The tulum, a kind of traditional Turkish bagpipe popular in the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey has made its way south west, to Fethiye. The sound of this instrument and the person who plays it is becoming the focus of local interest and local resident, Anne Mckay, suggested we should pay him and his bagpipes a visit. We ventured up to the residential district of Ovacik to find out what all the fuss was about.

Local bar owner, Yıldıray Ferah came to Fethiye all the way from Rize, on the Black Sea in the north of Turkey, via Ankara and the UK, 15 years ago, to establish a small friendly bar in a residential part of Ovacik; however, he felt there was something missing, something that would remind him of his far away home on the other side of the country. So, earlier this year he put things right when he invested in something, that although was very popular in his home region, is very unusual on the Mediterranean coast. He has surprised his British neighbours and Turkish ones too, for Yıldıray has bought a set of Tulum – Turkish bagpipes.

A breath of air comes to Fethiye from the Black Sea from fethiyetimes on Vimeo.

A new sound for Fethiye

Yıldıray admits that his wife, Vicky, wasn’t too happy at the prospect of her husband practising for hours on the tulum, all too aware of the cacophony that might result, but the same cannot be said of his neighbours in Ovacik, who are catching him on film whenever they get the chance and supporting the 44 years old with his new found passion. Although very a beginner, as Yıldıray has a musical talent and already plays several other instruments, so he has progressed remarkably quickly for one that requires three separate actions to play it.

Black Sea bagpipes come to Fethiye

He told us:

To begin with it was pretty difficult playing the chanter with both hands without being able to actually see what you are doing, while at the same time consistently squeezing air out of the bag and blowing more into it through the mouthpiece!”

Come September, Yıldıray says he wants to fly off Babadağ playing the Tulum. It’s early days, but watch this space to see what happens.

Yıldıray plans to paraglide from Babadağ playing the tulum
Yıldıray plans to paraglide from Babadağ playing the tulum

A very brief history of the Tulum

A musical instrument that has been around for millennia, the Tulum (also known as gayda) is a variety of bagpipes, usually played by the Laz and Hamsheni peoples of Anatolia, and it plays an very important part in traditional Black Sea Music, that is still very popular today, as Selim Bölükbaşı clearly shows in this recording.

A Tulum (Turkish for a bag made of goatskin) is made from just that, and its two chanters, together with the blowpipe and they are made from the animal’s bones. It is considered to be the instruments of transhumance shepherds and their transhumance (biannual-nomadic lifestyle).

Most popular with the Laz and Hamsheni peoples it is a much loved instrument featuring in the traditional music of Pazar, Hemşin, Çamlıhemşin, Ardeşen, Fındıklı, Arhavi, Hopa, some other districts of Artvin and in the villages of the Tatos mountains(between the provinces of Rize and Trabzon) of İspir.

Evidently there are two reasons generally considered to be why so little is known about their history. First they were played in a society where there was, at the time, no literary tradition. Also, as they are completely made from organic (animal) materials, they do not survive forever… but most experts consider the tulum to be one of the most ancient.

Tulum ve Kuş paylaşan: karadenizmuzik
Believed to have originated in India around 3,000 years ago, they gradually worked their way across the world, arriving in England with the Roman invasion around 43AD. According to this article in the Scottish newspaper, The National, it is from the 15th century onwards that the bagpipes appear to have really caught on in Scotland.

We found these websites for anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating instrument:

Wikipedia: Bagpipes

Bagpipes history: Rome and the ancient world

Selim Tarım: videos of various traditional Turkish instruments including the tulum.