The bağlama (Turkish: bağlama, from bağlamak, “to tie”) is a stringed musical instrument shared by various cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean, Near East, and Central Asia regions.
It is sometimes referred to as the saz (from the Persian ساز, meaning a kit or set), although the term “saz” actually refers to a family of plucked string instruments, long-necked lutes used in Ottoman classical music, Turkish folk music, Azeri music, Kurdish music, Assyrian music, Armenian music, and in parts of Syria, Iraq and the Balkan countries. Instruments resembling today’s bağlama have been found in archaeological excavations of Sumerian and Hittite mounds in Anatolia dating before Common Era, and in ancient Greek works.
The bağlama is a synthesis of historical musical instruments in Central Asia and pre-Turkish Anatolia. It is partly descended from the Turkic komuz. The kopuz, or komuz, differs from the bağlama in that it has a leather-covered body and two or three strings made of sheep gut, wolf gut, or horsehair. It is played with the fingers rather than a plectrum and has a fingerboard without frets. Bağlama literally translates as “something that is tied up”, probably a reference to the tied-on frets of the instrument. The word bağlama is first used in 18th-century texts.
According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, “the terms “bağlama” and “saz” are used somewhat interchangeably in Turkey.” Like the Western lute and the Middle-Eastern oud, it has a deep round back, but a much longer neck. It can be played with a plectrum or with a fingerpicking style known as şelpe.
In the music of Greece the name baglamas (Greek: μπαγλαμάς) is given to a treble bouzouki, a related instrument. The Turkish settlement of Anatolia from the late eleventh century onward saw the introduction of a two-string Turkmen dutar, which was played in some areas of Turkey until recent times.
The most commonly used string folk instrument in Turkey, the bağlama has seven strings divided into courses of two, two and three. It can be tuned in various ways and takes different names according to region and size: Bağlama, Divan Sazı, Bozuk, Çöğür, Kopuz Irızva, Cura, Tambura, etc.
a really great song featuring bağlama is the arabesk hit “bir teselli ver” by orhan gencebay, who was a trained singer and bağlama player in the turkish classical tradition.