Musical Instruments in Turkey and Xinjiang

This post was inspired by my blogger friend musiqdragonfly’s post on Bologna of Italy, a college town. As she has been particularly inspirational to me in her music posts, I would like to dedicate this post to her.  This is a picture that I took in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.  A gentleman was playing this musical instrument in the street. What is this instrument called?  I think it is called saz.


What is saz?  I found this interesting article on line.  I think this looks like a sac, which is like a long neck lute. If this is not, will the readers please correct me.  I am just trying to learn something.

Musical Instruments in Turkey

Click to access MusicalInstrumentsinTurkey.pdf

Saz – The saz is one of the most important instruments in Turkey. Quite a fewpeople in Turkey can play the saz, since there are lots of shops to buy one and lots of

places to learn how to play it. It is a long-necked lute with frets that are tied onto the
neck. It has eight strings in three courses. Courses are groups of strings tuned to the same
note. Another Turkish name for this instrument is bağlama (Baa – laamaa) meaning
ligature, which refers to the frets which are tied on so they can be moved to change the tuning of the scale.  People in the cities and in the villages play common songs called Türkü.  These songs can be described as folk songs

In most cases everyone in Turkey knows at least a few of these songs.
Professionals also play the saz. There are professional Türkü singers, and even
professional electro- saz players in Istanbul. However, in the eastern part of Turkey,
professional and semi-professional singers called Aşıks(Ash-uks) write special songs and
perform them in coffee houses and in other informal gatherings. The Aşıks are often self
taught saz players, and they use the instrument to accompany songs they have written
before hand or make up on the spot. One special coffee house activity is to listen to an
Aşık duel, where each Aşık tries to out perform others in writing songs on the spot. ”

How does the music sound like?  I found this you-tube clip: you can play “Pink Panther” with the saz too!

I also saw some musical instruments in Xinjiang, which impressed me, as there were many of them in the market place. I couldn’t find my picture as my trip to the Silk Road was several years ago.   Here I found something similar to what I had seen in Kashgar.


The author of this article said: ” I took this picture at the Uyghur Musical Instrument Factory in Kashgar. All along every inch of wall space stringed instruments were either hanging or leaning. The most famous of these is the rawap, the instrument you see with what looks like horns coming out of its neck. The owner convinced me to sit down and try to pick out a few songs with him but I ended up spending most of the time just watching him play.

It is possible to buy a souvenir Uyghur instrument for pretty cheap but it’s not quite playable. The nicer ones however, like the ones in this picture, were far too expensive for me to purchase. I’m a guitar player and I’ll probably pick one up someday, but for now I’m content listening to people who play it far better than I ever could.”

How does the music sound like?  I think the music is beautiful! I looked up from You-Tube and found this.


The plectrum is made of tortoiseshell and is called “bağa” (meaning turtle). Cut in an asymmetrical V-form and polished at 45 on the tip, it measures 2-2.5mm x 5–6mm x 10–15cm. Nowadays it has seven strings. In the past tamburs with eight strings were not uncommon

When I saw these musical instruments in Istanbul and in Xinjiang, I did have the desire to buy one home.  I didn’t.  It was too much for my luggage.  And what would I do with them except as a decoration item?  If you are heading there, you may be interested to buy one too.  However, you need to find a teacher when you are home!  Let me know your experience if you are learning how to play these musical instruments.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you so much, that’s interesting, and I find the sound of the instruments is pretty cheerful, yup, the neck is too long to carry home! Indeed, the shape looks like those ham in my photo (ha), lovely.

    1. friendlytm says:

      Indeed they look alike. You know what? My brain told me that whatever you post, it is mostly about music…therefore I thought these were musical instruments. It is very interesting …the way that the brain works!

  2. rabirius says:

    Very interesting post…
    …I liked the video filmed at the Keçi Burcu in Diyarbakır – I just visited it last year – sadly without the music…

    1. friendlytm says:

      Glad that you like it. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  3. Clanmother says:

    I have been listening to this amazing music all night long!

    1. friendlytm says:

      Thanks, Rebecca. I have reasons to post this post. Check out these two posts. You will have some interesting finds!

  4. Nana Tee says:

    Loved listening to the music.

    1. friendlytm says:

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and your comments.

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