Janissary Bands

by zachlichtenstein

Last week we learned about Janissaries and Janissary Bands, and these topics were very intriguing to me. Janissaries had a reputation for being extremely fierce warriors, and were feared all over Europe and the Middle East. In addition, the Janissary Band, also called Mehter, was the oldest military marching band in the world. It was very interesting to learn that some of the greatest composers, such as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven were all greatly influenced by Janissary Bands. This just goes to show how much of an impact Janissary Bands had on the music of its time, as well as future generations.

Here is a link of a video of an Ottoman Janissary Band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0Fyf63qI_E

This video gives some insight into what a Janissary Band might have looked like, and what they might have sounded like when they were playing for the Ottoman Empire. Something that I noticed from watching this video was the ornate, colorful robes that the members of the band are wearing, as well as the different styles of hats. One can clearly see and hear the Turkish crescent in this video, a percussion instrument with bells that was used by the Janissary Bands. You can also see other instruments of the Janissary Bands, such as the Duval, Zurna, Boru, Nakkare, Kos, and Zil. At about the fifty second mark it was very interesting to learn that the Janissary Bands impressed the people they conquered with the “Turning March of the Janissaries.”  In addition, at the eight minute mark, you can see what seems like the leader of the Janissary Bands. It seems as if he is conducting the rest of the band by keeping the pace and setting the tempo. It was also very impressive to observe the discipline and order in which the members of the band played with.

What do people think about Janissary Bands after watching this video? Was it different than what people had imagined when we discussed it in class, or was it similar? Do you think that the Janissary Bands contributed to the fierceness of the army? What are peoples’ thoughts about the sounds of Janissary Bands?

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