karagoz-hacivat shadow plays and traditional turkish music

The Popular Theater Tradition (Meddah and
puppet shadow play Karagoz Hacivat)
The Turkish theater improved in two
different geographical areas: in old Istanbul
and other cities, and in the villages popular
theater was a pastime of the urban middle
class. It was presented to the public by
three classes of professional performers:
live actors; story tellers and puppeteers
( both puppet shadow play and puppets Turkish mean is Kukla).
Its characteristic points were imitation
of dialectic invention , and imitation of
animals by stock characters called taklit,
easily recognized by the spectator because
of their standard costumes, tunes and
dances. The comedian, puppet shadow
play master , puppeteer and storyteller
memorized certain all phrases in rhymed
couplets enacted scenes from everyday life,
using the colorful saying of their time.
Men played woman’s parts.
Performances were given, not in special
buildings. They could be performance in
public squares, at national and religious
festivals, at weddings , circumcision
ceremony (Turkish mean is Sünnet) and
fairs, in the yards of inns, in coffee houses,
in taverns and private residences.
Everything was done to
music: wrestling matches were
carried with music, conjurers
(illiusionists) performed to the
sound of the tambourine. The
plays had little or no action,
depending for laughs on
monologues or dialogues
involving puns, ready
responses, crude practical
jokes, double meanings,
misunderstandings, and
interpolated quips. There were
clearly formulated rules of
diction. Performances were
often include with songs or
dances, or both.
Introduction of Shadow Play KARAGOZ
In fact nothing is known of popular theater under the
Anatolian Turks between the twelfth and fourteenth
centuries. The Byzantine Emperor Manual Palaeologos II
records his action of his visit to Sultan Beyazit’s court
sometime before 1407 and mentions companies of
musicians, singers, dancers and actors. A very early
description of a Turkish dramatic performance may be found
in the epic prose poem. The Alexiad of Anna Comnena, the
eldest daughter of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus, who
describes in the following words how the actors at the Seljuk
court ridiculed her father who was suffering from gout:
“Never before had the Emperor suffered so severely from
that pain... and the Emperor’s suffering in his feet, and the
trouble in his feet, become the subject of comedies. First
they would impersonate the Emperor, then they would
depict the Emperor himself lying on a couch, and make play
of it. These puerile games aroused much laughter among
the barbarians.”
We can not separate the
performance and the
characters of the shadow
theater from the social context
and ethos of the Ottoman
Empire in which it was
generated and firmly located in
its context. It was a large
empire spread over three
continents; Europe, Asia and
Africa. Its population consisted
of several nationalities,
religions and ethnic groups, all
of which saw Istanbul as their
capital, a natural centre.
Karagöz is the leading man in
this play. He is an unschooled crowd
man. He can’t understand Hacivat’s
alien words or makes wrong sense of
their words’ real meaning. This
situation makes up some funny
dialogues and events. Karagöz is a
uncultured man but sometimes he
jokes about Hacivat’s parlance.
Because Hacivat uses foreign words
with Turkish grammatical and he thinks
it is mockery. He is so chatty. Unless
he is in the street, he looks at the
window and chimes in the
dialogues.Except Hacivat’s works
usually he doesn’t have a work. He
uses a hat with lights on it which called
“Işkırlak”. He becomes different types
with different clothes in different plays.
(For example: Bride Karagöz, Donkey
Karagöz, Naked Karagöz etc.)
Hacivat speaks out of both
sides of your mouth so he is an
artful person. He just thinks about
his own needs. He is -a littleeducated so he likes speak with
foreign words. He employs
Karagöz and take his gains.
Usually he exists by that way. He
becomes different types with
different clothes in different plays,
All women’s name in
Karagöz-Hacıvat Play are
“Zenne”. Women in this play
are young, middle-aged and
old, flighty, combative, only
just faithful and always
prone to gossip. The main
type is always flighty and
given to intrigue. In nearly
every play, this type causes
a scandal in the
He speaks a perfect
Turkish with Istanbul accent.
Sometimes he becomes a rich
man, sometimes he becomes
a prodigal son but whatever he
becomes he is in pleasure. He
is graceful, dainty and
effeminate. He dresses in
European style and always
packs an umbrella, a bouquet
or a stick.
Bebe Ruhi
Bebe Ruhi, the dwarf has
a lisp in his speech and says r
and s as y. He asks the same
questions over and over again
until people become tired of
listening to him. Sometimes he
is a dwarf and sometimes a
hunchback. He often does
weird jobs around the
neighbourhood. Karagoz on
many occasions, has to beat
him in order to get rid of him.
He spends all his time
smoking opium and
sleeping in the
neighbourhood coffee
house. He can easily be
identified by his pipe, his
fan and a huge humped
shoulder. He is a flippant
type but always tries to look
serious. He speaks like
Hacivat but has a bad blood
of frequently going to sleep
in the middle of a talk and
snoring loudly.
Laz, who comes from the Black sea
coast, is either a boatman, a wool beater or
a tinsmith. He has a strong Black Sea coast
accent. He is very talkative and also speaks
quickly. As he usually so busy talking
himself, he can not listen to what other
people say. He has a habit of becoming
angry in a very short time. He often dances
on the stage a Black Sea dance called
horon, which is characterized by alert,
tense shivering movements, the trembling
of the entire body from head to foot, sudden
sharp kneeling and springing up at the
rebound. This fits in which the basic traits of
his character.
Baba Himmet, for
example, is the unbeatable
wood cutter from Anatolia, a
tell man (the tallest of the
shadow figures, as we have
already mentioned), carrying
a large axe on his shoulder.
He has a good heart and
always thinks and talks
about his sweetheart in his
own village. Those from
Kayseri and Bolu are similar
to Turk but are better
acquainted with Istanbul life.
Turkish Music plays an
important part in traditional
Turkish play called Karagöz.
Turkish music as performed
in these plays has acquired
a characteristic of its own
ands become a musical
genre peculiar to old
Istanbul’s urban light
Turkish music.
It is unthinkable to consider a Karagoz play in which
Turkish music is not given performance. Music is these
plays brings together several different genres and
composition forms of Ottoman - Turkish music. Apart
from the composition forms of classical Turkish music
like the kâr, kârçe, murabba, beste, semai, sarki and
vocal and insturmantel improvisations known as the
gazel and taksim, other genres like the köçekçes,
tavsancas and dance music pieces of urban light Turkish
music, Thracian (Rumeli) Anatolian folk songs, songs
whose texts are based on Arabic and Judeo-Spanish,
the language of the Ottoman Jews, Gipsy songs, Greek
and Armenian songs, waltz, polka and opera arias were
also given performance in the in the Ottoman shadow
plays. The variety of subjects of the plays caused the
musical repertoire to expend in the course of time. The
notated repertoire of Turkish music consits of
compositions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Musical instruments used in shadow plays may be
divided into two groups: the ones which appear on the
curtain and those used behind the curtain. The
spectators see the rular folk music instruments on the
curtain while they hear the performance of those used in
classical and urban music.
In old Istanbul, from the Sultan to the simple man in
the street, from the learned to the illiterate took pleasure
from this shadow play. Karagoz was a product of true
urban culture. This aspect of Karagoz has clearly been
reflected in its music whose repertoire extends from
classical songs to light melodies and dance pieces. This
amazing repertoire is a significant expression of old
Istanbul’s urban music.
Thanks for your patience…
Aybüke Karaoğlu
Tanya Varer