He met with the sound of İstanbul kamanche (Turkish fiddle spike) for the first time during his university years. He was deeply impressed by this instrument while listening to the stringed instrument artist İhsan Özgen’s CD.
He saw this instrument later at the shop window of a store that sold musical instruments. He wanted to purchase one but it was not the right time, yet… Fate has its mysterious ways. Life made him aim towards producing classic kamanches as a person who holds two university diplomas. He first learned how to play it and later how to make. The master craftsman of İstanbul kamanche Murat Yerden is followed closely by the kamanche players from around the world from America to Israel and from Japan to Brasil.
First played then designed
Music has an important part in the life of Murat Yerden, who graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Communication, Department of Radio, Television, and Cinema after studying tourism and hospitality at college for two years. Yerden, who plays the guitar since fourth-grade and tours with Retrobüs in Turkey, came to İstanbul after graduating from university in 2008 and began working as a cameraman for a TV channel. Yerden, whose main objective was cinema and advertising, realized at the end of three months of working in this sector that it would not make him happy. Yerden expressed that his interest in İstanbul kamanche and Turkish music began during his years of university education and he said, “I discovered that Turkish music has a very exciting repertoire. I wanted to learn Turkish music theory through this instrument. One day, I went to a concert given by Yeni Türkü, when I heard the sound of the İstanbul kamanche, I decided clearly with which instrument to work. I bought a second-hand İstanbul kamanche with all the money I had in my pocket. To learn how to play this instrument, I participated in lessons offered by İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Art and Vocational Training Courses (İSMEK). After a while, I felt the need to have a better kamanche than the one I owned. Rather than buying a better one, I decided to make one myself.”
He’s been serving in his own workshop for 4 years
Murat Yerden, who quit his job in the first quarter of 2009 and sailed on a different adventure, says that his first teacher was Fikret Karakaya who was among the artists of TRT İstanbul Radio and also the art director, continues: “The craziest part of the work was that I didn’t know if I had sleight of hand for it. But I realized that I could do it. I set off on this journey with the idea of making my own kamanche, with the guidance of Karakaya, I began to make my first 3 İstanbul kamanches. Then people who want to get İstanbul kamanche began to communicate with me. I was designing İstanbul kamanches in the covered balcony of my house in Hasanpaşa. As the number of orders increased, I realized that I needed to find a larger workshop. I got lucky and started to work with my master, oud maker Mustafa Copçuoğlu, in his workshop in İstanbul, Kadıköy. I learned a lot from him from woodworking to using different tools. We worked together in this workshop between 2009 and 2015. I opened my own workshop in 2015. I make 4-5 İstanbul kamanches per month. Since there was not any other İstanbul kamanche master, my name was soon to be heard.”
Types of wood that are used affect the sound
Preferring to use trees such as mulberry, hazel, sycamore, chestnut, which are not very hard with fungal textures, as raw materials, Murat Yerden says, “For example, mulberry is a capricious tree. It is difficult to process, but the more the fungal textures are on the surface of the tree, the easier it is for the instrument to reproduce sound and resonate. More hazy and Asian sound comes out of the mulberry tree. The kamanche has a nasal sound. It’s what we look for in a good kamanche. The cypress wood is a-must for the top wood for me. Although I might use different softwoods such as spruce, Lebanese cedar, Canadian cedar for the top wood, I prefer to use cypress for a characteristic İstanbul kamanche. I use exotic and hardwoods like ebony, snake wood or rosewood for the neck. I prefer hardwood such as ebony and rosewood for the pegs. 16 cm pegs are needed in the making of İstanbul kamanche. Bridge and soundpost have an important position in the kamanche. Because the soundpost is not used this way in no instrument other than kemençe. In all stringed instruments, the soundpost stands between the top wood and the body. But in the kamanche, it lifts a shoe of the bridge and moves a shoe away from the center. This creates a unique effect on sound.”
He will leave a written and visual record
Murat Yerden, who provides the trees necessary for the body in the first stage for building the İstanbul kamanche, then cuts these logs into 45 cm rectangles. Then shapes the wood using the drawing template. After completing the exterior form, the groove called drop is opened. In the next stage, the inside of the body is carved, the neck part is attached, and finally, the most important part, the top cover that gives the direction of the sound, is attached. After opening the peg holes, the bridge and the soundpost are placed. After this stage, the process of polishing and sanding is started. Stating that the whole production stage takes about 15-20 days, Yerden says, “I am in search of different ways in making İstanbul kamanche. I prefer to go beyond traditional methods. I can be brave and courageous. In this context, I do different R & D studies. For example, the peg box part of the kemençe is a serious problem. Pegs turn hard. I’m working on making these pegs work mechanically and see how a peg-wheeler works. My primary goal is to make the usage even easier through functional details. My dream for the future is to do things that will reveal the standards of this instrument. There is not a feeding source about İstanbul kamanche’s production techniques. My biggest dream is to leave a written and visual record of everything, including my trials and errors, about the production process and that I can leave them as my legacy for the future producers of kamanche.”