- LORDS OF THE EARTH -
The coffee-houses are, perhaps, the most characteristic feature of Stamboul
streets during the nights of Ramazan... Itinerant gypsies, masters of pipe
and tom-tom ... a man and a boy, in the wide black trousers, the dark-red
girdle, and the almost black fez ... There are those ... who find
no music in the broken rhythms, the mounting minor, of a harmony which the
Russian composers have only recently begun to make comprehensible to Western
ears. For myself .... I can listen, as long as musicians will perform, to
those infinite repetitions, that insistent sounding of the minor key. It
pleases me to hear in them a music come from far away - from unknown river
gorges, from camp-fires glimmering on great plains. There are flashes, too,
of light, of song, the playing of shepherds' pipes, the swoop of horsemen,
and sudden outcries of savagery. But the note to which it all comes back
is the monotone of a primitive life, like the day-long beat of camel bells.
And more than all, it is the mood of Asia, elsewhere so rarely understood,
which is neither lightness nor despair.
Dancing is not uncommon in the coffee-houses of the people during Ramazan.
Sometimes it is performed by the gipsy girls, dressed in vivid cotton prints
and jingling with sequins, who alone of their sex are immodest enough to
entre a coffee-house. Dancing boys are oftener the performers - gypsies,
Greeks, or Turks - who perpetuate a custom older than the satyr dances of
India or the Phrygian dancers of Cybele.
- HG Dwight, Constantinople
(London 1915, rev ed 1927)
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