Music of Turkey

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Location of Turkey

The music of Turkey has, as a successor to the multicultural Ottoman Empire to a wide variety and its geographical position as a crossroads of cultures. The Turkish nomads from Central Asia brought their own musical tradition with them to Anatolia and integrated elements of other musical cultures into their repertoire (including Persian music , Byzantine music ). An independent Ottoman musical tradition can be identified from the 16th century, which in turn influenced other peoples. Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire and with the beginning of the republican cultural policy, European polyphonic musical styles were added.


The original music of Turkey consists of two great traditions with different traits. The first tradition is Turkish Art Music (Türk Sanat Müziği), which is characterized by the culture of the Ottoman elite, heavily influenced by Islamic culture as well as Arabic and Persian music , and contains traces of Indian music and Greco-Roman history of the region. During the Ottoman era, Turkish art music was considered the authentic music of Turkey. Folk music has been suppressed for various reasons, such as religious intolerance.

The second is Turkish folk music (Türk Halk Müziği), characterized by the culture of Turkish-speaking rural communities in Anatolia , the Balkans and the Middle East . Although Turkish folk music contains some traces of Central Asian Turkic cultures, it has also been heavily influenced by many other cultures in the region.

When the modern Turkish state was proclaimed in 1923, the new republic pursued the goal of reviving this folk music as the "independent music of Anatolia" and not further promoting the "palace music" of the Ottomans, which was regarded as elitist. Western classical music ( alafranga ) was introduced for the first time and, in the course of Europeanization, the training of Turkish composers was fossilized. In the 1920s and 1930s, ballroom dancing became more popular, creating a niche for artists who sang tango, rumba or foxtrot in Turkish such as: B. Seyyan Hanim . Between 1934 and 1936/7 Turkish folk music ( alaturka ) was banned on the radio.

Traditional classical music

Main article: Turkish Classical Music

Most Turkish music has the makam in common. Makam is a system of keys or scales and other rules of composition, as well as improvisation parts , which are called Taksim . Taksim are parts of a music suite consisting of a prelude , a postlude and a main part that starts with a Taksim and is interrupted by Taksim. Songs are also part of this tradition. Many of these songs are extremely old and date from the 14th century. But many are also of more recent origin; The pieces from the pen of Hacı Arif Bey (1831–1885) achieved particular popularity .

The instruments commonly played in Turkish classical music are oud , tanbur , ney , kanun and darbuka .

In 1976 Turkish classical music experienced a renaissance and the State Conservatory in İstanbul was founded in order to be able to give classical musicians the same support as has long been the case with folk musicians. Turkish classical music is taught in conservatories . The most respected is the Üsküdar Musiki Cemiyeti in İstanbul. The most popular singer in Turkish classical music is Münir Nurettin Selçuk , who was the first to establish a lead singer. Other artists are Bülent Ersoy , Zekai Tunca and Zeki Müren . In 1991, with the help of the Turkish Ministry of Culture, the State Ensemble for Classical Turkish Music ( İstanbul Tarihi Türk Müziği Topluluğu ) was established, which cultivates the traditional songs of the Turkish Tariqas (Sufi orders). The most prominent member of this ensemble is Ahmet Özhan .

Religious music - dinî müzik

See also: İlahi

Dervishes dancing, musicians with ney

Because of the hostility of the Ottoman ulema towards instrumental music music could be religious only in the form of oral recitations develop (z. B. in the various forms of Adhan and Mevlids).

The Sufis, who were more open to instrumental music, incorporate the ney and the double drum kudüm and also the saz into their religious ceremonies. The chants, which are based on poems by the founder and poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi, are dominant . Her long and complex compositions will be called Ayın . The Mevlevi - Dervishes are also known outside Turkey. Internationally known musicians are Necdet Yaşar and Kudsi Ergüner .

Mehter müziği

See also: Janissary music

Miniature of the Mehter, 1720

Janissary music is an early form of military music and a form of representation for Ottoman sultans. They are played by the mehterhâne . They were abolished as early as 1826 as part of a reform and replaced by chapels with European instruments. Today they are increasingly to be found on events steeped in history and as tourist attractions in historical locations.

Folk music

Main article: Turkish folk music
A saz player with a dark darbuka on the right
Cümbüş developed for folk music

At Ataturk's instructions, a broad classification and archiving of recordings of Turkish folk music from Anatolia was started in 1924 and continued until 1953. During this time 10,000 folk songs were collected. The Hungarian composer Béla Bartók visited Ankara and south-east Turkey in connection with this work in 1936.

The folklore of Turkey is very diverse and so is its music. Nevertheless, the majority based the Turkish folk music on the saz also Bağlama, a plucked string instrument from the family of long-necked, loud . Traditionally, the saz is played by traveling bards called Aşık . Nowadays, saz orchestras, sometimes with imported guitars , bass guitars and drums , form the basis for the very popular folk music form Türkü .

