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Turkey: Municipalities strive to maintain tradition of Ramadan drummers
İSTANBUL, (Today's Zaman):
Several municipalities across Turkey are struggling to maintain the tradition of Ramadan drummers, who are assigned with waking people up to have their suhoor (pre-dawn meal) before dawn during the holy month of Ramadan, with new practices such as making drummers wear a fez and white shirt and organizing competitions to select the best Ramadan drummers.
For many people in Turkey, Ramadan drummers are one of the most important markers of the holy month of Ramadan, helping people wake up for the pre-dawn meal by drumming during Ramadan nights. But for others they prefer using their mobile phones or alarm clocks to wake up for sahur, finding the noise of drumming unnecessary and unpleasant. However, the existence of Ramadan drummers bears utmost significance for the continuation of a tradition dating back to the old Ramadan days.
During Ottoman times, Ramadan drummers -- who were also regarded as night guards of the streets -- were on duty for the purpose of waking Ottoman Muslims up for sahur in a pleasant way. Each day they would recite different Turkish poems accompanied by drumming. Furthermore, being a Ramadan drummer was not an easy job since playing drums during Ramadan was a special tradition handed down from father to son, so the drummers were mostly from the same family. At the end of Ramadan, the drummers would visit the homes of the people to get tips for the service they provided during Ramadan.
Now, after nearly 700 years from the foundation of the Ottoman Empire, there are new practices expected to be carried out by the municipalities to contribute to the process of continuing the old tradition of playing Ramadan drums during the holy month. The Çorum Municipality has made many special preparations for the Ramadan drummers. The drummers will wear a fez (Ottoman hat), white shirts and black trousers, reminiscent of the daywear for men in the Ottoman Empire. We even pay attention to the harmony between the walking of the drummers and what they play when we train them at the Çorum Municipality, said Salahattin Delice, an instructor of the Ramadan drummers, who are also given courses by the municipality on how to play drums appropriately for Ramadan. The municipality will provide special cards for the drummers similar to identification cards and only a particular number of drummers have been charged with duty. Drummers who have not taken the municipality course will not be allowed to drum on the streets. The municipalitys goal is to create an atmosphere of the old traditions without disturbing people.
The Beylikdüzü Municipality organized a competition to select the best Ramadan drummers to play drums during the holy month in İstanbuls Beylikdüzü district. The candidates were given a weeks training by a music teacher. Following the training, the drummers showed their skills in front of a jury that included Beylikdüzü Vice Mayor Efrahim Yeşil. İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and Beylikdüzü Mayor Yusuf Uzun gave the drummers advice following the competition.
The winner of the competition, İsmail Kuşçu, expressed his delight over the revival of the tradition with the recognition of the municipalities. He said he has been a Ramadan drummer for a very long time and that his wish is to see the survival of the old traditions. Kuşçu added that they have received some complaints during Ramadan, but most people are happy about the drummers. The people who do not want us to wake them up for sahur are the ones whose children are sleeping or who have sick people at home, yet they just want us to play our drums less loudly and they do not behave rudely to the drummers, said Kuşçu.
In some parts of Turkey, such as the southeastern province of Gaziantep, the drummers are not happy with the lack of support from the municipality. Bileç Davulcu, the head of an organization for drummers in Gaziantep, complained that although they receive positive reactions from people about the Ramadan drummers, the municipality does not allow them to drum during Ramadan. He said the municipality did give them special outfits to wear, but ultimately, the municipality refused to let them play drums. Davulcu also stated that they do not have problems receiving tips from people.
However, in some provinces, the number of Ramadan drummers who want to play drums is decreasing due to inadequate tips along with the oppressive summer heat, which causes officials anxiety that the tradition will survive.
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