Karagöz is a form of shadow theatre in Turkey in which figures known as tasvirs made of camel or ox hide in the shape of people or things are held on rods in front of a light source to cast their shadows onto a cotton screen. A play begins with the projection of an introductory figure to set the scene and suggest the themes of the drama, before it vanishes to the shrill sound of a whistle, giving way to a main performance that may incorporate singing, tambourine music, poetry, myth, tongue-twisters and riddles. The usually comic stories feature the main characters Karagöz and Hacivat and a host of others, including a cabaret chanteuse called Kantocu and an illusionist-acrobat named Hokkabaz, and abound in puns and imitations of regional accents.
The Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition of Turkey is performed by wandering poet-singers known as âşıks. Dressed in traditional clothes and plucking a stringed saz, the âşık is a common performer at weddings, in coffeehouses and during public festivals of all sorts. The âşık is called in a dream to undertake a long apprenticeship in the arts of playing string and percussion instruments, singing, storytelling and repartee that form the heart of the vocation. The poems they recite, usually about love, are written in rhymed syllabic meter and end with a quatrain in which the âşık utters the Mâhlas, his pseudonym.
Meddahlik was a Turkish theatre form performed by a single storyteller called a meddah and practised throughout Turkey and Turkish speaking countries. Historically, meddahs were expected to illuminate, educate, and entertain. Performing in caravanserais, markets, coffeehouses, mosques and churches, these storytellers transmitted values and ideas among a predominantly illiterate population. The meddah selects songs and comic tales from a repertory of popular romances, legends and epics and adapts his material according to the specific venue and audience. However, the quality of the performance largely depends on the atmosphere created between storyteller and spectators, as well as the meddah’s ability to integrate imitations, jokes and improvisation often relating to contemporary events. This art, which places great value on the mastery of rhetoric, is highly regarded in Turkey.
The epic culture, folk tales and music of Dede Qorqud/Korkyt Ata/Dede Korkut are based on twelve heroic legends, stories and tales and thirteen traditional musical compositions shared and transmitted across the generations through oral expressions, performing arts, cultural codes and musical compositions. Dede Qorqud appears in each story as a legendary figure and wise individual, a sage of minstrels whose words, music and expressions of wisdom relate to traditions of birth, marriage and death.The element encompasses social, cultural and moral values such as heroism, dialogue, physical and spiritual wellness and unity as well as respect for nature, and contains profound knowledge about the history and culture of Turkish-speaking communities. It is practised and sustained by the community concerned on a wide variety of occasions – from family events to national and international festivals – and is therefore well-rooted in society, serving as a connecting thread between generations.
Nasreddin Hoca is a folk philosopher par excellence. Many of his stories, as lessons in moral conduct and as jocular practical jokes, offer critical commentary on stereotyped social thought and behaviour as well as pointing out imaginative alternatives.
A popular scholar, he was famously considered the foremost protagonist of comical tales with an emotional content or other message.
Nasreddin Hoca’s importance lies not in the incidents recounted themselves, but in the meaning behind his amusing words, either his own or those popularly quoted, and their satirical or amusing elements. Study of the words that are believed to be his shows that, he expressed the lifestyle, sense of humour and slightly satirical manner of the people of Anatolia, and that his words are not to be seen as confined to one particular period or time. The anecdotes about him focus particularly on love, satire, praise and gentle mockery.
A Famous Story of Nasreddin Hoca:
The Criticism Of Men
Hodja and his son went on a journey once. Hodja preferred that his son ride the donkey and that he himself go on foot. On the way they met some people who said:
- Look at that healthy young boy! That is today’s youth for you. They have no respect for elders. He rides on the donkey and makes his poor father walk!
When they had passed by these people the boy felt very ashamed and insisted that he walk and his father ride the donkey. So Hodja mounted the donkey and the boy walked at his side. A little later they met some other people who said:
- Well, look at that! That poor little boy has to walk while his father rides the donkey.
After they had passed by these people, Hodja told his son:
- The best thing to do is for both of us to walk. Then no one can complain.
So they continued on their journey, both of them walking. A little ways down the road they met some others who said:
- Just take a look at those fools. Both of them are walking under this hot sun and neither of them are riding the donkey!
Hodja turned to his son and said:
- That just goes to show how hard it is to escape the opinions of men.