The Zurna and Davul duo are popular in rural areas and play at weddings and other celebrations. The double-reed instrument Mey and the bagpipe Tulum sound less loud than the zurna . Other common instruments are Elektrosaz , especially in the Ankara region , Darbuka especially in Rumeli and Kemençe in the Black Sea region .

Folk music usually accompanies folk dances , which differ greatly depending on the region. Among others, Çiftetelli in Thrace , Zeybek in the Aegean , Horon in the Black Sea region and Halay in Eastern Anatolia and Southeast Anatolia are important .

Alevi music: Semah, Deyiş and Nefes

About one-fifth of the Turkish population are Alevis , whose folk music known by traveling bards is played, the Aşık hot. The songs of the Aşıks come from the central northeast of Turkey and contain mystical revelations, supplications to Alevi saints and Muhammad's son-in-law Ali . Many of these songs are attributed to the legend of Pir Sultan Abdal by the Alevis . Ruhi Su revived the Aşıks' music in the early 1970s. Some Aşıks such as Mahsuni Şerif , Aşık Veysel and Ali İzzet processed socio-political texts.

The Bozlak comes from western Anatolia , a type of performing, partially improvised music, for which Neşet Ertaş is particularly famous. Around the city of Kars , Aşık music has a more spiritual inclination, which also occurs in ritual exchanges of blows.

Roma music

Main article: Roma music

Roma are known throughout Turkey for their musicianship. Their music is called Fasil and is often associated with the lower class of society, but can also be found in the better establishment. Many of the most popular Roma artists are from Tarlabaşı and play zurna and darbuka . The most famous Fasil musician is Mustafa Kandirali .

Western classical music

Turkish influence on western classical music

European classical composers in the 18th century were fascinated by Turkish music, especially the strong roles of the brass and percussion instruments in the janissary bands. Joseph Haydn wrote his military symphony and some of his operas in order to be able to incorporate Turkish instruments. Turkish instruments were also included in Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th Symphony . Mozart wrote his Rondo alla turca in his piano sonata in A major and also used Turkish motifs in some of his operas. Although this Turkish influence was just a fad , it introduced cymbals , bass drums and bells into the symphony orchestra .

The jazz musician Dave Brubeck wrote his Blue Rondo à la Turk as a tribute to Mozart and Turkish music.

Giuseppe Donizetti

Although Turkish (military) music inspired European composers, the influence of European classical music in Turkey can only be proven in the 19th century. First in 1826 the Mehter chapels were dissolved in favor of a new European marching band, the Muzika-yi Humayun . Here seemed Giuseppe Donizetti as supreme court musicians with and established the tradition of western music in Turkey. For the most part, western classical music was confined to Istanbul. Italian operas were performed in the Naum Theater , which was specially built there , and the sultans of the 19th century were among the lovers, with Sultan Abdülaziz himself having to compose western classical pieces. From 1880 Paul Lange worked in Istanbul, who initially worked at the German school and the German embassy and after a short time led numerous choirs and orchestras in the capital, including local musicians and singers. He founded a symphony orchestra that performed works by Beethoven and Wagner for the first time in Turkey. From 1908 Lange reformed Turkish military music as the Ottoman court conductor.

As an example of the merging of Turkish folk music and European polyphony initiated by the young republic, Ulvi Cemal Erkin's best-known work, Köçekce, should be mentioned.

After the founding of the republic, a lot of restructuring took place. In 1924 the Imperial Orchestra ( Mızıka-ı Hümayun ) moved from İstanbul to the new capital Ankara and was renamed the Orchestra of the Presidency of the Republic ( Riyaset-i Cumhur Orkestrası ). In the same year, an academy for teachers of Western-style music was established. 1926 was Oriental Music School of İstanbul in the Conservatory of İstanbul renamed. Young talented musicians were sent abroad so that they could enjoy a more extensive musical education. Among these students, many of whom attended the lessons of the important Austrian composer and music teacher Joseph Marx in Vienna, were the well-known Turkish composers Cemal Reşit Rey , Ulvi Cemal Erkin , Ahmet Adnan Saygun , Necil Kâzım Akses and Hasan Ferit Alnar . Once again Marx had submitted on behalf of Atatürk in the years 1932-33 the first Western music expert an inventory as well as recommendations for the establishment of a Turkish concert life and conservatory on the Western model was the 1936 with the help of German composer and music theorist Paul Hindemith , the State Conservatory of Ankara founded. Ataturk's restriction on Arabic-influenced music was misunderstood by bureaucrats in 1934 and resulted in a complete ban on Ottoman classical music. The ban was abolished by Ataturk himself about a year later.

In the 1980s, President Turgut Özal enforced liberal media regulations, and pop, rock, hip-hop and arabesque music penetrated mainstream music in Turkey. For the first time, music in Kurdish was also allowed, alongside religious Sufi music, in particular Mevlevi ayin (whirling dervishes ).

