March 30, 2012

Istanbul's Fasil Music Scene

Fasil is what makes a good night great in a traditional Turkish meyhane (tavern) – a motley band of violin, lyre and clarinet-playing musicians and singers who usually mix classical Turkish music, well-loved songs from the 1950s and 1960s and sometimes a cheeky arabesque drumbeat to suit a crowd of diners. This kind of music is quintessentially crowd-pleasing, to the extent that, as the night progresses and the raki flows, the performance becomes the realm of the people and the diners themselves do most of the singing and a great deal of boozy dancing.

Fasil is to the Turks what karaoke is to the Japanese (and to a certain extent the British) – everyone gets involved, but it usually entails a certain amount of tipsiness. I once walked past the open door of a fasil-fuelled meyhane late one night while completely sober, and found it decidedly embarrassing. Grown men and women were singing lustily into a microphone passed around by hands holding glasses of raki and forkfuls of cheese, everyone swaying and hooting with laughter. They were having a whale of a time, just the right side of tipsy, warm with camaraderie and the buzz of being ridiculous with friends.

The great thing is that, even as a foreigner, you are never allowed to be an outsider in a fasil crowd. You may not know the words to the songs or how to dance, but everyone will be (literally) falling over themselves to get you on your feet and fully involved. If this sounds completely horrifying, my advice would be to have a drink and see what happens.

Read more on The Guardian: Istanbul's Fasil Music Scene


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