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”.
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: