Turkey’s wondrous world of musical instrument museums

Joining the ranks of the existing impressive musical collections on show across the country, a newly opened musical instrument museum in Bursa shines a light on the wonderful wealth of Turkish instruments

There are a variety of impressive musical instrument museums in Turkey with the latest opening up in Bursa. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated collectors and scholars, including an expat, we have the opportunity to delve deeper into the richness of Turkish music and the instruments played.

Anyone familiar with Turkey will know that music plays an important role in the country’s culture. What stands out the most in Turkey’s legacy with music is the vast variety of genres and styles that are quintessentially Turkish. From maqams, the ozan tradition and a wide variety of ethnic styles to arabesque, Turkish classical music, folk music and Anatolian rock to name just a few, with so many genres it should come of no surprise that Turkey also has a wealth of musical instruments, many of which were created here in Turkey.

New musical instruments museum opens in Bursa

Luckily, a fantastic new musical instrument museum has opened in Bursa’s Nilüfer district that showcases nearly 300 musical instruments from Turkey and all over the world. The Dr. Hüseyin Parkan Sanlıkol Müzik Enstrümanları Müzesi (Dr. Hüseyin Parkan Sanlıkol Musical Instruments Museum) is the result of the combination of efforts of the late Dr. Hüseyin Parkan Sanlıkol’s family and the Nilüfer municipality. An esteemed and beloved member of the Bursa community, Sanlıkol was both a doctor and an avid music-lover. He was also a chorister and his wife was a pianist. Together they traveled the world and established a vast collection of musical instruments, which today comprises the majority of the museum’s collection.

In 2015, Dr. Sanlıkol passed away unfortunately and unexpectedly. The following year, his family donated his musical instrument collection to the Bursa Municipality, which was over 200 instruments from all over the world. During the museum’s foundation, other music lovers also donated instruments, bringing the total number of instruments on display up to 284.

His son, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, serves as the museum’s conceptual framework and project manager and has passed on his legacy in two ways: by not only facilitating the creation of this museum centered on his father’s collection, a culmination of life-long travels all over the world, but also by being a renowned composer and musician himself. A Grammy nominee in 2014 for his compositions in the best chamber music category, Sanlıkol is an award-winning Berklee College of Music graduate and a professor at New England Conservatory’s Music History/Musicology Department. He has also taught at Emerson and Brown and is a CMES Harvard University fellow. In addition to being an expert in jazz and other Western styles, Sanlıkol is a devoted ethnomusicologist who has done extensive research on traditional Turkish musical styles and instruments. He is also a renowned pianist, vocalist and ney player, and performed with his trio at the museum’s opening on Aug. 21.

An expat’s collection at Ibrahim Alimoğlu Music Museum

This isn’t the first time an avid music-lover and musical instrument collector has donated a collection to create a museum for public viewing; however, it might be the first time an expat has been the one to donate a lifelong collection of Turkish instruments and others. In 2014, the Ibrahim Alimoğlu Müzik Müzesi (Ibrahim Alimoğlu Music Museum), Turkey’s largest musical instrument museum opened in the state conservatory building in the Afyon Kocatepe University (AKÜ). The conception of creating a museum of musical instruments was spurred by the collection of various antique and regional instruments of local Afyonkarahisar businessperson Ibrahim Alımoğlu, who previously kept the collection at his factory. In addition, German musician, collector and expat Wolfgang Ott donated 250 musical instruments he had collected. Accompanied by various other donations, in total the museum boasts 540 instruments on display, making it Turkey’s largest musical instrument museum to date.

Wolfgang Ott happens to reside part-time in Muğla’s Dalyan region. His collection, which includes pieces from the Middle Ages and instruments made out of python skin and ivory from Africa, is the culmination of 46 years of traveling the world.

Get hands-on at Eskişehir’s Music History Hall

In Eskişehir’s Anadolu University, there is the Türk Dünyası Bilim Kültür ve Sanat Merkezi, an academic, arts and cultural center focusing on the Turkish “world.” The center also houses a “Müzik Tarihi Salonu,” which is an exhibition hall with over 216 instruments from Turkish and Islamic history. Opened in 2018, the instruments are curated in chronological order and visitors can listen to the sounds they produce from headsets. Concerts are held on the premises and there is also an “Experience Room,” where 50 musical instruments can be played. The instruments here were donated by ethnomusicologist and famous luthier Feridun Obul, who has researched and replicated 800 musical instruments from all over the world. The other individual whose collection is on display is no other than the belated and beloved Dr. Rahmi Oruç Güvenç, an ethnomusicologist and musician who founded TÜMATA (The Group for the Research and Promotion of Turkish Music).

Why TÜMATA matters

Formed in 1976 to research and promote the development of Turkish music, its therapeutic value and the region’s wealth of instruments, TÜMATA has been instrumental is the continuation of traditional Turkish musical practices to this day. They have produced albums and held multiple festivals and retreats and have numerous publications on Turkish historical musical traditions. With centers that have been part of a number of universities in Istanbul and in Europe as well as an intimate instrument museum and teaching center in Sultanahmet, TÜMATA offers lessons in a number of traditional Turkish instruments such as rebap, ud-kopuz, çeng and the ney.

Erkan Oğur Music School: Learn from the maestro

Considered to be the best guitarist and bağlama player in Turkey, Erkan Oğur was also the pioneer of the fretless guitar at the age of 22. Last year the renowned musician opened a music school in Bodrum’s Gümüşlük neighborhood, which offers classes on a variety of Turkish instruments, such as the bağlama and kopuz that are taught by the maestro himself and others.

Discover Istanbul’s free music courses

For those in Istanbul, ISMEK extended education courses offered by the municipality are a wonderful opportunity for anyone hoping to learn more about pretty much anything. From arts and crafts to personal development, language learning, clothes design, gastronomy, accounting and more, the courses are free of charge and offered in centers throughout the city. The centers also offer an array of musical instrument courses ranging from piano, guitar, cello and violin to a variety of Turkish instruments such as bendir, kanun, ney, rebap and bağlama.

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