Our dinner plates had been cleared but we weren’t finished dining just yet. After sitting out on the patio at Goreme Restaurant we were lured inside for dessert and drinks by the traditional Turkish living room set up: loungy low-lying tables and cushions covered in beautiful fabrics. There’s a no shoe policy on these carpets, and should you need to get up to use the restroom there are plastic sandals waiting for you at the entrance to the tiled hallway. The lights are set low, yellow tones hit the beige walls and make everything a bit more subdued.
What was really happening inside was what I’d been waiting for the whole trip: traditional Turkish music coming from an instrument I’d never see before: the saz. An older man with pristine white hair and a dark face was strumming it. He’d been lost in the music for hours already. I recognized him from day one-he was almost a fixture at this place. Every day we passed by he’d be sitting out on the front patio during the off hours looping through a harmonious continuum, howling lyrics with the power to conjure up spirits from the otherworld. But it was a beautiful howl, one that held you captive with its perfect repetition.
The saz is a guitar-like instrument from the lute family. It has a tear shaped bulbous base and a thin neck that produces arresting notes, high pitched notes, notes that we don’t have a language for in Western music. (Literally. The saz has extra frets that produce notes not found in Western music.) Music man knocks the base of the saz while he’s strumming. It adds a deep base beat and then he fills the space with lyrics in a haunting voice that echoes in the back of his throat and makes everything else echo: the saz, the base, his voice, my body. There really aren’t words to describe something like this. You have to listen. You have to be there. Here.
We were now in his living room. He effortlessly switched between the saz and violin- picking up a different instrument that was part of the same journey. The sound is hypnotic, trance-like, leaving you somewhere other than where you started. It was a meditation and he was inviting us in. He motioned to me with an extended hand pointed towards the floor. He moved from his seated position to the middle of the room, plucking the violin while I danced next to him, unsure of how and what was appropriate. I slowly began to move, to feel it, to let my body do the singing. Someone gave me castanets to clack between my fingers, my friends joined in, and for a moment, the staff at the restaurant stopped what they were doing to partake. One of the waiters tapped out rhythms on a hand drum, another one sang vocals and floated through the dance circle. The ghost of a whirling dervish. His music had me whirling. It was the most beautiful conversation we never actually had.
Audio clip is of the music man on violin and MM on castanets.
Photo: Debarshi Das
Day 29 of 30; Postcards from Turkey