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The disappearing Yoruks and their music

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    The disappearing Yoruks and their music * Nowadays only a small group of these nomadic people are seen around the Taurus mountain range. They are the last of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 1998
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      The disappearing Yoruks and their music

      * Nowadays only a small group of these nomadic people are seen
      around the Taurus mountain range. They are the last of the Yoruks,
      the remnants of a disappearing way of life in which, once upon a
      time, thousands of them cared for the soul of the Taurus with
      their songs and pipes


      Izmir - Turkish Daily News

      When you turn your face to the Taurus Mountains, you breathe in the
      smell of wild thyme from the cold breeze which wafts over you, wave
      upon wave; and as your ears grow accustomed to the atmosphere, don't
      be surprised if you hear a tune and the chattering of children. This
      is the nomadic Yoruks singing. A joyful people, living cheek by jowl
      with the changing face of nature, year after year. This is the song of
      the wanderer of nature. It is "Hada" and "Hollu." You feel their
      loves, the song and the sound of the shepherds who nurture their sheep
      and the voices of young girls who sing about their loves-to-be.

      The music and singing of the Yoruks carries their life to us and
      recalls the nights when they made a fire under the stars. They
      accompany their singing with instruments such as the kemane (small
      upright violin), the uctelli (like a small saz), the sipsi (small
      pipe), the kaval (flageolet-shepherds' pipe) and the bone pipe,
      instruments which hold a prominent place in their lives and tradition
      and which they carry with them until death.

      yoruk1.jpg (17524 bytes) Yoruks are thought to be the oldest surviving
      inhabitants of the Taurus Mountains and the last example of the
      nomadic tradition that was once such a feature of Anatolian culture.
      They have been living as nomads among these formidable mountains for
      centuries with a freedom that no person and no power has been able to
      dominate or take away, including the Ottoman Empire that tried to
      manage them and even attempted to take taxes from them. Over time many
      have settled but the tribal way of life has survived. Of those who are
      settled, there are some who revert to the pastoral way of life as soon
      as spring arrives: they leave the towns and cities and take their
      flocks to higher pastures for grazing.

      A brief history of the Yoruk

      Throughout the duration of the Ottoman Empire, all of the nomadic
      peoples of the Empire, including the Yoruks, suffered because the
      imperial system did not want to tolerate nomads. As the Ottoman
      officials could not collect taxes from nomadic people, they tried to
      make them settle. This was found to be largely impossible because the
      Yoruks and other nomadic groups wanted to continue living freely in
      nature, and they revolted. Consequently, especially between the 17th
      and 18th centuries, these rebellious groups were sent into exile to
      various places including Cyprus and Rakka -- now in northern Iraq --
      but nothing stopped them from returning to their motherland; it is
      said that some managed to escape from the ships and come back to
      Anatolia. Even exile proved a hard task for the Ottoman authorities
      when, between 1764-66, a group of Yoruks revolted on Cyprus,
      continuing their struggle to return for nearly two years.

      During this period of exile the Yoruks were sent to places a great
      distance from their traditional grazing lands and to areas that were
      unsuitable for them, thus they were forced to settle. Such official
      policies destroyed their lifestyle and the majority of them ended up
      settling in every part of Anatolia. Even after the founding of the
      Turkish Republic their numbers decreased rapidly and now only a few
      are to be found still living as nomads.

      Yoruk culture

      Yoruk communities are found in nearly every part of Turkey, but
      especially in Konya, Karaman, Kutahya, Mersin, Nevsehir, Aydin and
      Sivas. They live in big tents and can be distinguished from other
      groups by their tent style, of which there are three types made from
      wool or goat hair slung from a long pole and divided into two or three

      Yoruks are not agriculturists, they are stock-breeders and meet their
      other needs through exchange or trade. Stock-breeding is so important
      that some communities take their group name from the specialty of
      their animals. They are very successful at weaving kilims and carpets
      and other handmade goods. Their handicrafts have great significance
      and also explain their lifestyle and stories. Yoruk carpets are very
      different from other carpets and every design has a meaning. They are
      called "talking carpets" by some experts as through them it is
      possible to learn every detail about the life of the girl or woman who
      wove each carpet. Also, representations of nature can be seen in all
      their handiwork.

