Alevi and Bektasi Dervishes and the Baglama

Dervishes and the Baglama

Like its ancestor the kopuz, the Turkmens of Anatolia attached sacred significance to the baglama, and the religious ceremonies of the Alevi and Bektasi sects begin by kissing the baglama and touching it to the head before beginning to play the hymns which made up a large part of the ritual. Alevi and Bektasi dervishes could be regarded as itinerant poets, and because its small size made it easy to carry they usually played the cura. Dr. Covel, who visited Turkey in 1673 and 1674 described it as "a little pittifull instrument with three wire strings, which every fellow thrums ordinarily about the streets", while Jean Thevenot around the same time noted that the Turks "have several instruments of music, the most common is a little lute with three strings on which they'll play a whole day and not put it out of tune".

If a single instrument were to represent Turkish folk music it would have to be the baglama. There is no region, no village in Anatolia which is not familiar with this string instrument. It is descended from the kopuz, which is frequently mentioned in the sagas of Dede Korkut dating from around the 8th century.
The kopuz differs from the baglama in having a leather covered body, a fingerboard without frets, and two or three strings made either of horsehair, or of sheep or wolf gut. It is played by beating with the fingers, rather than being plucked with a plectrum.
Alevi and Bektasi dervishes and the baglama
Like its ancestor the kopuz, the Turkmens of Anatolia attached sacred significance to the baglama, and the religious ceremonies of the Alevi and Bektasi sects begin by kissing the baglama and touching it to the head before beginning to play the hymns which made up a large part of the ritual.
One of the most common types of baglama used in Turkey today is the divan, the largest of the family in terms of both body size and fingerboard length. It is generally played in a plain, unornamented style, and is used for playing at low pitch. It has seven strings in three groups.
Baglamas are tuned differently in every part of Turkey, and the structure of the folk song to be played and the strokes of the plectrum affect the tuning system.
Electric baglamas began to be made in the late 1960s to increase the sound volume and enable it to be used in rock music. Structurally similar to the original instrument, these have electroguitar pickups fitted into the body.