Music of Turkey

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The roots of traditional music in Turkey span across centuries to a time when the Seljuk Turks migrated to Anatolia and Persia in the 11th century and contains elements of both Turkic and pre-Turkic influences. Much of its modern popular music can trace its roots to the emergence in the early 1930s drive for Westernization.[1]

With the assimilation of immigrants from various regions the diversity of musical genres and musical instrumentation also expanded. Turkey has also seen documented folk music and recorded popular music produced in the ethnic styles of Greek, Armenian, Albanian, Polish, Azeri and Jewish communities, among others.[2] Many Turkish cities and towns have vibrant local music scenes which, in turn, support a number of regional musical styles. Despite this, however, western-style pop music lost popularity to arabesque in the late 1970s and 1980s, with even its greatest proponents, Ajda Pekkan and Sezen Aksu, falling in status. It became popular again by the beginning of the 1990s, as a result of an opening economy and society. With the support of Aksu, the resurging popularity of pop music gave rise to several international Turkish pop stars such as Tarkan and Sertab Erener. The late 1990s also saw an emergence of underground music producing alternative Turkish rock, electronica, hip-hop, rap and dance music in opposition to the mainstream corporate pop and arabesque genres, which many believe have become too commercial.[3]

Classical music[edit]

Front façade of Atatürk Cultural Center after completion. The main opera building in Istanbul

Ottoman court music has a large and varied system of modes or scales known as makams, and other rules of composition. A number of notation systems were used for transcribing classical music, the most dominant being the Hamparsum notation in use until the gradual introduction of western notation.[4]

A specific sequence of classical Turkish musical forms becomes a fasıl, a suite consisting of an instrumental prelude (peṣrev), an instrumental postlude (saz semaisi), and in between, the main section of vocal compositions which begins with and is punctuated by instrumental improvisations taksim.[5] A full fasıl concert would include four different instrumental forms and three vocal forms, including a light classical song, şarkı. A strictly classical fasıl (in the early 19th-century style) remains in the same makam throughout, from the introductory taksim and usually ending in a dance tune or oyun havası.[6] However shorter şarkı compositions, precursors to modern day songs, are a part of this tradition, many of them extremely old, dating back to the 14th century; many are newer, with late 19th century songwriter Haci Arif Bey being especially popular.

Composers and Performers

Other famous proponents of this genre include Sufi Dede Efendi, Prince Cantemir, Baba Hamparsum, Kemani Tatyos Efendi, Sultan Selim III and Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. The most popular modern Turkish classical singer is Münir Nurettin Selçuk, who was the first to establish a lead singer position. Other performers include Bülent Ersoy, Zeki Müren, Müzeyyen Senar and Zekai Tunca.

Musical instruments[edit]

Traditional instruments in Turkish classical music today include tambur -generally use as tanbur - long-necked plucked lute, ney end-blown flute, kemençe bowed fiddle, oud plucked short-necked unfretted lute, kanun plucked zither, violin, and in Mevlevi music, küdüm drum and a harp.

Ottoman harem music: Belly dance[edit]

Female musical players. Ottoman miniature painting, 18th century.

From the makams of the royal courts to the melodies of the royal harems, a type of dance music emerged that was different from the oyun havası of fasıl music. In the Ottoman Empire, the harem was that part of a house set apart for the women of the family. It was a place in which non-family males were not allowed. Eunuchs guarded the sultan's harems, which were quite large, including several hundred women who were wives and concubines. There, female dancers and musicians entertained the women living in the harem. Belly dance was performed by women for women. This female dancer, known as a rakkase, which is the Arabic word for "female dancer", hardly ever appeared in public.[7]

This type of harem music was taken out of the sultan's private living quarters and to the public by male street entertainers and hired dancers of the Ottoman Empire, the male rakkas. These dancers performed publicly for wedding celebrations, feasts, festivals, and in the presence of the sultans.[7]

Modern oriental dance in Turkey is derived from this tradition of the Ottoman rakkas. Some mistakenly believe that Turkish oriental dancing is known as Çiftetelli due to the fact that this style of music has been incorporated into oriental dancing by Greeks, illustrated by the fact that the Greek belly dance is sometimes mistakenly called Tsifteteli. However, Çiftetelli is now a form of folk music, with names of songs that describe their local origins, whereas rakkas, as the name suggests, is from Arabic which means "male dancer".[7] Dancers are also known for their adept use of finger cymbals as instruments, also known as zils.

