Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Terrific Terrifying Music

When we went to Istanbul, we went to the Military Museum to see the Mehter (Ottoman Janissary Band). The Janissaries were the private army of the Ottoman Sultans, and they included a military band whose job it was to help fire up the Ottoman troops, scare the daylights out of the enemy, and show newly-conquered peoples that their Sultan was the new boss. Though it is now pretty much just for show, the Mehter is the oldest military band in the world.

They do cut a pretty impressive figure as they march out.

The band plays lots of deep-sounding drums, the Turkish oboe known as a zurna, cymbals, and other instruments. The zurna and the deep drums give the band's music that characteristic "Turkish sound". Beethoven's "Ruins of Athens: Turkish March" echoes the "turning" march done by the Mehter in the video.

The Cannon and the Soldier

The band plays circled around the "Cannon of the Heroic Private Soldier Seyyid", built by the German Krupp factory for the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II to protect the Dardanelles. This cannon was built in 1889. Normally its heavy projectiles (276 Kg) would be loaded with a winch. At some point the winch was not available, so the Private Soldier named Seyyid carried the projectiles himself in a heroic effort. The statue next to the cannon in the two pictures below is of Seyyid.

Here you can see Seyyid peeking over the shoulders of the band.

In its various incarnations across multiple empires, Turkey has over a thousand years of military history, either as conquerors or conquerees. The splendidness of the Mehter, and of the museum as a whole, shows Turkey's pride in that history.

1 comment:

Katley said...

Hi, Sara,

I enjoyed your video on Turkish military bands very much.

Recently I posted something about the zurna and how it was brought over to Bulgaria by the Ottoman Turks.


Hope you don't mind me using it in my post, if there is an issue with that please let me know.