The sound of the kemençe‬ in Istanbul


More on Istanbul on another post but here’s one of the best things that happened to me.

I’m Greek. Greek people have a complicated migratory history and half my family comes from the Black Sea – near Trebizond in Turkey. This specific group to which my mother’s family belong to are called Pontic Greeks. I grew up with the dialect, the food and the music. It’s a special part of my family history and important to me.

The food, the music, the culture rarely belong to one group of course. And in certain parts of Turkey there are great similarities to what I grew up with to consider Pontic Greek.

My first night in Istanbul, as I was walking around with my brilliant friend A., I heard the sound of the kemençe‬, what we also call lyra in Greek.

“This is were we need to be”, I said to A. and we sat at a tiny table, in a tiny street and slowly drank turkish çay.

There were rhythms I could recognise, music that reminded me of my grandparents and summers spent at my mum’s village. There were people sitting around me, singing in Turkish along with the two musicians, and closing their eyes while doing so. Remembering, I assume, their own summers and their own family histories.

Weren’t we all, at that moment, in the midst of Istanbul’s never ending activity, travellers in space and time and rhythm?

I like to think we were.

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