Romani influences[edit]

Romani are known throughout Turkey for their musicianship. Their urban music brought echoes of classical Turkish music to the public via the meyhane or taverna. This type of fasıl music (a style, not to be confused with the fasıl form of classical Turkish music) with food and alcoholic beverages is often associated with the underclass of Turkish society, though it also can be found in more respectable establishments in modern times.[1]

Roma have also influenced the fasıl itself. Played in music halls, the dance music (oyun havası) required at the end of each fasıl has been incorporated with Ottoman rakkas or belly dancing motifs. The rhythmic ostinato accompanying the instrumental improvisation (ritimli taksim) for the bellydance parallels that of the classical gazel, a vocal improvisation in free rhythm with rhythmic accompaniment. Popular musical instruments in this kind of fasıl are the clarinet, violin, kanun, and darbuka. Clarinetist Mustafa Kandıralı is a well-known fasil musician.

Military music[edit]

Surname-i Vebbi (fol. 172a), showing military band.

The Janissary bands or Mehter Takımı are considered to be the oldest type of military marching band in the world.[8] Individual instrumentalists were mentioned in the Orhun inscriptions, which are believed to be the oldest written sources of Turkish history, dating from the 8th century. However, they were not definitively mentioned as bands until the 13th century. The rest of Europe borrowed the notion of military marching bands from Turkey from the 16th century onwards.

Turkish influence on Western classical music[edit]

Musical relations between the Turks and the rest of Europe can be traced back many centuries,[9] and the first type of musical Orientalism was the Turkish Style.[10] European classical composers in the 18th century were fascinated by Turkish music, particularly the strong role given to the brass and percussion instruments in Janissary bands.

Joseph Haydn wrote his Military Symphony to include Turkish instruments, as well as some of his operas. Turkish instruments were included in Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony Number 9, and he composed a "Turkish March" for his Incidental Music to The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote the "Ronda alla turca" in his Sonata in A major and also used Turkish themes in his operas, such as the Chorus of Janissaries from his Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782). This Turkish influence introduced the cymbals, bass drum, and bells into the symphony orchestra, where they remain. Jazz musician Dave Brubeck wrote his "Blue Rondo á la Turk" as a tribute to Mozart and Turkish music. [citation needed]

Western Influence on Turkish classical music[edit]

CSO Ada Ankara serves as Presidential Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall in the capital

While the European military bands of the 18th century introduced the percussion instruments of the Ottoman janissary bands, a reciprocal influence emerged in the 19th century in the form of the Europeanisation of the Ottoman army band. In 1827, Giuseppe Donizetti, the elder brother of the renowned Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, was invited to become Master of Music to Sultan Mahmud II.[11] A successor of Donizetti was the German musician Paul Lange, formerly music lecturer at the American College for Girls and at the German High School, who took over the position of Master of the Sultan's Music after the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and kept it until his death in 1920. A son of Paul Lange was the Istanbul-born American conductor Hans Lange. The Ottoman composer Leyla Saz (1850–1936) provides an account of musical training in the Imperial Palace in her memoirs. As the daughter of the Palace surgeon, she grew up in the Imperial harem where girls were also given music lessons in both Turkish and Western styles.[12]

After the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of a Turkish republic, the transfer of the former Imperial Orchestra or Mızıka-ı Hümayun from Istanbul to the new capital of the state Ankara, and renaming it as the Orchestra of the Presidency of the Republic, Riyaset-i Cumhur Orkestrası, signaled a Westernization of Turkish music. The name would later be changed to the Presidential Symphony Orchestra or Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası.[1]

Further inroads came with the founding of a new school for the training of Western-style music instructors in 1924, renaming the Istanbul Oriental Music School as the Istanbul Conservatory in 1926, and sending talented young musicians abroad for further music education. These students include well-known Turkish composers such as Cemal Reşit Rey, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Ahmet Adnan Saygun, Necil Kazım Akses and Hasan Ferit Alnar, who became known as the Turkish Five.[13] The founding of the Ankara State Conservatory with the aid of the German composer and music theorist Paul Hindemith in 1936 showed that Turkey in terms of music wanted to be like the West.[1]

However, on the order of the founder of the republic, Atatürk, following his philosophy to take from the West but to remain Turkish in essence, a wide-scale classification and archiving of samples of Turkish folk music from around Anatolia was launched in 1924 and continued until 1953 to collect around 10,000 folk songs. Hungarian composer Béla Bartók visited Ankara and south-eastern Turkey in 1936 within the context of these works.[14]

By 1976, Turkish classical music had undergone a renaissance and a state musical conservatory in Istanbul was founded to give classical musicians the same support as folk musicians. Modern-day advocates of Western classical music in Turkey include Fazıl Say, İdil Biret, Suna Kan, the Önder Sisters and the Pekinel sisters.

