Folk Tours 
Annual Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp 2003
By Shibar Mozuna
Photos by Carl Miller


Images © Carl Miller
Dance crosses all cultural barriers

One of the most amazing experiences I think I’ve ever had was October 2 through October 5th 2003, when Folk Tours (now MED Folk Tours) held the first of its annual Middle Eastern music and dance camps in the United States. Soon I’ll be attending number three! Around ninety people attended the camp, it’s first year, which was located at the popular Ramble Wood Camp, nestled in the gorgeous surroundings of the Susquehanna Valley of Maryland. The facilities offered dormitory style cabins, a lovely pool, a large main Hall for meals, with a series of additional rooms. There was also camping and hiking, due to unusually early cold snap so there wasn’t much swimming or hiking but there was almost never ending music, dancing and fun! There was even a “haunted” house called “the White House.” We joked that it might be Evita Puyet, whose portrait in the parlor showed her to be frightfully beautiful with a deliciously sinister glint to her eyes. If there had been time, ghost chasing would have been fun!

Images © Carl Miller
Improvisational fun!

The vision behind Folk Tours is Tayyar Akdeniz. Tayyar grew up being heavily influenced by the Kurdish Roma near his neighborhoods. He is a native of Kars, which is an old garrison town located in the North Eastern region of Turkey. Not far from the Russian border, the Black Sea Coast and Mt. Ararat, where legend has the Ark coming to rest. Tayyar’s Father moved his entire family, while Tayyar was still young, to seek employment in the Capital city of Ankara, in Central Anatolia.

When he was three his Mother constructed his first drum. Tayyar has continuously made music ever sense. A natural dancer as well as musician he began dancing in early youth, often joining with the best local musicians and performers, including the Roma, at festivals. For years Tayyar continued diligently to study music and dance, working with then directing many dance troupes and finally performing all over the world with the Turkish State Folk Dance Ensemble. Tayyar performs and teaches various different Folkloric Styles like the hilarious Assuk Massuk (lover and beloved) comedic dance, which has to be seen to be believed as well as Zeybek, a martial style dance.

Images © Carl Miller
Tayyar playing Davul

A man of multitudinous talents, he currently sings and plays many different instruments including the Davul, a large double-sided drum, which he has mastered so well he often dances while playing.

After moving to New York City in 1989, Tayyar is currently the Director of the Turkish Fine Arts Ensemble. He is also the director of cultural affairs for the Federation of Turkish and American Association and the founder of Folk Tours Inc. which sponsors music and dance workshop and camps in Turkey and the United States. However, he recently moved back to Turkey, but plains on commuting between the United States and Turkey.

Images © Carl Miller
Artemis in performance

Much of the excitement and success behind Folk Tours is the creative and amazing high energy of Artemis Mourat, a professional in her own right and Tayyar’s dance partner. A nationally recognized expert in Turkish Orientale and Rromani dance, Artemis has been expanding her knowledge of both styles by traveling to Turkey regularly as well as gleaning knowledge from her partnership with Tayyar.

Artemis lives in Silver Spring, MD where her in-home studio, Studio Artemis, hosts a monthly Totally Turkish workshop featuring different instructors! Oh, to live closer to my mentor and dear friend, sigh! Artemis has been studying and teaching Middle Eastern dance for over twenty-five years and is considered to be an expert in Turkish Rromani dance and culture. Although petite, she is a dynamo both as an instructor and a performer. 

Images © Carl Miller
Artemis performing with the band

Tayyar has been living in the United States for about 14 years. Since moving to the United States he has kept an eye open for opportunities to share his knowledge and expertise and learn from others as well. He and Artie have been partners for around five years. Both of them work very hard to spread the word. That’s one of the things that make Folk Tours camp unique in many ways. I feel that Artemis’s and Tayyar’s main focus for the camps are two fold. Firstly to offer anyone an opportunity to study with some of the best instructors in the country. However Tayyar and Artemis also wanted to offer an opportunity for many diverse cultures to come together and hopefully build a better understanding each other, building a sense of Family. Because no matter who we, the attendees, are or what religion or politics we practice we all share a common bond - a love of really good music and dance, especially Rromani style!

