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Istanbul's tuneless muezzins get voice training

A woman waves a Turkey flag in front of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
The singing of some of Istanbul's muezzins has drawn complaints

It is meant to be a beautiful, melodic and spiritual start to the day.

But the morning calls to prayer by some of Istanbul's muezzins and imams have had locals plugging their ears rather than reaching for their prayer books.

The problem is such that following a flood of complaints by locals, special classes for the tuneless culprits have been set up.

Imam Mehmet Tas, one of the school's first pupils, said he was already feeling the benefits.

"I have so much more self-confidence now in my abilities to do all five calls to prayer in their correct tempos," he said.

The improvement scheme was put together by Mustafa Cagrici, the city's head of religious affairs, who is determined to make sure all of the city's 3,000 mosques produce a beautiful call-to-prayer each morning.

"For some reason, these imams were hired even though their voices are not good, they just can't sing!

"We're doing our best to help our imams and muezzins to improve their singing."

He says that since lessons started, complaints have dropped from hundreds a month to just dozens, an improvement that can be credited to the singing teacher, Seyfettin Tomakin.

"I personally find a badly sung azan [call to prayer] very disturbing," he said.

"The azan is music, beautiful music that brings people to God, that's why it's so important to sing it well.

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"Sure, there are some people who find it harder than others, that's why some come here for a year. But my job is to find their voice to enable them to sing."

Sadly, for some, no amount of teaching will ever be enough.

"There are some people who can't improve - no matter how much training you give them," said Mr Cagrici.

"So we connect their mosque, by radio, to a central mosque where there's an imam who can sing."



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