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TURKISH TRADITIONS


FOLK TRADITIONS

 

Folkmusic

The lively Turkish folkmusic, which originated on the steppes of Asia, is in complete contrast to the refined Turkish classical music of the Ottoman court. Until recently, folkmusic was not written down, and the traditions have been kept alive by the "asiklar" (troubadours). Distinct from folkmusic is Ottoman military music, now performed by the "mehter takimi" (Janissary Band or Ottoman Army Band) in Istanbul, which originated in Central Asia, and is played with kettle drums, clarinets, cymbals, and bells. The mystical music of the Whirling Dervishes ("Mevleviler") is dominated by the haunting sound of the reed pipe or "ney", and can be heard in Konya during the Mevlana Festival in December.

 

Folkdances

Each region in Turkey has its own special folkdance and costume, and the best known of these are listed below:

 

   a) "Horon" - This Black Sea dance is performed by men only, dressed in black with silver trimmings. The dancers link arms and quiver to the vibrations of the "kemence" (a primitive kind of violin).
 

   b) "Kasik Oyunu" - The Spoon Dance is performed from Konya to Silifke and consists of gaily dressed male and female dancers '”clicking” out the dance rhythm with a pair of wooden spoons in each hand.
 

   c) "Kilic Kalkan" - The Sword and Shield Dance of Bursa represents the Ottoman conquest of the city. It is performed by men only, dressed in early Ottoman battle dress who dance to the sound of clashing swords and shields, without music.
 

   d) "Zeybek" - In this Aegean dance, colorfully dressed male dancers, called "efe," symbolize courage and heroism.

 

Folk Heroes

   a) Nasrettin Hoca - A 13th-century humorist and sage from Aksehir. His witticisms are known throughout Turkey and are often used to make a point.
 

   b) Karagöz - Another jester, said to have lived in Bursa in the 14th century and now immortalized as a shadow puppet. Karagoz is a rough man of the people, who uses his ribald wit to get the better of his pompous friend, Hacivat. The puppets are made from gaily painted, translucent animal skin and safe projected onto a white screen.
 

   c) Yunus Emre - The 13th-century philosopher-poet is one of Turkey's national treasures. His basic themes were universal love, friendship, brotherhood and divine justice. His simple and pure writing brings out a deep meaning for his readers and although he lived over 700 years ago, his work is still timely and thought provoking.
 

   d) Köroglu - A 15th-century folk poet, K6roglu was a role model for his contemporaries and a hero of his time. His adventures have been recounted for centuries with prestige and vigor and perhaps now with more interest than ever. Koroglu was one of the first people to pioneer the ideal of unconditional help for the poor and down-trodden. He was also a great champion against the confines of government control and harassment.

 

Traditional sports

  a) Yagli Güres.- "Grease Wrestling" is the Turkish national sport and every year, in July, wrestling championships are held in Kirkpinar, outside Edime. The contest is made more difficult by the fact that the wrestlers smear themselves with oil.
 

   b) Cilrit Oyunu - The "javelin game" of daredevil horsemanship is a sport where wooden javelins are thrown at horsemen of opposing teams to gain points. The game is played mainly in Eastern Turkey. Also, in Selcuk, in the Aegean Region you can watch camel fights (in January), but if for some reason, weather does not permit, don't despair, camel fights are held in many small towns throughout the springtime. At Artvin Kafkasor, a different type of bullfight is held (in June).

 

POPULAR CUSTOMS

Hospitality: Hospitality is one of the cornerstones of the Turkish way of life. Following Koranic tenets and naturally friendly instincts, the Turk is a most gracious and generous host. Even the poorest peasant feels bound to honor his guest ("misafir") in the best possible manner. Hospitality is taken to such lengths that a foreigner often feels he is suffering from an overdose of it after being plied with food and drinks for hours and being unable to refuse anything, lest he hurt his host's feelings. In addition to ensuring a guest's material well-being, the Turk makes every effort to converse, no matter what linguistic barriers might exist. While most middle-class urban-dwelling Turks speak at least one European language, even the uneducated bravely struggle to make themselves understood, with remarkable success.

 

Turkish coffee houses: Even the smallest Turkish village has its coffee-house or "kahvehane", where men can talk, sip coffee, and play the national game of backgammon ("tavla"). In Istanbul especially, men can still be seen smoking their hubble bubble pipes ("nargile") in these coffee houses. Turkish baths: Owing to the emphasis placed on cleanliness in Turkish society, there have been public bath-houses ('hamam") in Turkey since medieval times. There are separate baths for men and women, or, when there is only one bath house in the town, different days or times of day are allocated for men and women. After entering the "hamam" and leaving one's clothes in a cubicle, one proceeds, wrapped in a towel ("pestemal") to the "gobek tasi", a large heated stone where one perspires and is rubbed down by a bath attendant. If the heat proves too much, one can retire to a cooler room for a while. This method of bathing is most refreshing and many of the old marble baths are very interesting, architecturally.

 


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