This recent news story appeared on the BBC news site and I can only slightly agree – that Istanbul’s muezzins need to have voice training. The morning calls to prayer are a part of Istanbul’s culture, tradition and religion and add to the mysticism of the city and all its charm. However, my complaint is not that they are singing out of tune, but it’s the actual timing of the call to prayer itself. Whenever I am in Istanbul, if I want to sleep later than the early morning azan, I’ve got to wear earplugs. The early morning call to prayer is – just that, too early. I’m not sure if I’m the only one tourist complaining, but some people are light sleepers and need to get their sleep. The early morning call to prayer is too early. I even think that some of the locals of Istanbul who have to get up and actually work in the city also find it somewhat annoying in that it wakes them up too early. Again, I like the call to prayer, but would it be possible in this sleep deprived city to have it begin a little later?
Istanbul’s tuneless muezzins get voice training
It is meant to be a beautiful, melodic and spiritual start to the day. But the morning calls to prayer by some of Istanbul’s muezzins and imams have had locals plugging their ears rather than reaching for their prayer books.
The problem is such that following a flood of complaints by locals, special classes for the tuneless culprits have been set up.
Imam Mehmet Tas, one of the school’s first pupils, said he was already feeling the benefits.
“I have so much more self-confidence now in my abilities to do all five calls to prayer in their correct tempos,” he said.
The improvement scheme was put together by Mustafa Cagrici, the city’s head of religious affairs, who is determined to make sure all of the city’s 3,000 mosques produce a beautiful call-to-prayer each morning.
“For some reason, these imams were hired even though their voices are not good, they just can’t sing!
We’re doing our best to help our imams and muezzins to improve their singing.”
He says that since lessons started, complaints have dropped from hundreds a month to just dozens, an improvement that can be credited to the singing teacher, Seyfettin Tomakin. “I personally find a badly sung azan [call to prayer] very disturbing,” he said.
“The azan is music, beautiful music that brings people to God, that’s why it’s so important to sing it well.
“Sure, there are some people who find it harder than others, that’s why some come here for a year. But my job is to find their voice to enable them to sing.” Sadly, for some, no amount of teaching will ever be enough.
“There are some people who can’t improve – no matter how much training you give them,” said Mr Cagrici.
“So we connect their mosque, by radio, to a central mosque where there’s an imam who can sing.”
What do my readers think? Leave your comment on the timing of the azan, the early morning call to prayer in Istanbul.