Ahmet Baran Gives A Mesmerising Peek Into The Turkish Musical Instrument Qanun And His Journey

Ahmet Baran Gives A Mesmerising Peek Into The Turkish Musical Instrument Qanun And His Journey

Many of us have listened to the mesmerising sound of the santoor, an instrument made famous by the late Shiv Kumar Sharma

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Sunday, May 05, 2024, 12:44 AM IST
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Many of us have listened to the mesmerising sound of the santoor, an instrument made famous by the late Shiv Kumar Sharma. But, have you heard of the Turkish qanun, which is similar to the santoor?

If you want to experience the enchanting qanun music at its best, you should listen to it played by Ahmet Baran, who is a genius on the qanun. From his own compositions, classical pieces to everyone’s favorites like Luis Fonsi’s Despacito, Game of Thrones, Queen’s We Will Rock You, The Pink Panther, Baran will leave you spellbound. You may just fall in love with his Arab music too. 

The maestro is coming to Mumbai for a concert, on May 10, at the Nehru Centre, Worli. It promises to be an exciting evening where two powerful presentations with both Indian and International musicians will showcase a unique instrument belonging to the santoor family from international shores. 

In an interview with The Free Press Journal, Baran talks about his journey and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

 What can we expect at your concert?

I am very excited. I had the chance to meet many musicians in my previous India concerts. Tonality and rhythm structure fascinate me a lot. We will shape similar tones with cultural reflections. Instantaneous tone changes in the qanun are more practical than the santoor, but the richness of both is completely different. A magnificent musical evening awaits the audience.

How did you come across the instrument the qanun?

When I first played the qanun, I felt like there was no limit to what I could share with my instrument. I dreamed of bringing it closer to all genres of music. The work I realize today is a result of the dreams I had then. My first teacher was Deniz Gökta from Turkey. His personality and approach to music impressed me greatly. We started working at Ankara State Radio. After I became a qanun student, I worked day and night, almost without sleeping. I went to my first concert after four months and six months later, I became a soloist in the Symphony Orchestra. I started working professionally on State television TRT when I was 16 years old. I have been both the qanun artist and the artistic director of the Mersin State Classical Turkish Music Choir of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism since 2006.

What the qanun is all about?

Since the qanun instrument has frets like a guitar or a piano, it is easy to learn. However, it is very difficult to control the pegs, which offer nine more options between each full sound, and to ensure the coordination between the brain and the hand. Normally, the qanun is played by placing the plectrums on your index finger. I play with my own 10-finger technique using all my fingers. As with every instrument, it takes a lifetime of dedication to reach virtuoso level.

Are there are different types of qanun?

We have smaller ones made for our little students. The instrument I use is my own design, the Ahmet Baran signature series is on sale all over the world. The octave and peg structure of my instrument are different from others.

The name qanun comes from the Arabic word qanun, which means ‘law’ or ‘rule’. Are there any rules that you need to know about the qanun?

Just as qanun means rule, it is accepted that it derives from the Latin word Qanon, meaning polyphony. If you are looking for music that calls to love, you will embrace it with love and touch it with love. When you establish such a bond and achieve surrender, your instrument surrenders itself to you. It requires a pure spirit, a sincere dialogue free of ambition.

What is your biggest musical achievement since the start of your musical career?

I have given more than a thousand concerts on six continents. I make world music and continue to give concerts with many virtuoso artists in the countries I visit. My concerts at the Sydney Opera House, Capitoline Museum Rome, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and G20 opening concert in Varanasi, India sparked a strong impression in the world press. On April 23, the national sovereignty and children's day that our country's greatest leader of all time, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, presented to all the children of the world, dedicated to the founding of our republic, I conducted a concert with 1923 children, enthusiastically, with the participation of tens of thousands of people, which received great coverage and repercussions in the press. This was one of the most meaningful and biggest concerts of my recent career.

Who are your international music inspirations?

Some of the important musicians I admire are Paco De Lucia, Chick Correa, Quincy Jones, Pt Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain.

What new projects or music are you working on presently?

I continue to perform concerts in my country and also abroad. Also I am the founder of a big charity organization. Social responsibility projects are my priority. I attend these concerts regularly. I have a qanun camp in the summer that I hold once a year for my qanun students from all over the World.

What is the Turkish qanun

The Turkish qanun is a flat, trapezoidal-shaped instrument. It has 26 courses of strings, with about three strings per course. This gives a total of 78 strings made from nylon, gut, or metal. Turkish qanuns are considerably smaller than Arabic qanuns. However, what the Turkish qanun loses in size, it makes up for in style and sound,

besides they are more finely crafted, have more chords, and produce better sounds. Qanuns are made with wood, and they have a soundboard that is partly wood and partly animal or fish skin. It mostly measures about 100cm long, about 60cm wide, and between four to eight centimeters in height.

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