      The Yoruks have a great love of music and carry their instruments
      everywhere -- hence their instruments are small and light. Every Yoruk
      shepherd can play an instrument such as the Kaval, Kemane, or Sipsi.
      In general they play alone, but in ceremonies they may play with a
      group and perform their popular songs. Nearly every song has a
      connection with animals and they use rhythm and melody to give
      direction to their herds. Instruments are played by men and children
      and the women generally sing. One of the important music types for
      women is Bogaz Calma, which is also called Hollu and Hada. This music
      is found amongst the Yoruk groups living around the Taurus mountains.

      Recorded research

      Yoruk music and singing can be heard on a recently released CD and
      cassette entitled "Yoruklerde Muzik ve Bogaz Calma," which is the
      culmination of the first part of Levent Ergun's research into the
      Yoruks, which began in 1996. Ergun is a music researcher and lecturer
      at Dokuz Eylul University's Fine Arts faculty. The recording contains
      the special colors of Yoruk music and gives an insight into their
      life, such as traditional storytelling and old types of song with
      primitive instruments, and aims to introduce and draw a picture of
      Yoruk music, culture and their forgotten lifestyle.

      Ergun explained the reason behind his research saying: "We are nearly
      at the end of the lifestyle of the nomadic people and I can say that
      the people who we studied are the last representatives of their
      community -- we may not see any of them ten years from now because the
      new generation is moving to the big cities or has adapted to the
      settled way of life. Once this older generation has gone we will lose
      their traditions, lifestyle and culture and we will no longer be able
      to find out anything about one of Turkey's important communities."

      He continued: "We hope to bring their traditional music to light and
      through it to rescue their culture from extinction. Through this
      recording we can draw a small picture of Yoruk music, with special
      focus on Bogaz Calma. It is based on two years of work carried out by
      myself and my teacher, Dr. Yetkin Ozer. A lot of examples of Bogaz
      Calma and some other examples of Yoruk music from different parts of
      the country are heard in this recording. I went to the countryside
      many times and lived with them and recorded their music, lifestyle and
      other specialties. I should add that this research is the first of its

      Part of a cultural series

      The cassette is produced by the specialist Kalan Music Company which
      plans to prepare a cultural series. The cassette's information page
      includes details about the Yoruk musicians and the featured music.
      Ergun explained that they expect no profit from the cassette and
      explained, "After we finished the first part of our research Kalan
      Music Company joined us and explained that they wanted to prepare a
      traditional music series which would include our research." The
      Mediterranean Archeology Institute is sponsoring the research.

      The first part of the cassette begins with one of the oldest
      traditional music forms of the Yoruks, Bogaz Calma -- a kind of
      primitive music made by playing the throat with the fingers in a
      similar way to playing a pipe. This kind of music is done by young
      girls before marriage to communicate with the shepherds in the
      countryside. It also has a sexual meaning and young Yoruk girls use it
      to announce their love when they are alone, or simply to express their

      Ummuhan Celik, who is nearly 75 years old, performs some of the music.
      She lives in a village in Antalya. Ergun related her story: "She is
      one of the most important sources of my research and I was keen to
      record her singing because that type of song is normally only
      performed by girls before marriage and those who perform thereafter in
      front of everybody, especially men, are open to the scorn of their
      community. It was hard to persuade her, but in the end she agreed to
      sing, and then only with me.

      "Ummuhan is from the Karakoyunlu (Black Sheep) nomadic tribe and she
      still continues her traditions despite living in the city," said
      Ergun. He added, "Only old women know this traditional type of music
      because it is not used after marriage and also because those who have
      been brought up in the city have not maintained the tradition.

      "Nomadic women can't play any kind of instrument, due to their
      traditions, so with Bogaz Calma they explain their emotions and
      feelings to their love. They use it as playing a pipe but at the same
      time they sing and use very poetic words about love. They also use it
      to tell the old stories and they mix it with tales of love and details
      of their pastoral life. You can't find Bogaz Calma in other nomadic
      groups," Ergun said.

      Copyright 1998, Turkish Daily News. This article is redistributed with
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