Conducted by Howard Griffiths, the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) performs Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say’s “Hezârfen, concerto for ney-flute and orchestra”. Soloist (ney): Burcu Karadağ. Recorded at hr-Sendesaal, Frankfurt on November 10, 2012.


  1. Istanbul, 1632
  2. The Galata Tower
  3. The flight
  4. In Algerian exile

The concerto tells the story of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, a legendary Ottoman aviator of 17th-century Constantinople (present day Istanbul). He was supposedly the first human in history who achieved sustained unpowered flight.

The 17th-century writings of Evliyâ Çelebi (an Ottoman Turk who travelled through the territory of the Ottoman Empire and neighboring lands over a period of forty years, recording his commentary in a travelogue called the Seyahatname – “Book of Travel”) relate this story of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi, circa 1630–1632:

“First, he practiced by flying over the pulpit of Okmeydanı eight or nine times with eagle wings, using the force of the wind. Then, as Sultan Murad Khan (Murad IV) was watching from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu, he flew from the very top of the Galata Tower (in contemporary Karaköy) and landed in the Doğancılar Square in Üsküdar, with the help of the south-west wind. Then Murad Khan granted him a sack of golden coins, and said: “This is a scary man. He is capable of doing anything he wishes. It is not right to keep such people,” and thus sent him to Algeria on exile. He died there.”

The title “Hezârfen” given by Evliyâ Çelebi to Ahmet Çelebi, means “a thousand sciences” (polymath).

Galata Tower
The Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi in Turkish) — called Christea Turris (the Tower of Christ in Latin) by the Genoese — is a medieval stone tower in the Galata/Karaköy quarter of Istanbul, Turkey, just to the north of the Golden Horn’s junction with the Bosphorus. One of the city’s most striking landmarks, it is a high, cone-capped cylinder that dominates the skyline and offers a panoramic vista of Istanbul’s historic peninsula and its environs.

Today, we know that, this flying event probably never occurred. It is known that Evliyâ Çelebi was exaggerating the stories. Measurements of the alleged launch height and flight distance are as follows:

  • The Galata Tower sits 35 m (115 ft) above sea level, the peak of its conical dome 62.59 m (205.35 ft) above ground level and 97.59 m (320.18 ft) above sea level.
  • Doğancılar square is about 12 m (39 ft) above sea level.
  • The elevation change between the tower (takeoff) and the square (landing) is 85.59 m (281 ft).
  • The distance between the tower and the square is approximately 3.358 km (2 mi).
  • Glide ratio required is 39:1 (impossible even with the modern paraglides today).
Galata Tower view
The view atop Galata Tower


Turkish Ney
Turkish Ney

The Ney flute, or simply Ney, is an end-blown flute that figures prominently in Middle Eastern music. In some of these musical traditions, it is the only wind instrument used. The ney has been played continuously for 4,500–5,000 years, making it one of the oldest musical instruments still in use.

The typical Persian ney has 6 holes, one of which is on the back. Arabic and Turkish neys normally have 7 holes, 6 in front and one thumb-hole in the back.

The interval between the holes is a semitone, although microtones (and broader pitch inflections) are achieved via partial hole-covering, changes of embouchure, or positioning and blowing angle. Microtonal inflection is common and crucial to various traditions of taqsim (improvisation in the same scale before a piece is played).

Neys are constructed in various keys. In the Arab system, there are 7 common ranges: the longest and lowest-pitched is the Rast which is roughly equivalent to C in the Western equal temperament system, followed by the Dukah in D, the Busalik in E, the Jaharka in F, the Nawa in G, the Hussayni in A, and the Ajam in B (or B♭). Advanced players will typically own a set of several neys in various keys, although it is possible (albeit difficult) to play fully chromatically on any instrument. A slight exception to this rule is found in the extreme lowest range of the instrument, where the fingering becomes quite complex and the transition from the first octave (fundamental pitches) to the second is rather awkward.

In the Arab world the ney is traditionally used in pastoral areas, showing a preference for smaller, higher-pitched neys. In general, lower-pitched instruments are used in scholastic and religious environments, including the Sufi tradition.

Burcu Karadağ

Neyzen (Ney player) Burcu Karadağ was born in 1979 in Istanbul. After elementary school, she attended Istanbul Technical University Conservatory, Instrumental Training Department). She studied ney with Salih Bilgin and Niyazi Sayın, Turkish Music solfège and music theory with Erol Sayan ve Doğan Dikmen, and classical music with Ali Eral.

In 1996 She attended Graduate School at same department (Instrumental Training Department) and graduated in 2000. In her education age, She started to give concerts in France, Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium, Egypt, Austria, Azerbaijan,Switzerland,Oman with different orchestras and musicians.

In 1996 She stared to study Ebru (marbeling) with Fuat Başar and Tülay Taslacıoğlu.

In 1998 She gave a solo concert in Istanbul Kultur Merkezi, same year started to teaching “ney” in Caferaga Medresesi.

In 1999 She joined Turkish Radio-Television Istanbul Radio as Ney artist. She made lots of performances in radio and television.

In 2004 she started to teaching at Haliç University Turkish Music Conservatory in Istanbul.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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