Guide to SKOPJE

Cengiz Ibrahim – virtuoso of the saz and kanun


Musician, theoretician, teacher, editor and presenter of numerous music programmes aired on the Turkish programme of Macedonian National Radio. Those who know him and have had a chance to work with him always add that he is a virtuoso of the heavenly instruments – kanun and saz (baglama).

If you want to express the philosophy and culture of Anatolian music it is best to do it through the well-known saz. This string instrument conveys the message in a completely different way say the great masters of music. According to them, the saz tells of things everybody know, but nobody dares to speak. The lower pair of strings play the most beautiful love songs, the middle pair talk about sad memories, and the upper pair of strings tell of stories from the diaspora. All strings combined, the saz describes life itself.

We are interested in its life story, though, and that story in Macedonia is best told by Cengiz Ibrahim, a musician who recently acquired a master’s degree on the subject.

Cengiz Ibrahim made his first steps in the world of music on the saz. He started  playing the heavenly instrument at the age of 14, learning the first lessons from famous masters in Istanbul. There he studied the technical characteristics of the instrument, he learned to read and write notes and some very important finer details.

“The saz is a traditional Turkish string instrument. My academic study is based on historical sources. There is information about its history, development, old techniques of playing, terminology and the different kinds of saz. When you listen to its sounds you get a feeling of mystery and infinity.” – explains Ibrahim.

The instrument originated from the Huns, an old Turkish tribe from Eastern Asia. Its original name was kopuz and it underwent some changes before it was brought to Anatolia by poets.

Saz and dombra are instruments used in music therapy, which makes Ibrahim very happy. “Alternative methods of treatment based on music have been used for a long time in Turkey. Music was used in psychiatric clinics to relax patients. I have been closely following this research in 20 years and I have felt the power and the effect this sound has during my performances.”- says Cengiz Ibrahim.

Cengiz Ibrahim has mastered almost all eastern string instruments and he has had a truly prolific career. He is currently working on a new play “1001 Night” at the Turkish Theatre, and he has worked with a great number of bands and musicians  including Mizar, Anastasija, Vlatko Stefanovski, Musicians without Borders from Holland, Ljubojna, and has composed music pieces for 15 theatre plays such as Harem Sultan, Luna Park, Little Women, Black Pencil, Bacchanalia etc.

He is also author and performer of the music for the ballet “Doors”, which makes him the first Turkish man of Rumelian descent to compose a modern ballet.

“The saz has a lot of fans in Macedonia and there is great interest about it mainly in Skopje and eastern Macedonia where the Folk Festival in Chalikli, Valandovo is very important. There are a lot of members of “Yeni Yol” folk dance club who are learning to play the saz. I have made a great effort in recent years to introduce old Turkish instruments into music literature and now it is being planned to do so.” – says Ibrahim.

Cengiz has a habit of beginning his concerts with Zeybek, a kind of music from the Aegean region and then he moves on to Anatolian songs. “I see this music as an immesurable treasure. The more you research the more variety you find in melody, harmony and finer details.”- says Ibrahim who works as a music teacher at Tefeyyuz Primary School in Skopje.

His future research will be about the kanun.”With this study I intend to promote the musical values of the Turks from Rumelia. I’ve been working on theatre and film soundracks and I’m beginning to feel the power of the kanun”- emphasized Ibrahim. When we asked him about the position of artists in our society his anawer was clear: “If artists work well and professionally all doors are open for them. If their music has some value, then it makes them respectable and sought for artists.”

Husamedina GINA