, Eren took me inside his workshop where he was carving and forming baglamas.  Believe me, this is a real technique that is to be respected.   There is a lot of work in forming the rounded part.

                                                       The Visit
We take  the tram from the old center of Antalya and in  5 minutes we arrive a few steps from his shop.  We are greeted with a big smile, and I see that he is trying hard to remember me, and suddenly he remembers my previous visit.  First off he offers us tea or coffee, which is a custom of all shop owners in Turkey.   We sit down with his friend who is also a musician.  We talk about baglamas, his performances, and then his family.  We struggle and use a lot of sign language.  He uses German, which helps a bit.  His wife arrives with their daughter.   He asks me how I am doing on the baglama, and I admit that I am lacking, but enjoying trying to play it.  I look at my wife, Orietta to see if she is bored, listening to two musicians talk about music, but she is not as she can see this man who is outwardly kind and gentle.   He has the spirit of a man who loves music and wants to share his gift with others.  We are kindred spirits, for sure.
                        Google only accepted lowest quality of video, sorry.

After some conversation, he suddenly gets up and picks up a baglama behind his desk.  I know what is coming so I grab my phone and set up a video.  This is what you see here.  A few strums to check the tuning and he sits and immediately begins to sing and play.  About half way through he begins to thump a rhythm while strumming (something I struggle to do).  We sit, the mini concert is irresistibly charming.  Secretly I was hoping he would play as he is an expert and a trained musician at the University in Istanbul.  I have recorded this performance and hope it can be heard on your device.  
You can see his happy face, he loves music and loves playing for people.  You can see the face of Turkey.  The face of a many people we met along the way.  

Eren sells a lot of baglamas to tourists who want something interesting to take home.  On my last visit there was a couple from Germany, and the wife was not a musician but wanted a baglama.  I watched the process as she was shown various ones and he played them all.  Eventually, she picked one.  This year his business in this respect has been hit hard with first the explosion in the airport in Istanbul and then the attempt to take over the government has scared most of the foreign tourists away.  All of Turkey is suffering in this way.  They need tourist dollars.  There is no way this can be fixed, the people of Turkey are on a roller coaster ride they cannot get off.  We can only feel compassion for them.

The concert is not over, however, as he moves to a Korg piano, which has Arabian drum loops, and he pushes a few buttons, turns on a microphone and begins to sing Turkish pop, while the piano is banging out a rhythm most of us would  think to be belly dancing drum music.  In his shop, the sound is loud and people walking by on the street slow and take a good look.  We are grooving Turkish!!!  We are treated to three songs and more conversation.  We use a lot more sign language, and he uses more German, thank goodness I was forced to take German when working on my graduate degree.    I look for a large drum I have wanted to bring home, but I do not  see any in his shop.  He signals, “Wait” and disappears into his workshop, and  comes out with a large drum.  It is exactly what I wanted, and he makes a sale while I consider how it will fit in my suitcase.  My wife is being kind right then.  She is not saying much.  (Earlier we stopped at a craft store, and this has saved me.)

We have one other  place to go, a knife shop where they make chef’s knives.  (Next blog post)  So we say goodbye and promise to return next summer.  We shake hands, thank him for the drinks, the drum, and wish him well.  He does the same, and we step out into 100-degree heat heading for our next stop.  It was a good day.  My hope for Eren is that his world will be calm and the tourists will return.  
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