Say Hello to Bagpipe’s Cousin from Anatolia: Tulum

Turkey and Scotland might conjure up such different images in mind at first with different cultures, different religions, and probably different views of what it means to live life. However, these two, seemingly distant populations share one particular feature, more precisely a musical instrument, the bagpipe, or as it is called in Turkey, the Tulum.

There is probably not a single Scotsman who will say that the bagpipe is not Scottish, as it is likely that there is no Turkish person who will not argue that the Tulum did not precede its Western counterpart. Who invented it first? Where was it invented? And how did it end up sparse between two of the most different countries like Scotland and Turkey? Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered as the origins of this kind of musical instrument are so ancient that it is too difficult to trace them. The only certain thing is that in Scotland, they play the bagpipe, while in Turkey, the Tulum, and their comparison can start from here.

These two instruments are regarded as similar because they share certain characteristics. For example, they both are wind instruments that have blow sticks; the pipe used to blow air inside the sack. The latter is another commonality between the two and, in both cases, animal skin is traditionally used to manufacture it. The sack is the central part of the instrument.

However, nowadays it is possible to find artificial materials used to manufacture sacks for Scottish bagpipes, which are made out of synthetic cloth. On the other hand, animal skin is still preferred for the Tulum as this is particularly an Anatolian tradition.

Another aspect which differs between the Scottish bagpipe and the Turkish Tulum, one which is slightly subtle, is how their chanter is made: this is the pipe where the fingers of the musician from the melody. While the Scottish bagpipe is designed similarly to a flute, with seven holes, the Turkish version of the chanter is double, with two series of holes, which, as the instrument is played on the pentatonic scale, are five couples.

Instead, the most prominent difference between the two objects is the drone. Some readers might not know what these are, as the Tulum does not have them. Instead, its Scottish relative has not one, not two, but three drones! These are reeds that do not have finger holes and are not controlled in any way by who is playing the bagpipe. They produce a sort of humming sound as the artist applies pressure to the sack. These distinguish the traditional Scottish bagpipe from the other as they give depth to its sound. Instead, the Turkish Tulum’s sound is very high pitched and strong.

In the end, these instruments are not exactly the same as a few differences make both of them unique in their own ways. Nevertheless, this is the case when the real origin of them and whether they are Turkish or Scottish, will never come out. The only solution to cope with this mystery is to enjoy such a historic and cultural sound that characterises both instruments. So, if in Scotland, the bagpipe, and if in Turkey, the Tulum. Do not get confused!

Sources: 2022. Emin Yağci: Tulum A Sound from the Black Sea Turkish musical Traditions by Emin Yagei.

(Comparison between the two sounds)