Early Years of The Republic[edit]

After the Turkish War of Independence ended in 1923, and the borders were drawn, there was a social and political revolution under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This revolution opted to Westernize the way of living in Turkey. By 1929, all public and commercial communications were made in the Latin alphabet, completely taking the written Ottoman Turkish language out of circulation. A new constitution was written, one that was modeled after the French. This new constitution was designed to make the new Republic of Turkey into a secular, modern, nation-state. Every aspect of the revolution, from major policy changes to clothing reforms, was made in accordance with the Kemalist Ideology. All affairs were carried out followed by a chain of military command for the purpose of reaching the level of Western civilization. Both religious and Turkish classical music was impacted by this top to bottom revolution.

On November 1, 1934 Atatürk made a speech in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Alaturca music was banned on radios, public places as well as private properties.[15] Here is the excerpt from the speech, concerning Turkish music, "Folks, we all know how sensitive we, the Turkish, are towards the matters of our cultural legacy…. I am aware what kind of progress that my people want to see within fine arts delivered by the new generation of artists, and musicians. If you ask me, what would be most efficient and quick to tackle first within the fine arts is Turkish Music. The music we are made to listen to these days is far from being a point of pride for Turkish people. We must all know this. We must take our great nation's idioms, stories, experiences and compose them, but only complying to the general rules of music. I wish that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs take this matter seriously, and work alongside the law-makers of our country."[16]

Right after this speech, on November 2, 1934, The Department of Publishing and Press banned Alaturca music, knowing what Mustafa Kemal meant when he said "… but only complying to the general rules of music…" was that the only acceptable type of music available to the public will be music following the principles of western tonal music. The Turkish composers, who were educated abroad in the beginning of the century and came back to Turkey, were assigned to teach classical Turkish musicians the western way of writing and playing music. The Presidential Symphony Orchestra, established back in 1924 started giving weekly free performances in schools specifying in Music Education. New instruments like pianos, trumpets, and saxophones were bought for cultural centers in villages, not just in Istanbul, but in many places like Bursa, Çorum, Gümüşhane, and Samsun.[16]

Along with the radical ideology change, and the sudden application of these new ideas came an obvious tear in the fabric of the society. People who couldn't listen to Turkish music on Turkish Radio sought out the next best thing and started listening to the Arabic Radio. There are records of Turkish people calling into Egyptian, Crimean, and Haifan radio stations requesting Turkish songs they were used to listening to, since The Middle East already consumed and re-created a lot of Turkish Music since the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the middle of the millennium.[17] Turkish people started listening to other nations' version of Turkish songs. This cleared the way for the Arabesque music to become hugely popular in the 70s. Today, there are still prolific and popular Arabesque musicians in Turkey. The ban in the early years of the Republic is exactly why Arabesque Music became a cultural phenomenon.[18]

Folk music[edit]

Kemençe is a popular folk music instrument on Turkey's Black Sea coast

Folk music or Türkü generally deals with subjects surrounding daily life in less grandiose terms than the love and emotion usually contained in its traditional counterpart, Ottoman court music.[5]

Most songs recount stories of real-life events and Turkish folklore, or have developed through song contests between troubadour poets.[19] Corresponding to their origins, folk songs are usually played at weddings, funerals and special festivals.

Regional folk music generally accompanies folk dances, which vary significantly across regions. For example, at marriage ceremonies in the Aegean guests will dance the Zeybek, while in other Rumeli regions the upbeat dance music Çiftetelli is usually played, and in the southeastern regions of Turkey the Halay is the customary form of local wedding music and dance.[1] Greeks from Thrace and Cyprus that have adopted çiftetelli music sometimes use it synonymously to mean Oriental dance, which indicates a misunderstanding of its roots. Çiftetelli is a folk dance, differing from a solo performance dance of a hired entertainer.