In 1986, Dr. Vladimir Ivanoff the Sarband Ensemble , which deals with the musical relationships between Orient and Occident from the Middle Ages to the 21st century and focuses particularly on the musical cultures of the Ottoman Empire. Since then, Sarband has played in more than 500 concerts on four continents, produced numerous award-winning (Echo Klassik 2006/2003, 2 Grammy nominations) CDs and maintains a continuous creative collaboration with other artists such as Concerto Köln, King's Singers, Mystère de Voix Bulgares.

In 2005 the Pera Ensemble was founded under the direction of Mehmet Cemal Yeşilçay . Soloists like Ahmet Özhan, Kanun player Ihsan Özer and other virtuoso musicians come together here. The Pera Ensemble also works closely with the Cologne Baroque Ensemble L'arte del Mondo ( Werner Ehrhardt ). The first joint concerts such as La Fete du Serail were realized. The Alla Turca subject is seen as a common content in collaboration with Pera and L'arte del Mondo. Further productions and concerts such as the Pasticcio Armida, Café or Levate, as well as music from the Ottoman Seraglio made the ensemble internationally known.

Modern genres

pop music

In the 1960s, Western popular music was introduced in Turkey under the name "Western Music with Turkish Texts". Music in the style of western pop music became popular with the economic and social opening of Turkey in the early 1990s and has dominated pop culture ever since. Singer Yonca Evcimik set the first milestone in Turkish pop music in 1991 with her hit "Abone", which was one of the first up-tempo songs in Turkey. The increasing popularity of pop music also spawned some internationally successful musicians such as Tarkan . To this day, Turkish pop is heavily influenced by arabesque, Turkish folk music, and music of the Middle East. The most successful Turkish pop star of the 20th century is Sezen Aksu , who produced many of the Turkish contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest . The most famous male pop musicians in Turkey are Tarkan and Mustafa Sandal , who both had international success. Other important pop artists are Ajda Pekkan , Gülben Ergen , Sertab Erener , Yildiz Tilbe and Kenan Doğulu (more can be found under List of Turkish Pop Musicians).


Main article: Arabesque (style of music)

Arabesque is a component of Turkish pop music. It is largely of Arabic origin and is derived from the Raks Şarkı (better known as belly dance music ). Arabesk was popularized in the 1940s by Haydar Tatlıyay and other artists. The ban on Arabic-language music in 1948 was unsuccessful, as many Turks received Radio Cairo on their devices and Arabic music continued to enjoy great popularity. In the mid-1960s, folk music elements were incorporated into arabesque music by musicians such as Ahmet Sezgin , Abdullah Yüce and Hafiz Burhan Sesiyilmaz . Orhan Gencebay and other artists later added Anglo-American rock & roll to arabesque music.

Beginning in the 1970s, the rural exodus to larger cities, especially İstanbul, brought about a new cultural synthesis, which, however , was viewed by some sociologists as a degeneration . The new residents of the metropolises suffered most from the difficult economic conditions and had difficulties adapting to life in a big city. This newly emerged culture created its own music, the arabesque known as the music of suffering. Arabesque is a fusion of Turkish folk music and music from the Middle East.

Anadolu Rock and Özgün Müzik

Main article: Anadolu rock

After the military coup of 1980, the leading subculture of the political left created its own arabesque as a “degenerate” version of protest music, the Özgün Müzik . During the period influenced by the military government, arabesque and Özgün Müzik were described as "degenerate" and demotivated by the government, while Turkish classical music was promoted. Erkin Koray , Cem Karaca and Barış Manço are the best known performers of Anadolu Rock. They paved the way for politically motivated artists such as Moğollar ( Murat Ses ), Kurtalan Ekspres , Yeni Türkü , Bulutsuzluk Özlemi , Zen and Zülfü Livaneli .

Livaneli became known through the invention of Özgün Müzik , a guitar-based genre in combination with a gentle singing voice with arabesque music and rural melodies. The lyrics were generally not revolutionary, but Ahmet Kaya , for example, sang poems by Nâzım Hikmet .

Turkish hip hop

Main article: Turkish hip hop

Turkish hip-hop started in Germany. As one of the first Turkish-speaking hip-hop groups, Islamic Force from Berlin-Kreuzberg released their first maxi single "My Melody" in 1992 . In 1995 the Turkish-German community brought up the hip-hop group Cartel , which was controversial in Turkey and Germany because of their lyrics. Both groups named their style Oriental hip-hop and mixed hip-hop with music from the Middle East. Today the most successful rappers are Sagopa Kajmer , Ceza and Fuat .

See also


  • Martin Stokes: Sounds of Anatolia . In: Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Eds.): World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides, Penguin Books, 2000, pp. 396-410, ISBN 1-85828-636-0

Individual evidence

  1. Klaus Kreiser : History of Turkey, From Ataturk to the present . CH Beck, 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-64065-0 , pp. 54 .
  2. ^ Dietrich Schlegel: Paul Lange Bey. A German musician in the Ottoman Empire. Announcements of the German-Turkish Society, 115, 12/1992, pp. 36–47