On Saturday 25th June 2016, the mountain village of Nif celebrated its 16th Annual Cherry Festival.
İftar for all
It was quite literally the feeding of the 5,000! That’s how many people the Fethiye Municipality reported were welcomed to Nif’s small pastoral community, and even invited for dinner.
İftar – the meal eaten at sunset, to break the day’s fast during this Holy Month of Ramazan – was provided free to everyone (as is commonplace all over Turkey). This was incredibly well organised. Delicious, filling food was distributed to the whole gathering – accompanied of course, by a big plate of cherries for every table!
The festival begins
Festivities began with the Mehteran Gösterisi, a rousing brass, reed and drum performance, by musicians and singers in traditional Ottoman Janissary military costume.
A mystical quintet
Next it was the turn of the Tasavvuf musicians. This style of music is synonymous with Sufism; the mystical dimension of Islam.
A quintet playing traditional instruments – an Ud, a Kanun and violin strings, with a Bendir drum, accompanied by a modern keyboard – produced enchanting melodies.
Originally scheduled for the end of the evening, the Semazen dancers were next on stage. Known in the west as Whirling Dervishes, the two dancers performed an hypnotic, elegant, spinning-top-style display to the pleasure of the whole audience.
The evening’s celebrations ended with two comic stage performances.
Karagöz and Hacivat are traditional characters originating from the Ottoman period, as familiar to Turks as ‘Punch and Judy’ would be to Brits. Often brought to life in shadow-puppetry, in this case two live actors in colourful costumes took the roles. Although this was traditionally performed for adults, the word-play with slapstick by the performers delighted the many children, who flocked to the stage to watch them.
This was followed by a story of another traditional, comic character (usually puppet-portrayed, but again here brought to life by a live actors); the cunning İbiş and his friends, who concluded the night’s festivities.
The Nif festival is a reminder of how much Turkey retains its traditional folk-culture, and strong sense of community in the modern world.
Anthony Gerard Cooke is an actor from the UK, working under the stage name Gerard Cooke. Living in Fethiye since 2014, he founded ‘Mediterranean Theatre’ with the aim of producing professional theatre in South Turkey.