Last week, on June 11th, a group of talented musicians came together for a unique concert in Kayaköy; one of Fethiye’s most historic and evocative locations.

The informal and relaxed evening celebrated music from the ancient region of Teke; showcasing exquisitely played traditional folk instruments and music that for a few hours filled the night air of Kayaköy’s old town square (meydan). Anyone there couldn’t help but wonder how many centuries had passed since the town, abandoned and crumbling since 1923 and the exchange of populations, had witnessed such an event.  

The timeless music of ancient Teke in Kayaköy

Where and what is Teke?

Most visitors to fethiye will hear about Lycia but Teke is not a region familiar with most people from outside Turkey. However, back in the 14th and 15th centuries it was the name for the geopolitical area that roughly stretched from Marmaris in the north, past Fethiye, to south of Antalya, and north as far as Burdur. Although the name is now consigned to the history books it has left a rich cultural legacy, particularly the music from period, which is still alive and being played in towns and villages all over this part of Turkey.

Map showing the historic region of Teke
Map showing the historic region of Teke

Researching Anatolian Culture

To make sure that the timeless sounds of Teke are recorded for posterity, a young musician and music teacher from Antalya, Emre Dayıoğlu, is working on a research project called A.K.A.T – Anadolu Kültürleri Araştırma Topluluğu (Anatolian Cultures Research Society). Travelling around the region with events’ organiser, Aytaç Gökdağ, they are creating opportunities to record the music and bring the sounds of Teke to highly appreciative modern audiences.

Kayaköy concert

Using a large tractor drawn flat cart as an impromptu stage, the evening concert gave the Kayaköy audience a unique opportunity to listen to extraordinarily dexterous instrumental and vocal performances, by musicians of all ages, from villages and town throughout the region.

AKAT Traditional Anatolian music concert in Kayaköy
AKAT Traditional Anatolian music concert in Kayaköy

Historical backdrop

TimelessAKAT:  Anatolian music in Kayaköy

The instruments they played would certainly have been heard in Kayaköy centuries ago and with the ruined town of Livissi providing a poignant and dramatic backdrop for the artists, the sights and sounds created a deeply evocative, haunting and thrilling atmosphere for the three hundred strong audience.

The timeless music of ancient Teke in Kayaköy

Irresistible rhythms

AKAT:  Anatolian music in Kayaköy
Ali Ulutaş and Mehmet Günay Eser

Most of the instruments that were played would sound unusual to foreign ears but for Turkish people the üçtelli, dörttelli, sipsi, bağlama, kaval, tırnak kemane, hegit, all specific to the Teke region, are much loved. As traditional melodies filled the night air, including the famous zeybek, a dance of which even novices to Turkish music may have heard, it became irresistible for the audience, who began clapping, while others danced!

The timeless music of ancient Teke in Kayaköy

Grand finale

At the end of the evening there was a great surprise for the audience. Just as everyone thought the evening was over, a French musician climbed onto the stage bearing a gadulka, a Bulgarian stringed instrument. Together with kemane (violin) player, Ali Ulutaş, they improvised some wonderful melodies.

AKAT: Anatolian music in Kayaköy

Celebrating traditional music

Speaking after the concert, Aytaç Gökdağ said:

AKAT is a crucially important project to research Teke’s music and to bring musicians together. We are making sure that their unique and beautiful music continues to live and thrive. To listen to these centuries old instruments in Kayakoy, where Anatolian Greeks once lived, highlights our desire for peace and brotherhood and adds to the richness of this evening’s performances. It is also a way to rekindle the links between our ancient cultures.

Gökdağ hopes that there will be many other opportunities for similar concerts in different villages around the region in the future.

Many thanks to Levent Sarı for giving us permission to use his photographs.