The ney, the end-blown reed-flute, occupies a special place in the artistic tradition of Sufi music in Turkey, where its breathy sound finds vital use in ritual and other contexts (see Image 1). For a range of fascinating reasons, over the last two decades a huge new interest in the ney has emerged in Turkey (Senay 2020). Un- anticipated consequences have followed. One result has been the growing shortage of reeds suitable for ney- making, as soaring demand, over-cropping, development, and climate change severely impacts sensitive reed riverbeds. Imperilling the livelihood of reed-cutters in south-eastern Turkey (the province of Hatay) where the reeds grow, ecological degradation also poses a significant threat to ney-makers and skilled practitioners of ney music in Istanbul, centre of ney performance, composition, and pedagogy.

This project has two complementary goals. Its first aim is to document the material knowledge systems organising the work of reed harvesters in Hatay, who must wrestle with these new environmental circumstances. Its second goal is production of ethnographic film to capture both the skilled ney-making and apprenticeship-style method of ney-music teaching in Istanbul, activities ironically threatened by the very popularity of the ney. Premature harvesting of reeds, plastic production, new standardised ney curricula, and mass education courses means craftsmanship and musical pedagogies traceable to Ottoman traditions are difficult to sustain. The project’s goal is to record the present endangered transformation of reed to ney as it makes its way from the riverbed to the classroom. The documentation methods comprise the production of two ethnographic films, audio field-site recordings, still photography, and a digital website.

Primary Applicant:
Banu Senay

Ugur Aslan
Max Harwood
Salih Bilgin

Location of Research:
Uskudar, Istanbul and Samandag, Hatay, Turkey

Host Institution:
Macquarie University, Australia

Top Banner Image: Neys and mouthpieces made by Salih Bilgin (Photo: Salih Bilgin)