Young ‘mehteran’ group draws huge interest across nation
Twenty-seven children, aged 7 to 15, were brought together by İsmail Uslu and began performing as Turkey's youngest janissary band. Turkey's first mehteran (Ottoman janissary band) group made up of young members has attracted a great deal of attention across all of Turkey's provinces, many of which have lined up to host them for a concert during the holy month of Ramadan.
These 27 children, aged 7 to 15, were brought together by İsmail Uslu and started performing as Turkey's youngest janissary band. Last year was a turning point for the Mehter 1453 group. The band became the focus of attention when they performed their first concert on May 19. Now, provinces throughout the country are rushing to host Mehter 1453 for concerts during the holy month.
Uslu, the coordinator of the group, said their schedule has already been filled up for Ramadan. “Mehter 1453 has gained unimaginable and unexpected popularity among a great number of fans, particularly among other children. Our young mehterans have been rushing from one concert to another for the last few weeks. They have received many requests to perform from almost all Turkish cities, and their schedule is now full. They have even received a request from Russia,” Uslu noted.
Mehter 1453, Turkey's youngest janissary band, became the focus of attention when it performed its first concert last year. Now, Mehter 1453 is being invited to perform concerts in provinces throughout the country during the holy month of Ramadan. The coordinator of the group said the band's schedule has already been filled up for Ramadan
The group has also started preparations for an album, which is expected to be released before the end of Ramadan. “The album will cover 12 mehter songs. We have picked the Genç Osman song for the first music video of the album,” Uslu remarked. Uslu says he is lucky to be working with a group of ambitious youngsters. “Our work and effort is not for a short-term project. We have embarked on a long-lasting project. The children's ambition is very important for us because our work necessitates a high level of discipline,” said the coordinator.
Twenty-seven children, aged 7 to 15, were brought together by İsmail Uslu and began performing as Turkey's youngest janissary band.
The youngest member of Mehter 1453, Tolga Er, who is only 7 years old, is like the mascot of the team, according to Uslu. Shocked by his father's paralysis around three years ago, Tolga had difficulty adapting to school life. The young boy, however, grew ambitious in his lessons after he joined the janissary band, which did not escape the attention of his teachers. Tolga's teachers believe he enjoys school now thanks to the efforts of his band mates.
Band members selected from among 400 candidates
Aiming to establish a group of performers which would be a first for Turkey, Uslu started preparations for the country's youngest janissary band around a year ago. He met with music teachers he knew and picked around 400 children who had musical talent.
The candidates were subjected to a series of tests to determine their talent in rhythm. As a result, 27 of these children were selected for the band. These lucky and talented children received around eight months of training on rhythm. “Our children set a good example for professionalism and ambition. One of the differences in our janissary band compared to other groups is that our group includes female members. Our band received training from professional janissary bands such as İstanbul Büyükşehir, Fatih and Eyüp,” Uslu said. He also said he plans to open a school for young children who wish to train professionally in mehteranship.
“As is known, there had never been a janissary band bringing together children in the past. Though our band members have difficulty carrying the instruments of the janissary band or playing some of them, they complete their concerts with the help of their elders. Now we are planning to complete our work on the album as soon as possible. Then we will create a music video,” Uslu added.
What is an Ottoman janissary band?
Ottoman janissary bands are thought to be the oldest type of military marching band in the world. The band's music is called janissary music because the janissaries formed the core of the bands.
It is believed that the first janissary band was sent to Osman Gazi, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, by Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin III as a present along with a letter that saluted the newly formed state. From then on every day after the afternoon prayer, the janissary band played for the Ottoman sultan. In the mid and late 19th century, however, the tradition went into decline along with the Ottoman Empire. But in 1953, the janissary band legacy was fully restored as the band of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on the occasion of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the fall of İstanbul to Ottoman forces. Today, the janissary band is largely ceremonial and considered by many Turks as a stirring example of heroism.
The standard instruments employed by the band are the kös (a large bass drum resembling the timpani), the nakare (a small kettledrum), the davul (a frame drum), the zil (cymbals), the kaba zurna (a bass variety of the zurna), the boru (a kind of trumpet) and the cevgen (a kind of stick bearing small concealed bells). The different varieties of bands are classed according to the number of instruments and musicians employed: either six-layered (altı katlı), seven-layered (yedi katlı) or nine-layered (dokuz katlı).
22 August 2009, Saturday