Baglama is a generic term given to a wide range of instruments, mainly found in the region of Turkey, Iran, Asia Minor and the Middle East. The name itself means ‘to tie’ and it refers to stringed instruments with tied on frets, made of very thin wire, string or fishing line .This family of instruments includes the saz, the bouzouk, the tanbur. They vary in design and appearance according to region. The saz is mainly associated with Turkey, where the baglama saz is the most popular. However there is also a very small version called the jura and a much larger one called the divan which is an octave lower than the normal saz . The Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra employ all of these instruments. The bouzouk is also prominently featured. The orchestra’s bouzouk is actually a converted baglama saz . In this case the frets have been changed from the traditional turkish alignment into a more southern european style. This is one great advantage of tied frets of course, they can be made to move or slide up and down the neck to suit different modes, quartertones or microtonal scales. The bouzouk is generally thought of as a greek instrument, but it is found in several countries of the region of Asia Minor.The tanbur is a plucked instrument found in Turkey and Iran. When it is bowed it is called Yayli Tanbur. Therefore a divan saz when bowed is called Yayli Divan. It is quite a rare instrument, but not too unusual for Fish Memory who use it in several pieces of music.
All of the baglama instruments are played by Makmed the Miller, and he undertook the rebuilding of the divan saz so that it could be played with a bow. It involved building a new bridge, resetting the bridge position and searching far and wide for gut or metal strings which would be long enough to fit the unusually long neck of the saz. Eventually he found some sanxian strings in an old music shop in Kunming, Yunnan province, south China.
Surprisingly, it was only as recently as early 20th century that classical music of Turkey featured the yayli tanbur. The legendary musician Tanburi Cemil Bey considered that the music suffered a thinness of sound because of the lack of low pitched instruments. Therefore he introduced the bowed tanbur and even the european cello.