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Mehter Rekindles Turkish Enthusiasm | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Members of the traditional Ottoman band Mehter perform near the German Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Istanbul-The world’s oldest military band Mehter has resurfaced after the failed coup in Turkey.

Mehter, or as it was generally known as mehterane, was an important part of the army during the Ottoman Empire and was almost non-existent in the Turkish Republic that was formed by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk.

Mehter dates back to the Seljuk era. During the 13th century, it is believed that the first Mehter was sent to Osman I by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad III as a present along with a letter that salutes the newly formed state. The band would accompany the army during its conquests and play military music pieces during war times or ceremonies.

Members of the band, Mehters, are Janissaries who are known for their historic military suits. Janissary corps formed the core of the Ottoman army. In 1826, the music of the Mehters fell into disfavor following Sultan Mahmud II’s abolition of the Janissary corps, until 1911 when it became extinct.

In 1953, during the celebration of the 500-year anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople to the forces of Sultan Mehmed II, the tradition had been fully restored as a band of the Turkish Armed Forces.

In 1952, the administration of Istanbul Military Museum restored the band’s primary anthem used for Turkish soldiers to create enthusiasm and motivation.

It became very rare to see Mehter and its performance became limited to the tourism festivals.

But since 2003, Mehter has been appearing in public arenas playing national or Ottoman music especially on May 29, the occasion of the Fall of Constantinople.

In 2010, an organization for the mentally disabled formed a traditional band music of disabled members that played old Ottoman music during Turkey’s Disabled Week. The band believed that forming a Mehter band of 20 disabled members could bring attention to their cause and help the disabled.

Following the coup attempt on July 15, the military band has been appearing at the Guards of Democracy playing music as the state officials arrive to deliver speeches and meet the masses.