Turkish Musician Shows How to Play the Yaybahar, His Mesmerizing, Newly-Invented Instrument

Once upon a time, a handsome man was trapped in a tower overlooking the sea. To amuse himself, he built a magical instrument. It was constructed of wood and metal, but sounded like something one might hear over loudspeakers at the Tate, or perhaps an avant-garde sound installation in Bushwick. The instrument was lovely, but so cumbersome, it was impossible to imagine packing it into a taxi. And so the man gigged alone in the tower overlooking the sea.

Wait. This is no fairy tale. The musician, Görkem Şen, is real, as is his instrument, the Yaybahar. (Its name remains a mystery to your non-Turkish-speaking correspondent. Google Translate was no help. Perhaps Şen explains the name in the patter preceding his recent TEDxReset performance…music is the only universal here.)

The Yaybahar looks like minimalist sculpture, or a piece of vintage playground equipment. It has fretted strings, coiled springs and drum skins. Şen plays it with a bow, or a wrapped mallet, nimbly switching between spaced out explorations, folk music and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.

After many years, a passing prince or princess was bewitched by the beautiful music that reached his or her ears from the tower. He or she braved the brambles to free Şen and his instrument. 

It’s also possible that Şen enlisted a couple of pals to help him muscle the Yaybahar down the steps, crying out when they bumped the precious instrument into the walls, struggling to get a decent grip. No good deed goes unrewarded.

At last, they left the confines of the tower. Görkem Şen lifted his face toward the Turkish sunshine. The Yaybahar stood in the sand. A noblewoman whom an evil sorceress had turned into a dog hung out for a while before losing interest. The instrument reverberated as passionately as ever. The spell was both broken and not.

You can hear more sound clips of Şen playing the Yaybahar below:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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  • volongoto says:

    In Turkish:

    Yay: string (as in string quartet)
    Bahar: spring (as in the season)

  • AlltFörMusik.se says:

    This is so great! Beats anything I’ve heard for a long time!

  • Jean François Bachelet says:

    Extraordinaire!

  • Kathy Self says:

    The sea is calling…

  • Dan Peragine says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing art. I have been incorporating the aeolian harp into my sculpture and this is reminiscent of the sound effects created by the wind. I’m sure the whales and dolphins appreciated your concert by the sea!

  • julian says:

    we’ve waited years for the invention of a cheap (within reason) portable ( maybe ) synthesizer without the unnecessary ugly electronics and here, finally, it comes…with limits but with wide open areas for advance.

  • Russell Scott Day says:

    If you scroll through Transcendian you will come across some Intendors TM. In particular if you like this thing of this guy you will like the Big Whack Ass Intendor, which I see as useful for Soundtrack work. I do use piezo cable pickups however. And I have come to put things I make through the Alesis Sound Processor.
    I will soon be releasing to CD “Beatniks and Spiders” that was made using Intendor TM number 10.
    Beatniks and Spiders defeats Hitler’s work that was done to discredit the artist as leader, and begin to put the artist back in a position of respect as a leader, in the political world.
    To do as much good as Hitler did bad, one has to finally defeat all the bad ideas that Hitler embodied and left in the society. I am the Founder of Transcendia, a Grand work of Conceptual Art. I just found out today that Game Jolt has stolen my name for use on their game. They did not give nor do they give so far Transcendia proper honor.
    I am not kidding at all when I ask all who understand the goals of Transcendia to object to the dishonorable use of the Transcendian name. You can see a segment of “Beatniks & Spiders” on Transcendian of youtube.
    You tube in fact is the best that we might expect to get as UNTV. I worked hard to attempt to make the UNTV work for us.

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