The regional mood also affects the subject of the folk songs, e.g. folk songs from the Black Sea are lively in general and express the customs of the region. Songs about betrayal have an air of defiance about them instead of sadness, whereas the further south travelled in Turkey the more the melodies resemble a lament.[20]

As this genre is viewed as a music of the people, musicians in socialist movements began to adapt folk music with contemporary sounds and arrangements in the form of protest music.

In the 70s and 80s, modern bards following the aşık tradition such as Aşik Veysel and Mahsuni Şerif moved away from spiritual invocations to socio-politically active lyrics.

Other contemporary progenitors took their lead such as Zülfü Livaneli, known for his mid-80s innovation of combining poet Nazım Hikmet's radical poems with folk music and rural melodies, and is well regarded by left-wing supporters in politics.[1]

In more recent times, saz orchestras, accompanied with many other traditional instruments and a merger with arabesque melodies have kept modern folk songs popular in Turkey.[1]

Folk instruments[edit]


Folk instruments range from string groups as bağlama, bow instruments such as the kemençe (a type of stave fiddle), and percussion and wind, including the zurna, ney and davul. Regional variations place importance on different instruments, e.g. the darbuka in Rumeli and the kemençe around the Eastern Black Sea region. The folklore of Turkey is extremely diverse. Nevertheless, Turkish folk music is dominantly marked by a single musical instrument called saz or bağlama, a type of long-necked lute. Traditionally, saz is played solely by traveling musicians known as ozan or religious Alevi troubadours called aşık.[21]

Due to the cultural crossbreeding prevalent during the Ottoman Empire, the bağlama has influenced various cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean, e.g. the Greek baglamas. In Turkish bağlamak means 'to tie' as a reference to the tied, movable frets of the instrument. Like many other plucked lutes, it can be played with a plectrum (i.e., pick), with a fingerpicking style, or strummed with the backs of fingernails. The zurna and davul duo is also popular in rural areas, and played at weddings and other local celebrations.

Folk literature[edit]

A large body of folk songs are derived from minstrels or bard-poets called ozan in Turkish. They have been developing Turkish folk literature since the beginning of 11th century. The musical instrument used by these bard-poets is the saz or bağlama. They are often taught by other senior minstrels, learning expert idioms, procedures, and methods in the performance of the art.[22] These lessons often take place at minstrel meetings and the coffeehouses they frequent. Those bard-poets who become experts or alaylı then take apprentices for themselves and continue the tradition.[22]

A minstrel's creative output usually takes two major forms. One, in musical rhyming contests with other bards, where the competition ends with the defeat of the minstrel who cannot find an appropriate quatrain to the rhyme and two, storytelling.[19] These folk stories are extracted from real life, folklore, dreams and legends.[22] One of the most well-known followings are those bards that put the title aşık in front of their names.


Arabic music had been banned in Turkey in 1948, but starting in the 1970s immigration from predominantly southeastern rural areas to big cities and particularly to Istanbul gave rise to a new cultural synthesis. This changed the musical makeup of Istanbul. The old tavernas and music halls of fasıl music were to shut down in place of a new type of music.[1] These new urban residents brought their own taste of music, which due to their locality was largely middle eastern. Musicologists derogatively termed this genre as arabesque due to the high-pitched wailing that is synonymous with Arabic singing.

Its mainstream popularity rose so much in the 1980s that it even threatened the existence of Turkish pop, with rising stars such as Müslüm Gürses and İbrahim Tatlıses.[1] The genre has underbeat forms that include Ottoman forms of belly-dancing music known as fantazi from singers like Gülben Ergen and with performers like Serdar Ortaç who added Anglo-American rock and roll to arabesque music.

It is not really accurate to group Arabesk with folk music. It owes little to folk music, and would be more accurately described as form of popular music based on the makam scales found in Ottoman and Turkish classical music. Though Arabesk was accused of having been derived from Arabic music, the scales (makam) used identify it as music, that, though influenced by both Arabic and Western music, is much more Turkish in origin.

