Tanbur player Necdet Yaşar is a living master of Turkish Classical music and was recently honored as a Distinguished National Artist. Considered one of the finest instrumentalists in Turkish music in the second half of this century, he is a virtuoso on the tanbur (a long necked string instrument). Born in 1930 in Nizip, a small town near Gaziantep in Turkey, Yaşar began his musical education as a young lad on the baglama, a rural folk instrument. Overwhelmed by a performance by Mesut Cemil, he gave up the baglama in favor of the classical tanbur and, while still attending university, he joined the government run Istanbul Radio. He performed for the radio with the Classical Turkish Music Chorus for 30 years under Mesut Cemil, the man who had first inspired him to pick up the tanbur.
Necdet Yaşar is well known for his familiarity with all aspects of the Turkish musical repertory: classical, Sufi and modern. His ensemble, ideally composed of six musicians or more, is at ease with a repertory that includes rare musical styles from the oldest traditions dating back to 13th century to the modern forms of the 20th century. Widely acknowledged as the grand master of the Turkish tanbur, he developed an advanced right and left hand technique to produce a louder sound on the relatively quiet musical instrument. Unrivaled at playing taksim (instrumental improvisations), Yaşar is also famed for his subtle renditions of the composed peshrev and saz semai and renowned for his technical knowledge of the makam system, in particular the intricate distinctions of melodic progression and microtonal intonation. His improvisations display rich and amazing modulations, masterfully employed transpositions, an advanced technique and, of course, his talent in creating impressive melodies. Yasar has always been able to produce original improvisations and avoid stereotyped musical phrases. Truly, Necdet Yasar is a poet of the tanbur, who recites makamic verses.
Yasar was the principal student of Mesut Cemil Bey, the preeminent tanbur player of his time and the son of the legendary Tanburi Cemil Bey, a tanbur and kemenche virtuoso who can trace his lineage back through the centuries to the greatest players of the Ottoman court. Necdet Yasar has twice been a resident artist in the Program of Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington (1972-73 & 1980-81) where he lectured on the makam system of Ottoman classical music. He has toured throughout the world as a concert artist and ambassador of Turkish classical music, performing in Europe, East Asia and North America. Yasar founded the Istanbul State Turkish Music Ensemble in 1988 and was the director until retiring in 1995. He has performed music with almost all of the prominent musicians of Turkey, such Mesut Cemil, Munir Nurettin Selçuk, Cevdet Çagla, Sadi Isilay, Yorgo Bacanos, Haluk Recai, Niyazi Sayin, Ihsan Özgen, Alaeddin Yavasca, and Bekir Sidki Sezgin.
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