Images © Carl Miller
Tayyar teaching men’s folk dance

Some of Anatolian Imports many instruments

The additional rooms behind the Main Hall contained a section where the vending was set up. The largest vendor was Anatolia Imports. 90% of their merchandise comes directly from Turkey and they carry not only the expected “gotta have” dancewear and accessories, but a wide variety of instruments as well, including different reeds to go with several different wind instruments. Baha, the proprietor reported that they had a very successful camp experience and thoroughly enjoyed their relationship with Tayyar and Artemis, whom Baha happily referred to as his “Buddies!”

As usual Artie and Tayyar always go the extra mile. Besides traditional vending
there was a Henna artist, who created exquisite work. My old friend Ashley whom I hadn’t seen in a long time indulged in some beautiful Henna art. When I saw her hand bandaged I was concerned and asked what had happened! She laughed and said that it was henna binding! Once unwrapped, there was a lovely creation on the back of her hand

To help ease everyone’s aches and pains there was Joyce Young a wonderful massage therapist who’s massage chair held a lot of happy, loose people. I personally bought at least three massages or more as gifts to those deserving or in need. It was a very calming corner with rugs and incense burning. The only things missing were ice packs, or heat packs for those with problems requiring them and maybe a foot spa, which would have been heavenly in the cooler temperatures! Past this pool of calmness of steps you find a theater with movable benches as seating, a nice wooden floor for dancing. There was even a wet bar at night for the shows!

Artemis and Tayyar made sure they acquired some the best instructors in the country. These weren’t just the best, these people love what they do. In either performance or instruction their passion shows.

The Instructors:
Tayyar: Davul, Turkish Folk Dance and Rromani
Artemis: Turkish Orientale and Rromani Dance
Cassandra: Daily sunrise stretch and classic Raqs Sharqi 
Omar Faruk Tekbilek: Nai, Zurna and Baglama
Steve Kotansky: Singing, Balkan and Rromani Dance
Ali Kahya: Singing and Maqams
Tamer Pinarbasi: Kanun
Yuri Yunakov: Saxophone
Hamit Golbasi: Mey (Duduk), Zurna and Sipsi
Souren Baronian: Tambourine
Haig Manoukian: Oud
Avram Pengas: Bouzouki
Seydo Salifoski: advanced Drumming
Brad Sidwell: beginning Drumming

Thursday was arrival day and that evening everyone met each other over a good meal followed by “open dancing”.

Images © Carl Miller
Incredible musician Yuri Yunakov tearing it up at the open dancing

Friday morning was the first official day of “Camp”. Breakfast was served, as were all meals, buffet style, with a wide selection and including especially prepared food for vegetarians. A very special thank you to the cook who kept me warm with coffee and early morning conversation. I learned that the kitchen staff was both exchange students studying camps in hopes of starting some in Poland, their homeland. I smiled thinking of the added cultural diversity. The boys made sure there was always water, Lemonade and a seemingly endless supply of coffee, all on tap. However next camp can we have an espresso machine? Please, some of us need our coffee to talk back!

The kitchen staff prepared menus created by Artemis and Tayyar. The final dinner on Saturday night was an all Turkish feast with lamb shish ka - bob specially marinated and cooked on an out door grill in true Turkish fashion.

Before breakfast each morning Cassandra led a stretching session. It was cold and very early in the morning but when I peeked in I saw several hearty souls stretching. Once they had finished a few passed by and I asked them what they thought about such an early (sunrise) morning stretch. They said that they felt great and much warmer and that they thought Cassandra a wonderful instructor!

The meals were also information and announcement times. Just enough regimentation to help make us feel part of a group, not just a gathering of strangers. After the Friday morning announcements voices were raised in conversation as people became acquainted and old friends rediscovered one another. To the sounds of eating, conversation and the rustle of paper as everyone looked over the many courses wondering what all to take the feeling of community was already forming.