Religious music[edit]

Islamic Recitation[edit]

"Islamic Recitation," a term associated with mainstream religion in Turkey, includes the azan (call-to-prayer), Kur'an-ı Kerim (Koran recitation), Mevlit (Ascension Poem), and ilahi (hymns usually sung in a group, often outside a mosque). On musical grounds, mosque music in large urban areas often resembles classical Turkish music in its learned use of makam and poetry, e.g., a Mevlit sung at Sultan Ahmet mosque in Istanbul. Dervish/Sufi music is rarely associated with a mosque. Kâni Karaca was a leading performer of mosque music in recent times.[23]

Alevi influences: The Aşık (Ashik) traditions[edit]

It is suggested that about a fifth of the Turkish population are Alevis, whose folk music is performed by a type of travelling bard or ozan called aşık, who travels with the saz or baglama, an iconic image of Turkish folk music.[21] These songs, which hail from the central northeastern area, are about mystical revelations, invocations to Alevi saints and Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, whom they hold in high esteem. In Turkish aşık literally means 'in love'. Whoever follows this tradition has the Aşık assignation put before their names, because it is suggested that music becomes an essential facet of their being, for example as in Aşık Veysel.

Middle Anatolia is home to the bozlak, a type of declamatory, partially improvised music by the bards. Neşet Ertaş has so far been the most prominent contemporary voice of Middle Anatolian music, singing songs of a large spectrum, including works of premodern Turkoman aşıks like Karacaoğlan and Dadaloğlu and the modern aşıks like his father, the late Muharrem Ertaş. Around the city of Sivas, aşık music has a more spiritual bent, afeaturing ritualized song contests, although modern bards have brought it into the political arena.[19]

Sufi influences: The Mevlevi traditions[edit]

Followers of the Mevlevi Order or whirling dervishes are a religious sufi sect unique to Turkey but well known outside of its boundaries.

Dervishes of the Mevlevi sect simply dance a sema by turning continuously to music that consists of long, complex compositions called ayin. These pieces are both preceded and followed by songs using lyrics by the founder and poet Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi.[24] With the musical instrument known as the ney at the forefront of this music, internationally well-known musicians include Necdet Yasar, Niyazi Sayin, Kudsi Ergüner and Ömer Faruk Tekbilek.

Regional folk styles[edit]

Minorities and indigenous peoples have added and enhanced Turkish folk styles, while they have adopted Turkish folk traditions and instruments. Folk songs are identifiable and distinguished by regions.

Aegean and Rumeli regions[edit]

Rumelia (or Trakya) refers to the region of Turkey which is part of Southeast Europe (the provinces of Edirne, Kırklareli, Tekirdağ, the northern part of Çanakkale Province and the western part of Istanbul Province). Folk songs from this region share similarities with Balkan, Albanian and Greek folk musics, especially from the ethnic minorities and natives of Thrace. Cypriot folk music also shares folk tunes with this region, e.g. the Çiftetelli dance. These types of folk songs also share close similarities with Ottoman court music, suggesting that the distinction between court and folk music was not always so clear.[2][5] However, folk songs from Istanbul may have been closely influenced by its locality, which would include Ottoman rakkas and court music.

Cities like İzmir share similar motifs, such as the zeybek dance.

Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions[edit]

Central Asian Turkic peoples from the Caspian Sea and areas have had a huge influence in the purest forms of Turkish folk music, most notably from the Azeris and Turkmen.

Pontic Greeks on the eastern shore of the Black Sea or Karadeniz regions have their own distinct Greek style of folk music, motifs from which were used with great success by Helena Paparizou.[25] The diaspora of Greek speaking Pontic people from that region introduced Pontic music to Greece after 1924 population exchange between Turkey and Greece. The region's dance style uses unique techniques like odd shoulder tremors and knee bends. Folk dances include the gerasari, trygona, kots, omal, serra, kotsari and tik.[25]

Southeastern regions[edit]

Southeastern regions carry influences from Turkmen music, Zaza motifs and Armenian music. These usually include epic laments.

Kanto (Cantare music)[edit]

Italian theater and opera have had a profound effect on Turkish culture in the past century. Like the terminology of seamanship, the terminology of music and theater is derived from Italian. In the argot of the improvisational theater of Istanbul the stage was called "sahano", the backstage was referred to as "koyuntu", backdrops depicting countryside were "bosko", the applause was "furi" and the songs sung between the acts and plays were called "kanto".

The improvised pieces were stage adaptations of the Karagöz (shadow puppet) and Ortaoyunu (traditional form of Turkish theatre performed in the open) traditions, although in a much more simplified form. The themes explored in these traditional theater arts as well as their stock characterizations and stereotypes were used as the framework for the new extemporaneous performances of the tuluat (improvised) theater.

As with their Italian counterparts, the Turkish troupes employed songs and music before the show and between the acts to pique people's interest and draw in customers.

Kanto: songs sung between the acts as solos or duets, based on traditional eastern makam (modes) but performed on western instruments.

Kanto: "first the introduction, then the lyrics, shake your shoulders to a violin, solo, cock your head and shimmy in oriental dance style, leap around like a partridge, then slowly disappear behind the curtain."

Kanto: the irreplaceable unifying feature of ali Turkish tuluat theater. We can divide kanto into two periods. The division, particularly in terms of musical structure, is very clear between the early kanto and the kanto of the Post-Republic period. It is further possible to identify two styles within the early period. Galata and Direklerarası (both neighbourhoods of Old Istanbul).

Kanto first took root in the musical theaters of Galata, a part of town frequented by sailors, rowdies and roustabouts. Ahmed Rasim Bey paints a vivid picture of the Galata theaters in his 1922 memoir entitled Fuhş-i Atik (Prostitution in the Old Days):

Everyone thought Peruz was the most flirtatious, most skillful and the most provocative. The seats closest to the stage were always crammed full... They said of Peruz, 'she is a trollop who has ensnared the heart of many a young man and has made herself the enemy of many. 'Her songs would hardly be finished when chairs, flowers, bouquets and beribboned letters. Come flying from the boxseats. It seemed the building would be shaken to the ground.

Direklerarası was a little off the beaten track and in comparison to Galata was a more refined center of entertainment. Direklerarası was said to be quite lively at night during the month of Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) and certainly once its attraction was its family atmosphere. It was here that the troupes of Kel Hasan and Abdi Efendi and later that of Neshid enjoyed a great popularity. It was under the influence of these masters that kanto experienced its golden years.

The troupes orchestra would be made up of such instruments as the trumpet, trombone, violin, trap drum and cymbals. The orchestra would start to play popular songs of the day and marches in front of the theatre about an hour before the show to drum up interest. This intermission or Antrak music ended up with the well-known Izmir March, a sign that the show time was approaching. The play began as the musicians went in and took their places at the side of the stage.

The kanto singers of the period were also composers. Set to extraordinarily simple melodies which were the fashion of the day, the lyrics relied heavily of tensions between men and women as well as reflecting topical events. The compositions were in such fundamental makams as Rast, Hüzzam, Hicaz, Hüseyni and Nihavent. Kanto songs are remembered both by the names of their interpreters and by their creators, artists such as Peruz, Shamran, Kamelya, Eleni. Küçük and Büyük Amelya, Mari Ferha and Virjin. That kanto brought an erotic element to the stage performance was an important aspect and one that should not be overlooked or separated out.

Art and cultural life gained new dimensions with the changes brought about by the 1923 formation of the Turkish Republic. It was a period of rapid transformation and its effects were widespread. Turkish women had finally won the freedom to appear on the stage, breaking the monopoly previously held by Rûm (Istanbul Greek) and Armenian women who performed in musical and non-musical theatre. Institutions like Darulbedayi (Istanbul City Theatre) and Darulelhan (Istanbul Conservatory of Music) had long been turning out trained artists.

Western lifestyles and Western-style art put pressure on the traditional Turkish formats and these were swept off to the side. The operetta, the tango, then later the Charleston and the foxtrot overshadowed kanto. Kanto's popularity began to fade, the city's centers of entertainment shifted, and the theaters of Galata and Direklerarası were closed down. Turkish female artists were unreceptive to kanto's inherent ribairy and chose to keep their distance from it.

Around 1935, there was a revival of interest in the kanto form. Although rather far from its fundamental principles, a new type of kanto was once again popular.

It is important to point out that kanto had now moved from the stage to the recording studio. While the subjects dealt with in the lyrics were still the same old quarrels between men and women, mixed in with satirical takes on fashion and current events, the songs were being written with the 78 rpm phonograph in mind. So much so that every record label hired their own kanto composers—and rather famous ones at that. With Columbia at the fore, record labels commissioned kanto from Kaptanzade Ali Rıza Bey, Refik Fersan, Dramalı Hasan, Sadettin Kaynak, Cümbüş Mehmet and Mildan Niyazi Bey. The makams were the same but the instrumentation had changed. Kanto were now accompanied by cümbüş (a fretlees banjo like instrument) the ud (a fretless) lute, and calpara (castenets). Foxtrot, Charleston and rumba rhythms dominated. The tunes were being written and sung more tor listening than tor dancing. Female soloists include Makbule Enver, Mahmure, and Neriman; Beşiktaşlı Kemal Senman was the most sought after male singer for duets.

Among the topics explored by the new kantocu (singer or composer of kanto) perhaps the most frequent subject of satire was the new role of women brought about by the formation of the Republic. Songs like Sarhoş Kızlar (Drunken Girls) or Şoför Kadınlar (Women Drivers) were sung seemingly in revenge for all the suffering they had endured at the hands of men in the past. Other topical songs include Daktilo (The Typewriter) which brought to mind the newly formed Secretaires 7 Society. Songs such as Bereli Kız (The Girl with the Beret) and Kadın Asker Olursa (If Women Were Soldiers) were full of mockery and ridicule.

The early period kanto were largely nourished by Istanbul culture. It was much the same in the Post-Republican period. The city's large and diverse population provided both the characters and the events that were the mainstay of kanto. Kanto was heavily influenced by musical theatre. Roman (gypsy) music and culture, which was itself the subject of satire, left its mark on kanto form. Another major influence was Rum music. The importance of the Istanbul Rum, who were so fond of entertainment and of singing and playing, must not be underestimated. It is a natural and inevitable result of cultural exchange. As it was, almost all the kanto singers were either Rum or Armenian, artists like Pepron, Karakas, Haim, Samran and Peruz who performed during the period following 1903.

Eventually kanto became more of a definition, a generalized genre than a musical term. Any tune that was outside of the day's musical conventions, anything light that appealed to current trends and tastes, was labeled kanto. Any music played with different instruments that was free rhythmic or somehow novel was labeled kanto; it was the product of the middie-class, urban culture of Istanbul.

Kanto has been viewed as a forerunner of today's pop culture.

Popular music[edit]

External videos
video icon Turkish ice cream man song

Popular music is distinguished from the traditional genres as those styles that entered the Turkish musicality after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, either due to attempts of national modernization from 1924 onwards, the opening of the republic to Western musical influences or modern fusions and innovations from artists themselves.[1]

Mainstream pop[edit]

Tarkan in Vienna with fans from Hungary

Turkish pop music had its humble beginnings in the late 1950s with Turkish cover versions of a wide range of imported popular styles, including rock and roll, tango, and jazz. As more styles emerged, they were also adopted, such as hip hop, heavy metal and reggae.

The self-named "superstar" of the "arrangement" (aranjman) era of the 70s was Ajda Pekkan and Aydzhan Bekir who also debuted, along with Enrico Macias, at Olympia, Paris, while MFÖ (Mazhar, Fuat, Özkan) was the celebrated group of the pop scene with an outstanding dexterity in their use of Turkish prosody and their success of amalgamating Western and Turkish cultural ingredients and perspectives. Also one of the most renowned Turkish pop stars of the last decades is probably Sezen Aksu. She contributed considerably to the unique Turkish pop sound of this period, allowing it gain ground from its humble beginnings in the early 50s and 60s to the popular genre it is today. She was also one of the strongest advocates for Turkey to enter the Eurovision Song Contest. Her one-time vocalist and later protégé Sertab Erener won the contest in 2003.

MFÖ (Mazhar, Fuat, Özkan)

The biggest male pop stars in Turkey are arguably Tarkan, Mustafa Sandal and Kenan Doğulu. Tarkan achieved chart success in Europe and Latin America with his single "Şımarık", also composed by Sezen Aksu, which has been covered by numerous artists.[26] Mustafa Sandal has also enjoyed chart success in Europe with his 2005 single "İsyankar", which peaked at number 4 and went gold.

Turkish hip hop[edit]

Turkish hip hop or oriental hip hop is a creation of the Turkish migrant worker community in Germany, which some suggest was a suitable outlet for a young generation disillusioned with Germany's treatment of its migrant class.[27] In 1995, the Turkish-German community produced a major hip hop crew named Cartel which caused controversy in Turkey and Germany for its revolutionary lyrics. Hip hop now enjoys wide popularity among the younger generation in Turkey. