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Mehter Band

Mehter Band

Mehter Band in Ottoman History

During Ottoman times Janissaries were famous for their marching bands (Mehter bands) and date from the days of the very first sultans’.  They would march into newly occupied territory before the new governors, to stress the authority of the Ottoman’s onto the captured inhabitants.  The Janissaries fell from grace after being overthrown in 1826 and were reinstated in the 1950s to be used only on ceremonial occasions.  

Clothing and Instruments

The band wear colourful green and red uniforms and the instruments they play are a boru (related to the trumpet), a kaba zurna (a kind of flute), most of the band bang large bass drums (kös), small kettle drums (nekare), the “davul” drum and cymbals (zil), and the most unusual instrument used is the çevgen which resembles a stick that is actually a collection of bells.  

Watching the Mehter Band for Free in Harbiye

You can see the band for free in Harbiye Istanbul at 15:00 almost every day in summer when they emerge outdoors to practice blasting out music inspired by Beethoven and Mozart, and when they play indoors during the winter months you have to buy a ticket to listen to them.  The best time to see the band in their full glory is on May 29 at Belgradkapi when the Janissaries gather to re-enact the conquest of Istanbul. 

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