INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for baklama

Lentil Paste — معجون العدس

Late on Saturday Nights, Bağlama bars come alive in side streets off İstiklâl Caddesi (“Independence Avenue”) in the pedestrian heart of Istanbul. On a sound recommendation and with a small printed map with an X, we sought and found Havar, the liveliest in a string of bars and cafes in the Beyoğlu neighborhood that advertise with posters of studio shots of upcoming performers and a man calling from the door.

The solo instrument is the bağlama (or saz, as it’s often known — the broader name for its family), oud-like but with a long, thin neck. Drummers and wind instruments support the frontman, who belts out tunes everyone knows. Everyone. Tunes seemed to hit different demographics in the bar — younger guys and their dates or married couples or gray-haired veterans bent at the waist only probably as part of the dance. Some seemed to dip from shared memories as old as Turkish history — if you weren’t singing, you weren’t from there.


Except maybe that wasn’t true. A few tables of men next to us stayed quiet, just listening, hardly ever smiling or talking, but certainly not looking for quiet. A pair of old men danced in deliberate steps, bent and looking at their feet, with one hand clasping the other’s held high in the air. If I’d have guessed, I’d have guessed they were really, really happy. Either way, silent or singing or dancing with fingers entwined — even watching and knowing nothing – it looked easy to get lost gladly in the dark.
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