We visited lute maker Arslan Çekiç at his instrument making and repair workshop in Kadıköy Kafkas Passage. The moment you step into his workshop, which is another world created with instruments such as lutes, laftas, and tambours, you become  enveloped by a sense of peace. The most significant reason to that is the deep love and respect in the dough of this place. All instruments you see in the workshop are the magical reflection of Çekiç’s over thirty years of experience.

Picking materials and balance are so important
Lute maker Arslan Çekiç is a highly specialized and popular artist in his field. In 1982, entering ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory, Department of Instrument Making, Arslan Çekiç graduated after 7 years of education. Çekiç is specialized in the field of instrument making such as lute, tambour, and lafta. In 1983, the famous composer Yalçın Tura bought his first drum that he made while he was a student. Çekiç says, “I’m doing my art for art.” He continues: “I never thought of this job to earn a commercial success. If I had any dissatisfaction about an instrument that I made, I did not sell it. I broke and thrashed it. I never give up on traditionalism. The quality of the materials I use is my priority. I use French polish and organic glue. I never use inorganic materials such as polyester or varnish. My target audience consists of local and foreign professional artists. The number one rule of instrument making is the choice of materials. The type of wood, its quality, and natural dryness are extremely important… The selections are entirely mine such as the harmony between the wood colors, and patterns. Designing the sound box is an important stage. The most critical feature of being able to talk about a well-done instrument is its balance. If the instrument has a good balance, it won’t tire its performer. The artist can play the instrument for hours.”

Lute making takes 15 days
Giving more information about the choice of materials, Arslan Çekiç says, “The quality of the wood, its hardness, and dryness gain importance in instrument making. I use at least 15-20 year old wood. I prefer using walnut, elm, juniper, cherry, plum, and oak trees for tambour making since their weight density is medium. I don’t prefer wood from abroad because they are heavier. I use hardwoods such as ebony for keyboards. I prefer rose wood for pegs. The lightness of the instrument is extremely important.” Stating that he can only make a maximum of 2 lutes in a month, Arslan Çekiç gives the following information about the stages of lute making: “Making a lute takes about 15 days. Holdfasts are placed on the mold. Belly making begins with the bending of wood slices. After the belly making is over, it is removed from the mold. The exterior of the belly is cleaned, inside is papered. Then the neck is attached. In the next stage, the lid, in other words the soundboard is prepared from spruce. Balconies of the soundboard are adhered, designed, and positioned on the sound box. Neck is corrected, leveling is made, wrapped and pegs are attached. Later, keyboard is attached. It is cleaned, sanded, and top polish is made using French polish. Then cages from cattle horns are cut and fitted. Cords are installed through the bridges and the instrument becomes ready to play. Drying of the hot glue takes one day.”

Worked with well known masters
Arslan Çekiç states that the price of this handcrafted instrument is two thousand USD. Mentioning that he doesn’t see anyone as his competition but himself, Çekiç says, “I mostly compete against myself. I advance by determining my own standards. I worked with important artists until today such as Necdet Yaşar, Mutlu Torun, and Samim Karaca. I achieved success in this field by following their advice. Lute makers must be able to tune, recognize notes, and perform peg adjustments well.” One of his tambours is in Bill Clinton’s collection. Arslan Çekiç, who has trained many in this field until today, is among the artists who are attached to their profession with love. During our interview at his workshop, many clients came to visit him. However, it wouldn’t be right to call them his clients, since they were more like friends now after long time of working together and getting to know each other. He presents some of the instruments to his friends during their pleasant conversations.