Wednesday, 29 March 2017

rebab (rebab, rubab, rubap)

Rebab (rebab, rubab, rubap)

It is not possible to find precise data on the birth of an ancient instrument as rebab. But there are various rumors. According to some of them, Solomon played the rebab – this dates back to the around 3800 BC, namely, the Sumerians. According to another rumor, it was Al-Farabi who invented the rebab. Others say it has been played since the Uigur Turks have lived. Musical instruments have spread over many geographies and evolved over time. The instruments that were called ıklığ, kemenche or rebab were probably the same instrument. These names have also been used as general names for stringed instruments sometime in history. The information at hand shows that the rebab has been played almost all over the globe starting from the North Pacific to Middle Asia, from there to the Mediterranean and even, through Andalusia to Western Europe (In Europe it was called “Rebec” [Rebek]). It most probably came to Persia, Arab Lands and Anatolia through the Migration of the Tribes or by the people fleeing from the tyranny of the Mongolians. It has been one of the favorite instruments of the Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire. After the beginning of the usage of violins by the Ottomans, it rapidly lost its importance and at the end of the 19th century, very few players of the rebab were left.

rebab01For the Mawlawis, the rebab is an important metaphor as the ney (nay). While its name has been mentioned in more than seventy verses of Mawlana’s works, Ahmed Eflakî Dede’s Menâkibu’l-Ârifîn also tells about the rebab, spread over ten different topics. In some verses he used it as a metaphor for the fire in his heart, while in others the sound of the rebab became the Archangel Rafael’s sound. In some, it revealed secrets; in others it became a way of finding the right way. Mawlana and his son Sultan Walad also played the rebab. We understand this from some of his ghazals of Dîvân-i Kebîr. Sultan Walad wrote a Masnawi that goes by the name of Rebâb-nâme. (The rebab was used as a metaphor in this work – just as the ney was used in Mawlana’s Masnawi.) In the Rebâb-nâme, it is said: “The ney is solely made from cane, therefore it has only one kind of a whine. Whereas the rebab consists of wood, a skin, hair and iron. Therefore the rebab whines more than the ney”. The wood whines, the skin whines, the hair whines, the iron whines; yearning for their homes. In some of his verses, Mawlana gives some signs that the rebab was also played with a plectrum. He tells about Rebabî Osman and Rebabî Abu Bakr, two rebab players of his time. It is both obvious and surprising that the ney is so popular, while the rebab has been almost forgotten. Yet, as we have previously stated, the rebab is as valuable for the Mawlawis as the ney is and it has been used as frequently by them. Our heartfelt wish is to understand the secrets of the rebab and that the number of artists who wish to tell these secrets rises, so that the rebab reaches it deserved place.

We learn about the spirit of the rebab from Mawlana. Apart from this, all that is being said about the history of the rebab is nothing more than speculation. Especially the concrete and visual information on the “coconut-shell-bodied, round necked and horsetail-stringed” rebab – which is being played by very few people nowadays – goes no further back than 17th century gravures and miniatures. But we think that the research on the origins of the rebab is a topic for music historians.

At this point, what really interests us are the claims (by performers or those who try to perform) about the rebab, the have been made since the 1950s – the time when the rebab was brought into the agenda anew. It is sad to see that the global understanding focused on power, rulership and success – which has spread to some spheres – has also gotten to the world of the artists.

We see the authentic structure of the rebab being completely altered with arguments like: it is difficult to play wide intervals (so frets are wound), it has a low volume sound (so metal strings are attached) and the round neck causes difficulties in finger movements (the neck is flatted).

Sadly, during the historical process of the instrument, its nature has not been interpreted correctly. It is true that the instrument tends to get out of tune, as the horsetail strings react to body heat during performances. But this problem has been humbly solved by us – without corrupting the origin of the instrument and adding higher musicality.

It was done like this:
On our lifelong journey with the rebab, we have tried to solve this problem through different approaches. Instead of horsetail, Japanese-Korean silk, Bursa silk, one-piece gut string, strings made of different alloys were used. (We never thought of using metal strings, as it would not have been possible to use metal strings in its era)

The best solution was:
Using 3.0, 4.0 or 5.0 chromic catgut instead of horsetail, depending on the size or tuning of the instrument. This way, the tuning problem was solved and also a much higher musicality was reached regarding volume, tonality and timbre.

What we are and will be trying with this website is – although the opposite has been adopted or imposed – to prove that the rebab is not only suitable for playing works of Turkish music of any type and mode, but also that it has no deficiencies compared to other instruments, regarding its tone, its richness in expression and nuances and that it (its original structure) contributes a lot to the attitude and style of Turkish music.

İbrahim Metin Uğur
Cello Artist at the TRT Radio of Istanbul

rebab arastırma-gelistirme calımalarındaki yardım ve ilgilerinden dolayı
ipek plastik a.ş ruschmed calısanlarından
kim.müh.zeynel avcılar ve yavuz yuksel beyler tesekkurlerimi sunarım...