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:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

by | Permalink | Comments (12) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (12)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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:


  • 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.

  • Belamir says:

    It has an amaz­ing name!
    As it’s trans­lat­ed above, ‘yay’ means string and ‘bahar’ means spring. I think the word ‘yay­ba­har’ refers to how the instru­men­t’s refresh­ing sound makes the audi­ence feel

  • MARVELMAZ says:

    Well, YAY also trans­lates to bow, not just string. Bahar is Spring…not a direct trans­la­tion, but I think it would be fit­ting to name this instru­ment a Spring­bow for trans­la­tion pur­pos­es.

  • Brian McInnis says:

    Nice hyphen­at­ed adverb, guys.

  • JUMPiKO says:


  • Jesse says:

    What’s your bud­get?
    I’m mak­ing one now. The thing is, they are tricky. No plans exist. Even in Gorkem Sen’s videos he’s clear­ly evolved the design and there is no “one” Yay­ba­har so when you’re buy­ing a Yay­ba­har, it’s only an approx­i­ma­tion. If I built exact­ly what you see in the beach video, you might not be very hap­py with how portable it is (it’s not). But if I build you one that’s made from the steel tub­ing from cam­era rigs (per lat­er videos from Gorkem Sen) which is very portable then you’d not be very hap­py with the cost. Plus, it will be exceed­ing­ly expen­sive since every­one who’s build­ing one, is doing so with­out any plans or mate­ri­als list so you’ll also be pay­ing for all the time it takes to fig­ure out how to make it sound amaz­ing. For instance, how the springs are attached to the strings is mys­te­ri­ous. There is no video or pho­to that details exact­ly how Gorkem Sen does it. There’s one that looks like just wraps the spring ends around the strings, but using this method the springs will slip up and down the strings — unless the pulling force of the springs is EXACTLY per­pen­dic­u­lar with the strings (which means you might be play­ing the instru­ment at a very uncom­fort­able angle). There’s anoth­er video that looks like he’s using tiny binder clips attached to the strings, on which the spring ends rest and the angle of the spring force pulls the springs down­wards slight­ly, keep­ing them wedged up against the clips. Just find­ing the light­est pos­si­ble clip (to min­i­mize the damp­en­ing of the string vibra­tion) took 5 hours. Search­ing for the springs took almost as long. The drum heads were cake, but the clips to hold them took a while to source. The bass gui­tar parts were eas­i­er, but rout­ing out the slot in the body for the bass neck was not. No one is an expert at mak­ing these things. Even an expert gui­tar mak­er will strug­gle to get this to work well. You need a design­er with engi­neer­ing, car­pen­try and music skills. A tru­ly rare com­bo. I’m am such a per­son and I’m hap­py to make you one, but it won’t be cheap or expert (since there is only one expert on the plan­et).

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.