Muamer Abedin: A Musical Tale from Veles

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Disclaimer: The story was originally published here.

The Veles Chalgiya, a special genre of Macedonian folk music, the sounds of which the Turkish sultan once enjoyed, has been a symbol of the town Veles for more than a century. The citizens of this city cannot imagine themselves without the Chalgiya or without the "Raspeani Veleshani" ensemble, which is celebrating its 53rd anniversary this year.

Muamer Abedin from Veles is also a part of this ensemble, and he was born in the same year the ensemble was formed. Muamer is a bookseller, musician and model maker who enjoys playing the sounds of the Veles old town music which he learned to play by himself when he was ten years old.

“Music is my first art. At that time, many gatherings were held, my parents were friends with members of the Veles Chalgiyas. I was ten years old when my father played bouzouki with them. Out of pleasure, I started to practise the songs on the guitar at home. I went to bars, listened to music on the summer terraces and then sat down at home to play” - Muamer began his life story.

Muamer Abedin, Source:

His first instrument was an acoustic guitar, and then he played his father's bouzouki.

“Then I took my father's bouzouki, and continued to jumbush (cümbüş) and oud. I also played the Macedonian tanpura with two double strings. When I bought an instrument prim (small tanpura) I started playing it in restaurants”,  says Muamer Abedin, who constantly enriched his collection of instruments using the pay from the gigs with the first two orchestras

Muamer is constantly buying instruments, but his greatest pride in his large collection is the rare jumbush that his grandfather played.

“I bought a violin, but I don't have time to play it and I want to learn it. I play the acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, tampura, prim, bouzouki, lute, oud, jumbush. I have a saz from Turkey, four acoustic guitars and two electric ones. I also had a double bass that I sold during the pandemic.

Muamer Abedin's instruments. Source:

Now, in my collection I also have the jumbush that belonged to my grandfather, he played it at his time and sold it to someone. I found the man and managed to buy it back. I brought the memory of my grandfather back”, he emphasised.

The Abedin family has always cherished Macedonian music. After Muamer's grandfather, who played the jumbush and was invited to every Turkish wedding in the region of Veles, his father, who played the guitar, was also involved with music, and at one time he also sang Mexican songs and collaborated with Pencho from the Macedonian band Magnifico.

“Lately I started playing the lute; it's a bouzouki instrument similar to the oud. I play with chalgiya, I go with "Raspeani Velesani", but also with "Raspeani penzioneri". I feel nice with them, I enjoy that we cherish the оld-time songs. They have a lot of material, they know many songs that the people have never heard, and it’s an honour to learn from them even though I am the youngest”,  says Abedin.

Before the start of the pandemic, Abedin founded the orchestra "Serbes", which means "free" in Turkish. It was composed of musicians who play the kaval (a chromatic end-blown oblique flute), tampura, double bass, guitar and accordion. The orchestra worked well and was supposed to start playing outside the country, but the start of the pandemic postponed their activities.

Due to his work in the bookstore, which has been his family's business for more than 30 years, Muamer does not have time to work as an instructor, although he constantly receives offers to give lessons from lovers of сhalgiya and specific stringed instruments.

“I would really like to teach the younger ones, but I don't have time because of the work in the bookstore. The most difficult instrument is the oud because there are no frets and you have to have a feel for it in order to play something. Anything with frets is easier. You generally have to have a background in an instrument such as the guitar to play the jumbush or oud. You can't play directly on them, it's very difficult”, says Abedin, who in his collection of twenty stringed instruments also has a hand-made tampura by master Mile Bajdeski from Kicevo, who makes instruments for "Tanec", the most famous Macedonian folklore musical ensemble).

Muamer's first hammer model: Sultan Ahmed Pasha Mosque in Istanbul.

In addition to music, the Veles bookseller and chalgiya player decided to make models from hammer paper and matches. The first hammer model he made was the Sultan Ahmed Pasha Mosque in Istanbul. Using matches he made Malo Movce, a Small bridge in Veles, as well as a pedestrian bridge near the family bookstore. Additionally, he made the Eiffel Tower from carefully sorted sticks.

“I made the mosque out of a hammer and installed green and white light bulbs to make it identical to Ahmed Pasha in Istanbul which is fascinating because it has six minarets. I wanted to make the Movce because I pass through it every day. Malo Movce is 100 metres, and I made a mini-version of one metre”, he explained.

Model of Malo Movce, a Small bridge in Vele, that Muamer made from matches.

The Eiffel Tower was a big challenge for me, I even neglected playing instruments because of it.

“I boiled the sticks in a special trough so that they would bend for making the semicircles. I could have made the top with antennas, but I came up with the idea of putting a guitar neck, with which I gave a special charm to the 180 cm high tower. My goal is not to make money from this, but to encourage young people to think creatively and set a goal for themselves”,  said Muamer.

Author: Orce Kostov

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Muamer Abedin: A Musical Tale from Veles
Disclaimer: The story was originally published here. The Veles Chalgiya, a special genre of Macedonian folk music, the sounds of