The harp played by men contrary to widely belief

The harp played by men contrary to widely belief

ADANA - Anatolia News Agency
The harp played by men contrary to widely belief

He is known as Turkey’s first male harpist, according to Çağatay Akyol. He says that the harp has been used in the treatment of psychological illnesses for centuries, is included in university programs, and very good results have been reported. AA photos

Challenging notions that harps are only played by women, Çağatay Akyol of the Turkish Presidential Symphony Orchestra is seeking to change perceptions of the instrument, which he says originally comes from Anatolia.

“A long-haired blond woman wearing a white dress [is always] playing the harp. Because of its aesthetics, this instrument is identified with women, but there are many male harpists in the world.

There are five male harpists in Turkey including me,” Akyol said, following a concert last week with the Çukurova State Symphony Orchestra in the southern province of Adana.

Noting that he is known as Turkey’s first male harpist, Akyol said: “Actually, when looking at the former staff of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, we see the name of a male harpist in 1945, but we haven’t been able to learn who it was. I don’t know if there was a male harpist in reality or whether there was a printing mistake. It is an old document and there is no other name of a male harpist after this name.”

Akyol said his beginning with the harp was an interesting story. “I wanted to play violin when I entered the conservatory. Two people were talking about the harp when I entered the examination room. One of them asked, ‘What does a harp seem like?’ The other replied, ‘It has cords and has a triangle shape.’

In the exam, the teacher told me that left-handed people could not play the violin. I was very sorry, my dreams were ruined. Then they asked me if I wanted to play the piano, cello or counter bass. I said ‘yes.’ Then the other teacher, Kaysu Doğansay, asked me if I would like to play the harp and I said ‘yes,’ again. She asked me about its shape, and I told her what I had heard from the two people. She congratulated me, but I had still never seen a harp until that time.”

An Anatolian instrument

Akyol said the harp was not a well-known instrument in Turkey, even though studies suggest it was originally an Anatolian instrument.

“The harp is a very old mythological instrument. But it is interesting that we found in a study conducted for a European Union project that it existed in the Hittite capital Hattusha 3,700 years ago and in Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq, 4,100 years ago,” Akyol said.

“We determined this through the shapes on a vase that was removed from the ancient site of Alacahöyük and is on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Greece and Egypt say the harp belongs to them, but we have proved that the home of the harp is Anatolia,” the musician said, adding that the instrument took its current shape at the end of 19th century.

Akyol said the Hittites’ harp was used in various ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and traditional gatherings.

“Its cords were made of bowels at that time; its dimensions were very different and it was not technological and very simple. We do our best to introduce this instrument to the world. I give educational concerts abroad. I tell people that the harp is from Turkish lands,” he said.

He also noted that the harp had been used in the treatment of psychological illnesses for centuries. “People used to conduct treatment centuries ago, in which the patient entering a tunnel. They walked slowly through the tunnel with the sound of the harp playing, and they came out the other side with a transformed psychology. The instrument is similarly used in the treatment of patients in the United States. It is included in university programs, and very good results have been reported, especially in the treatment of paralyzed patients and people with disabilities. We are thinking of doing this in Turkey, too,” Akyol said.