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History of Ney

History of Ney


Ney: In some Turkish dialects called: "Nai", "Nay", "Gagri Tuiduk", "Gargy Tüyduk" or "Karghy Tuiduk" (It comes from the Anatolian Turkish word Gagri to fuss, meaning to wail, to beat up self, to complain. Gargy or Karghy corresponds to the word Kargı. Tuiduk or Tüyduk is also the Anatolian word Düdük that is flute), is a wind instrument made from Kargı reed (Arundo Donax). There are also sub variations made of different materials known as "Sybyzghy" in Kazakh Turks and Altai Turks, "Quray" or "Kuray" in Bashkir, Tuva, Yakut and Sakha Turks, and these sub variations are blown as the way of Ney used to blown in Southern Azerbaijan and Iran by combining lips and teeth.

Arundo Donax Ney Reed.jpg
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Mahmud Kashgari, in his work called Divân-ı Lügati't-Türk, which describes Turkish culture and language, written at the beginning of the 11th century, states that the Ney was used in the ceremonies called "Sagu", held for "Erler" (heroes, brave ones), describing death, virtue and pain. "Sagu" ceremonies are also known as "Yuğ" among the Turks. The lament elegies that are consisting of quatrains were called Sagut or Yuğut, sung in these ceremonies, which we call "Ağıt" in today's Turkish. In fact, when we associate it with the word Avutmak, which means to console, we can say that the words "Savutmak" and "Yavutmak" have been carried to the present day as "Avutmak". Since the sound produced by the Ney is very impressive and emotional, we can understand why the Turks blow the Ney in these ceremonies.

Thanks to the Safavid Turkish dynasty and the Great Seljuk reign that ruled in Azerbaijan and Iran, Ney spread significantly in Iran and took the name "" or "Nay" (reed) in Persian. In other words, the instrument we call Ney in Anatolia, the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa is a Turkish instrument that came from Central Asia, North and East Turkestan and took its name from Persian while passing through Iran on its journey to reach the western lands.
Ney, which became widespread in the Arab society under the influence of the Mamluks, Ayyubids, Seljuks and Ottomans, was also named with the word "Mizmâr" (meaning windpipe, vocal organ), which is used for almost all Arabic wind instruments. It has always been called Ney in Turkiye, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Western Thrace and Crimean Turkish. Ney, which spread and was used throughout the Balkans with the influence of the Ottomans; It is called "Ney" by Bosnians, Croatians, Greeks, Macedonians and Albanians, "Nai" by Serbs and Bulgarians, and "Nayu" in Romania.


The most primitive form of the Ney instrument, which can be considered as its ancestor, was discovered for the first time in history in the Sumerian society, which was not Semitic or Aryan, and whose origins are still unknown. It is thought to have been used since 5000 BC, and the oldest Ney found in Northern Iraq dating back to the years 3000-2800 is today exhibited at the Philadelphia University Museum in America. It is thought that the instrument was generally used in religious ceremonies at that time. In addition, Ney became a Turkish instrument seen in all Turks from Siberia to the Balkans.

Ney in Sufism
Ney in Sufism

Ney has become a symbol of Sufi Music in Turkish Geography. Ney is the main musical instrument in Sufi Music. The great Turkish Sufi Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi himself never played the Ney, but we often see Mevlana with the Ney in depictions. Instead of playing, which is used for a musical instrument, the term blowing is used for Ney. Blowing has a metaphorical meaning. It derives its origin from the religion of Islam, where God breathed his soul into man when he created him. Just like a person who comes to life by blowing a soul into a lifeless body, Ney comes to life by blowing on a dry hollow reed.

Another analogy is that just as the eye of one's heart is gradually opened and completed by educating one's soul in Sufism, the Ney also opens in knots. Another element that enables the use of this metaphor is; Just as the "" sound is made from the mouth when playing the flute and the "" sound is made from the mouth for the Side Flute, the "" sound is made from the mouth while blowing the Ney. Hû means "He" in Arabic and is often said in praise of Allah.


Just as a Dervish Lodge Literature was formed in the written field, thanks to the rituals called Tesbih, Dhikr or Semah, which were performed in the Lodges and Dergahs, where everyone was a regular according to their own disposition, especially in the Ottoman period, as in other Turkish states since the Seljuk period, so too in Turkish Music, this tradition performed with the accompaniment of musicians during Tesbih, Dhikr and Semah ceremonies have created a Lodge Attitude, and thanks to the progress made in the field of Sufism with the accumulation of centuries, Sufi Music as well as Sufi Literature was born. Ney has become the main instrument of Sufi Music due to the fact that it has been an instrument used in religious ceremonies since the early times. For this reason, Ney; Although it is considered an ordinary instrument in other societies and has become one of the indispensable instruments of the lively melodies of the Arab and Iranian geography, in Turkish societies and societies that are heavily influenced by the Turks in terms of religion and culture, it has gained a more otherworldly identity and is associated with religion and Sufism. Despite this, it was included in the Mehter Band in the Ottoman Empire and was performed frequently in both folk music and palace music assemblies.


Ney Today
Ney Today

Today, "Ney" is considered a Turkish Instrument. Ney, translated as Turkish Flute in English and Türkische Flöte in German, is known with the equaling word for Turkish Flute in almost all world languages.

However, within the historical cycle till today, Ney; developed in 3 main styles as Turkish Ney, Arabic Ney and Iranian Ney.

Ney is a primitive instrument... Therefore, it is not possible to explain it in a single theory like flute, clarinet and other systematized instruments that emerged later. For this reason, Ney can only be learned fully and accurately through Meşk, that is, by practicing one-to-one with Neyzens, who are Ney Masters. In this way, Ney has been passed down from generation to generation and has survived to this day in our music.


Like all other musical instruments, the Ney has evolved. We have many Neys from the Ottoman period. At the same time, when we examine the Neys, which have now gained antique value, collected from the geographies where the Ney is used, we see that the masters of the Ney used different templates, fret systems and measurements. Turkish Neys have been revised in the last century. Kutb-i Nayi Niyazı Sayın is currently 95 years old and he has revised the Ney instrument with the Pitch Shift system. The current standard Ney fret system and measurements belong to Niyazi Sayın.


Ney, which generally has a vocal range of 2.5 octaves and thanks to the skill of Neyzen, can reach to 3 octaves, has become the center of attention of westerners in recent years due to the development of communication and logistics. Ney, which was previously only used by those interested in Sufi culture in Western countries, has now taken its place in Western Music and the music of other cultures in modern music performances, and has spread from South America to Asia as an instrument on which all types of music can be performed, including Pop, Fantasy, Jazz and Rock. It has started to make a name for itself all over the world, right down to its extremes.

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