The Kopuz and the Baglama

The Kopuz and the Baglama

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.

The Turkish settlement of Anatolia from the late 10th century onwards saw the introduction of a two-string descendant of the kopuz, the Turkmen dutar, which was still being played in some areas of Turkey until recent times. According to the historian Hammer, metal strings were first used on a type of kopuz with a long fingerboard known as the kolca kopuz in 15th century Anatolia. This marked the first step in the emergence of the cogur, a transitional instrument between the kopuz and the baglama. According to the 17th century writer Evliya Celebi the cogur was first made in the city of Kutahya in western Turkey. To take the strain of the metal strings the leather body was replaced by wood, the fingerboard lengthened and frets introduced. Instead of five hair strings there were now twelve metal strings arranged in four groups of three. Today the cogur is smaller than a medium sized baglama.

Meanwhile the five string kopuz is thought to have been transformed into the six string instrument known as the sestar or seshane by the 13th century mystic Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi. The word sestar is also mentioned in the poems of the 14th century poet Yunus Emre. Evliya Celebi describes the kopuz as a smaller version of the seshane.

The word baglama is first used in 18th century texts. The French traveller Jean Benjamin de Laborde, who visited Turkey during that century, recorded that "the baglama or tambura is in form exactly like the cogur but smaller". He was probably referring to the smallest of the baglama family, the cura.

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.