From Reed to Ney: Documenting Musical Craftsmanship and Pedagogy in Turkey

  • Senay, Banu (Primary Chief Investigator)
  • Aslan, Ugur (Chief Investigator)
  • Harwood, Max (Chief Investigator)
  • Bilgin, Salih (Chief Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


This project is funded by the British Museum's Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (EMKP).

The ney, the end-blown reed-flute, occupies a special place in the artistic tradition of Sufi music in Turkey, where its breathy sound finds vital use in ritual and other contexts. For a range of fascinating reasons, over the last two decades a huge new interest in the ney has emerged in Turkey (Senay 2020). Unanticipated consequences have followed. One result has been the growing shortage of reeds suitable for ney-making, as soaring demand, over-cropping, development, and climate change severely impacts sensitive reed riverbeds. Imperilling the livelihood of reed-cutters in south-eastern Turkey (the province of Hatay) where the reeds grow, ecological degradation also poses a significant threat to ney-makers and skilled practitioners of ney music in Istanbul, centre of ney performance, composition, and pedagogy.

This project has two complementary goals. Its first aim is to document through film (and other mediums) the material knowledge systems organising the work of reed harvesters in Hatay, who must wrestle with these new environmental circumstances. Its second goal is production of ethnographic film to capture both the skilled ney-making and apprenticeship-style method of ney-music teaching in Istanbul, whose activities, ironically, are threatened by the very popularity of the ney. Premature harvesting of reeds, plastic production, new standardised ney curricula, and mass education courses means craftsmanship and musical pedagogies traceable to Ottoman traditions are difficult to sustain. The project’s goal is to record the present endangered transformation of reed to ney as it makes its way from the riverbed to the classroom.

Primary Applicant:

Dr Banu Senay (Anthropologist, Project Lead)


A/Prof Ugur Aslan (Field Researcher, Musicology)
Dr Max Harwood (Ethnographic Filmmaker)
Salih Bilgin (Salih Hoca, Project Partner)

Location of Research: Uskudar, Istanbul and Samandag, Hatay (Turkey)

Host Institution: Macquarie University (Australia)
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date9/09/249/09/25