Teacher explores villages to record songs in Turkey’s SW
Music teacher Emre Dayıoğlu spends most of his time and money visiting remote villages in southwestern Turkey to document local music and dance in hopes of preserving it for future generations.
Carrying his üçtelli, a three-stringed instrument unique to the area, Dayıoğlu has visited dozens of villages across Turkey’s Teke region, recording local performances of traditional music and folkloric dances.
“If I don’t record these old songs and dances, they will disappear and be forgotten,” Dayıoğlu, who teaches music at a high school in his hometown of Kaş in Turkey’s Antalya province, told Anadolu Agency.
The varied sub-genres of traditional Turkish music are virtually unknown to Turkish youth, he said.
“One of the reasons I decided to embark on this project was because the new generation has become so out-of-touch with its own cultural heritage,” he said.
Dayıoğlu was born in Kaş in 1988, when, he recalls, “there was no internet, no YouTube - only cheap cassette players.”
Some of his earliest memories are of his parents listening to different kinds of music - especially traditional Turkish songs - in the car.
In primary school, he learned how to play the üçtelli - an instrument that he has long since mastered.
After earning his degree at Mehmet Akif University in the southern Burdur province, he received a government appointment in 2012 to teach music at a high school in Kaş.
“When I received my first paycheck, the first thing I did was buy a video camera ... I wanted to visit remote villages in the region and record all these unknown masters of Turkish traditional music.”
“At first, I just wanted to learn from them in hopes of improving my own üçtelli playing,” Dayıoğlu said. “But they were so good that soon I began showing the recordings to my students and incorporating them into my lessons.”
Upon seeing the recordings, some of Dayıoğlu’s internet-savvy students urged him to upload his archive to social-media platforms.
When Dayıoğlu took his students’ advice in 2013 and uploaded his archive to YouTube, he was amazed by the thousands of positive comments - from all over the world - that his YouTube channel received.
“At first, I thought I was the only one who was interested in this music,” Dayıoğlu said. “But now I realize that many people, including many people abroad, share my interest.”
His social-media accounts received a massive boost in April, when Cem Yılmaz, a famous Turkish comedian (and the country’s most popular Twitter user with more than 14 million followers), retweeted a video from Dayıoğlu’s archive.
Dayıoğlu believes that his efforts are not only helping preserve Turkey’s cultural heritage, but have also served to immortalize the many musicians and artists he has captured on film.
“Dozens of elderly musicians that I’ve interviewed over the years have since passed away,” he said.
“Their children, and in many cases their grandchildren, are grateful to me for preserving the memory of their departed forebears.”
Dayıoğlu added: “My mission is simple: to transmit our heritage to future generations.”
One of the biggest challenges Dayıoğlu faces is persuading the residents of remote villages to allow him - a stranger - to record their performances.
“They have their own way of doing things,” he said. “They don’t just start singing and dancing if someone asks.”
“They often shy away from cameras or begin acting differently,” Dayıoğlu said. “Once they understand I’m just a high school music teacher, they loosen up and are happy to show off their talents.”
Since launching his project online, Dayıoğlu has also garnered considerable interest from numerous interested parties abroad.
Dayıoğlu has already brought several foreign musicologists to villages near Kaş to allow them to study the region’s musical culture - and even learn to play instruments unique to the region.
“Because Anatolia has such a rich and varied musical culture, there is considerable interest by many foreigners,” he said.
“My goal is to eventually visit every single village in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces and document their unique musical and dance heritage.”