It is in these cities that both high style and vernacular culture evolved side by side, giving us the best examples of Turkish architecture as well as the best of folklore, traditional arts and crafts, customs and food. These cities were home to folk heroes such as Köroğlu and the poet Yunus Emre, whose simple verses offer profound ideas for humanity, along with the well-known Nasrettin Hodja, another famous folk hero whose personification of folk wisdom in his humorous anecdotes is still widely quoted and enjoyed.
The popular theatre tradition, with its comedians, storytellers, marionettes and shadow puppets evolved in the provincial cities. Performances were given in public squares during national and religious festivals, at weddings and fairs as well as at inns, coffee houses and private residences. All the shows were accompanied by music, even wrestling matches, with artists performing to the sound of the tambourine. Performances were often interspersed with songs and dances or both. The dramatic instinct of the Turkish people and the role it played in daily life can be found in the Turkish commedia dell’arte and in the shadow puppet theatre of Karagöz, which dates from the 15th century. Players performed humorous impromptu productions, impersonating watchmen, tax collectors, the intellectual elite encountering the common folk and the idiosyncrasies of ethnic groups, and so contributed, in their own way, to the continuation of an amicable coexistence.
Every region in Turkey, every village indeed, has its own folkdances, totalling more than 1500 across the country. Dramatizing the exaltation of nature, animals, everyday life, courtship and combat, folkdances continue to occupy an important role in village life. Their exquisite choreography and universal meaning contain a vast resource of artistic energy.
Provincial Turkish cities still celebrate religious holidays, or bayrams, in the traditional manner. Town elders, following the holiday visits of greeting, participate in folkdances to the accompaniment of traditional folk instruments. ‘Oiled wrestling’ matches are accompanied by drum and pipe music. Karagöz puppet shows are often performed during the holidays and for such family celebrations as the circumcision ceremony.
The popular theatre tradition, with its comedians, storytellers, marionettes and shadow puppets evolved in the provincial cities.