Ottoman band marches world
BURSA - Doğan News Agency
The northwestern town of Bursa’s Ottoman-style military band, known as “mehter,” and folkloric songs chorus has been to eight countries in one year, covering a distance of 60,000 kilometers.
The traditional mehter band is the Ottoman marching band, also called the “janissary band.” The sound of the Ottoman military band is characterized by an often shrill sound combining bass drums, horns, bells, triangle and cymbals, among others. The mehter band also has a typical marching style of three steps forward and one step sideways.
This year, the band participated in festivals in Germany, Italy, Holland and France. It also performed at the Military Bands Festival in China’s Nanchang city organized between Oct. 20 and 28.
The Bursa band was formed in 1963 and performed for the city and its vicinity until the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. The coup leaders banned mehter bands and for 10 years it was only the military band of the General Staff that was able to perform in the country.
The Bursa mehter band was formed again in 1991 when volunteers came together. In 2003, current head Mesut Özkeser launched an initiative and the band’s activities accelerated. Özkeser contacted countries that organized military band festivals. While the band only managed to visit three countries from 1999 to 2005, after Özkeser’s initiative, 35 countries were visited in the last six years.
The Bursa mehter band covered a distance equivalent to circling the world 1.5 times. Its visit to China last month was upon an invitation of China’s military band’s festival. The band has a hard time meeting the high demand of invitations from all around the world.
In the countries the band has visited in the past six years, Özkeser said, crowds admired the band’s performances. “Whichever country we visit, we are definitely invited for the following year. Almost everyone knows now that we are the oldest military band in the world.”
In Italy, the band was greeted with the Turkish National Anthem and in China, during the festival march, more than 100,000 people listened to their concert, he said. “Chinese people were competing with each other to have a souvenir photo with us and we have been invited to the festival to be organized in Hong Kong in 2012.” he added. “We used to be invited to Turkish Days in Europe. Now, very famous festivals invite us.”