Breathing in the fresh, early morning incense of scrambled eggs and oranges, I slowly became aware of music magically lilting in and around the cacophony. It was sweet, yet poignant. Entranced I turned and walked towards the music. Hamit Golbasi had found a small circle of sunlight at the back of the room and cat like had settled down in the warmth playing his baglama to amuse himself, our enjoyment being only a secondary pleasantry. Hamit is a master musician on the baglama, ney, zurna, mey (same as Armenian Duduk) and sipsi, as well as different percussion instruments.

Images © Carl Miller
Hamit plying baglama

That morning he was occasionally singing as he contentedly played his baglama. As the morning wore on a few more men would join him forming a loose circle. Periodically someone would leave and someone else would take his place. Tayyar was like a humming bird, seldom still, coming and going. Lighting for a moment to play his baglama or sing and clap. I watched for quite a while, forgetting any classes, my focus solely on this small group of men, some of whom would also play instruments like the zurna or ney and an instrument called a gadje.

A chair right by Hamit became empty and one of the men began gesturing for me to come join them. I felt quite shy at first, as though I was intruding. However the minute I sat down everyone smiled in welcome. I remember Ali Kahya was there. Ali’s a very diverse performer himself who plays great keyboards and sings wonderfully. Sadi was there; it was he who had beckoned me over. Sadi also endeavored to explain many of the songs Hamit was playing. Most of them seem to be about love and broken hearts. I’m finding the Turks to be a very sentimental.

Images © Carl Miller
Tayyar playing impromptu Kasik

Tayyar kept stopping by and taking a moment to a play a piece or two on his baglama, or burst into song. He once snatched a set of Kasiklar (Turkish spoons) off merchant Baha’s table and came running over to play with us. I exclaimed “Kasiklar” and in one voice, it seemed, all the men shouted out “No, Kasik!” This thoroughly confused me. Tayyar explained that one is Kasik and that four make kasiklar. Beyond Kasik being singular and Kasiklar being plural I never fully understood what he meant until Faruk Tekbilek explained to me one day that 4 spoons on the table are called Kasiklar. When played as an instrument the four become one, therefore Kasik! Tayyar played them at an amazing speed and had fun teasing me as I clapped enthusiastically and everyone smiled and laughed.

They knew a large repertoire but eventually there was a lull in the music and I asked Hamit to play Bir de Mit. He laughed at my request, and they all laughed as I sang along, and we all laughed when I remembered the words better then they did! There was a lot of laughing going on. That morning is one of my favorite memories.

Images © Carl Miller
Hamit playing zurna in the car

Hamit didn’t just play in the sunny corner. He could be found playing anywhere and everywhere. He was even playing different zurnas out in the parking lot, just sitting in the driver’s seat and playing. Ostensibly testing reeds and tones, he still struck me as Pan finding another warm sunny place to play his pipes. My husband Carl and I had gone to our car to fetch something but we heard his melodies wafting along the way. So, we simply sat down and listened. The sun shone down on the light colored gravel and warmth radiated off the cars. We were very happy and probably missing more classes!

Music inundated the entire weekend; it was played, in some form or other, constantly. You literally ran into it around every corner. On a quick errand I stumbled across Varol Saatcioglu quietly playing one of his ouds. It was not only beautifully sounding, but also amazingly carved and ornamented. Varol had found himself a sunny spot on the second story porch over looking the pool and the beautiful forests. I simply had to pause to enjoy his playing and the pleasant surroundings. Very soothing, relaxing and private, I would have tarried longer had his chosen spot not been on the way to the lavatories!

Late Friday afternoon after classes were finished in the Main Hall, a small gathering of musicians stood around playing the Gajda, a Bulgarian bagpipe that still looks like a goat, and Davul which I was allowed to try to play. It was a ton of fun but boy do I need classes from Tayyar!

Images © Carl Miller
A late afternoon serenade featuring the Gajda (traditional Bulgarian bagpipe), and davul

Images © Carl Miller          Images © Carl Miller
The Gadja

The Gadja reminded me of Irish ulian pipes, very haunting and pastoral. The boys played and played, challenging each other to show off. The davul accompanied them and when played well, as it was here (not by me) it sets life to the music and the feet!

Images © Carl Miller          Images © Carl Miller
Shibar experimenting with davul

A little later in the afternoon both days the musicians would gather and play in the vendor space. Hamit, Tayyar, and Faruk would all play different instruments, then trade off to another one.

Images © Carl Miller
Tayyar, Faruk and Hamit all play baglama

Images © Carl Miller
Kostya and Ashley

Images © Carl Miller
Ashley and Fan

Dancing was smiled upon, so my friend Ashley, playing her kasiklar, entertained everyone with her impromptu dance. I even danced a bit here and there. You never knew when Tayyar might suddenly burst into dance himself. It was so fabulous to hear, see and feel apart of “The Real Thing!”

Images © Carl Miller
Omar Faruk Tekbilek

I had purchased a new Mey and a Zurna, plus reeds for both. My first class was with Omar Faruk Tekbilek, who prefers to be called Faruk. I have been a huge fan of his since his days the Sultans in the 1980’s. So I was very excited, not only to hear him play in the Orchestra at night, but to meet him and work with him on a one-to-one basis.

I knew immediately upon meeting Faruk that I was working not only with a master musician but a Mystic as well! He spoke softly and authoritatively. The Friday class on zurna was great and I barley used my new zurna. There were students there who already played very advanced zurna and Faruk asked if I wouldn’t mind if he worked with them that day since I was a complete novice. I readily agreed and sat back and heard some of the best zurna music this side of Turkey. And that’s what makes Folk Tours camps so great, the amazing, in your face live music! I blissfully watched as Faruk played with three or four other people. These were students? It sounded like a mini concert and I had a front row seat! I wasn’t learning how to play but I was learning how it should sound once I can play. The truth is that one zurna is a loud instrument and several zurnas playing at once right in front of you are very loud. So I must admit I blew into mine every which a way until I almost passed out but never once made a sound. How in the world do you make noise? That was for the next day’s class.

Images © Carl Miller          Images © Carl Miller
Faruk performing Zurna and Nai

This was a split class with the second half of class focusing on Nai. My husband Carl, who was also attending the workshop, is a student of the nai and I know he was really looking forward to the class with Faruk. After creating a nice warm buzz in the room with the loud and lovely zurna class Faruk transitioned to teaching nai. I have forgotten to mention that I was the only female learning zurna and that there were only three nai students if I remember correcting. I know that all the dance classes were full to capacity, but I really appreciated our small classes with the one on one teaching we received from Faruk.

For the nai class the guys all sat in a small semi circle in front of Faruk and I sat directly across the table from Faruk. Faruk’s reverence for the nai was obvious both when he played and when he taught. The nai is not just a hollow reed with holes drilled in to it. It is an ancient, sacred instrument especially to those who study Sufism, as Faruk does. He explained many important Sufi concepts of the nai. It’s association with the seven chakras, the seven orifices of the body as well as the seven openings in the head. He became a type of musical Guru as he continued to describe certain sounds and color associations with parts of the body. I was completely blown away by Faruk for I too have felt just such associations when dancing and I do not study Sufism! Faruk is an amazing musician, but he is also an amazing person. He has an aura of peacefulness about him. He is kind and patient but also serious. Serious about his music and his beliefs. I admire him greatly!

His beautiful wife Susanna, whom everyone calls Suzie, always accompanied him to class however she always sat unobtrusively, simply observing. I asked her if she didn’t get bored to death waiting for Faruk? She laughed charmingly and said, “I’m used to it”! Then I asked if she were going to dance in the show Saturday night. She answered yes with a twinkle in he eye. I couldn’t wait.

My Duduk class with Hamet was pretty much play if you can. He helped me get my reed placed properly and then it was off you go! Well, off they went! I huff and I puffed and I couldn’t make a sound. Again, it was a small class and everyone was way ahead of me. But everyone encouraged me to keep trying and eventually I honked like a dying duck. I almost passed out from loss of breath, but that will get better as my lungs get stronger. So once again I mostly watched and listened and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Then I discovered I wasn’t in the duduk class after all but I had instead spent the last hour with several guys who like to play duduk!

My Saturday class with Faruk was very different. I had purchased a zurna and reed just for camp and he asked if he might handle it. He quickly pronounced that I had been given the wrong size reed. He put one of his own in and played it. It was very high pitched and didn’t have much range. Again he spoke and this time he said I had been sold a child’s toy not an instrument, although he had just played it beautifully. He seemed very disturbed and asked were I had bought it. He expressed his regret and was sorry but I needed a better zurna. Fortunately Baha had several. Faruk immediately got up and went to Baha’s table picked up a zurna he approved of, one that was larger than my toy zurna. Again he fitted in one of his own reeds in and played it. It had the proper range and a tone that was much lower. I bought it right there as Baha was hovering.

Then came the great reed search. You see the must be just so. I ended up buying one out of Faruk’s personal collection. After teaching me how to fashion a reed we ran to the kitchen with it. There Faruk heated a knife at the stove and sear the reed almost closed. It’s quite an involved procedure but I really enjoyed my time with Faruk and his enthusiasm as well as his patience. I can only make a squeak, but that’s how you start. He spent the rest of the hour with my husband Carl and the only other nai student Kostya LaPasha, giving them one on one attention. I was very impressed by Faruk and Suzie and hope I can spend time with them again.

Each night there was a show held. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Friday night’s show. So I asked Carl to describe what he thought of it.


Images © Carl Miller
Wowing the audience

“I had seen a couple of the musicians wondering around during the day on Friday, and not realizing who many of them were, I kept saying to myself, 'I recognize these guys from somewhere.' Well, I walked into the main hall Friday evening, and from the back part of the hall, where the stage and dance floor where set up, I heard this incredible saxophone. I knew from the night before that Tayyar’s new sound system really jammed, so not yet sure if the music was live, or just recorded music cranked up to “rock concert” level, I walked around the corner and looked, and there sat Yuri Yunakov just wailing away. Now I knew where I’d seen him before. For the past several years Shibar had been handing me music catalogs with Yuri’s CDs circled saying, 'Buy this!' And there he sat, live and in the flesh.”

Each night there was a raffle with the tickets being sold during the day. Some of the prizes were two beautifully golden embroidered shirts and some great CDs.

On Saturday morning, right before lunch, a little girl entered the vendor’s area crying. Several of us tried to calm her. It seemed she had mis-placed her parents and was very frightened. She finally agreed to accompany me to get a cup of lemonade and one final search. She took my hand and as soon as we turned the corner into the Dinning Hall she saw her parents and ran to them with out a backwards glance. I chalked it up to another disaster averted, was pleased all had ended well, and assumed that was that. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

That day as Artemis and I ate lunch and discussed camp strategy, when my little lost lamb caught sight of me and brought her tray over to eat with us. It turned out that her father was Tamer Pinarbasi, the Kanun instructors well as the kanunist for the camp band. band. My “little lamb” was quite precocious when not upset. It seemed she could speak 5 different languages and many other fascinating things. We quickly became the best of friends. When it came time for another raffle ticket pusher (I mean seller) we all thought she’d be a natural. She wasn’t afraid of speaking to strangers; in fact she had a lot to say to any who took the time to listen and boundless energy. She was the top Raffle Ticket seller, selling over 100 tickets. She was simply irresistible!

Later that day she came over to me and asked my number. I chose one from among the several my Husband Carl and I had purchased (from her.) I had chosen a number at random and all day long we played a game of my calling my number out to her. Then she’d promise to pick my number and we’d laugh. It was a great fun game.

By the time the raffle took place that night I had complexly forgotten her declarations of “I’m gonna pick you, you’ll see!” She must have forgotten as well, because when she called out my number, “No.43”, both of us took a moment to register what she had just said. The next thing you know I’m grabbing her in a big hug and laughing while she yells, “I told you! I told you I’d pick you!” followed by laughter and shouts of “rigged”! My prize was a Turkish CD I knew I’d like since it had a picture of Burguil Benay on the cover and she’s one of my all time favorite dancers. I think that little girl might grow up to change the world.


Images © Carl Miller
Artemis defying gravity

The show Saturday night was fabulous with the best band, or orchestra in the world. Faruk was amazing playing a multitude of instruments. When he played the nai so incredibly my heart could barely stand it! Tahya opened the show with a graceful and colorful Moroccan dance. Her bright red hair was beautifully off set by her voluminous multi paneled skirt!

Images © Carl Miller
Yuri and Artemis

Then Artemis came out and simply proceeded to blow everyone one away, including the musicians. Wearing a beautiful pink and silver cabaret costume and matching diaphanous veil. She immediately and completely charmed saxophonist Yuri Yunakov who joined her on the floor for a duet. Artemis and Yuri both spoke to each other in a language that was magical. As though we were eavesdropping on two lovers. The passion of the entire Orchestra, Yuri and Artemis was palpable. The audience loved it!

Images © Carl Miller          Images © Carl Miller
Artemis performs in true Turkish Oriental style!

Artemis danced for each musician, flirting and occasionally mopping a brow with her veil. She then threw herself into the audience dancing on the top of our seats! She’s simply enchanting and the audience adored her!

Images © Carl Miller     Images © Carl Miller     Images © Carl Miller
Tayyar performing a traditional men’s dance

There was an exciting demonstration of a traditional Zeybek warrior dance. The costumes were wonderful the performance really increased the rising energy of the crowd.

Images © Carl Miller
Cassandra performing Khaligee

Cassandra danced a graceful authentic Khaligee dance wearing an exquisite blue and gold thobe. A vision of female beauty and strength, I always love Cassandra’s Khaligee style.

Suzie Tekbilek danced with so much happiness you couldn’t help but smile back. She wore the latest fashion – a bell bottomed body suit, with a silver coin belt. The interplay between Suzie and Faruk, her husband of many years, was so moving to see. She was completely at ease and I was thrilled to see her execute many authentic Rromani moves! Faruk never took his eyes off her and Suzie flirted with him so happily that they appeared completely devoted to each other and deeply in love. Suzie was appeared genuinely pleased to be dancing and her dance was so authentic and lively she received a standing ovation! The only one of the evening!

Images © Carl Miller          Images © Carl Miller
Tayyar as the “suave” Tea Boy 

Images © Carl Miller          Images © Carl Miller
Artemis as the beautiful, independent dancer

Artemis and Tayyar danced an adorable folk duet telling a story of love, denial and Turkish Tea Trays! I’ll say no more in case you get the opportunity to see them perform it! I’ll just say it rocked, as did the band! I just can’t use enough exclamation points!!

Images © Carl Miller
True love always wins the lady!

Images © Carl Miller
Cassandra’s elegant Raqs Sharqi

Then to top the evening’s show off, Cassandra entranced us with her very popular Raqs Sharqi. She was like an emerald fantasy. Neither the band nor the audience could take their eyes off her. Unfortunately it ended, as all reverie must. My dream weekend was coming to a close. Carl and I went back to our cabin and started the preparation for the long trip home. It was bliss listening to the die hard musicians play and drifting into dancer dreams.

Check out time the next day was noon. Carl and I stayed later to help in any way we could. A lame excuse to linger, to be with our new “family”. There were stories told about life in Turkey while we worked. Always stories of love, just like the songs. None of us wanted to leave the community Artemis and Tayyar had created. 

Images © Carl Miller
Drum class

People came from all over the United States to attend this Camp and we made new friends with many of them. But the moment that regularly springs to mind and makes us laugh was on the last day. We were breaking down tables and chairs, checking cabins etc. We worked in loose groups and at on point Carl and I were working with Sadi, Jennifer and Ali, when Ali suddenly turned to Carl, pointed at his T-shirt and laughed. “Ha - Ha Pink Floyd, I get it!” A man from Turkey, who lived in NYC, played and sang Middle Eastern music, recognized a picture of Floyd, the Barber from the Andy Griffith show, printed in pink on a black T-shirt. Get it, “Pink Floyd”? That meant a lot. See we’re from NC where the show’s set, we like Pink Floyd and my Grandfather’s last name was Griffith. Everybody laughed. Sure is a small world, thanks to Artemis and Tayyar.



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This page last modified: December 7, 2007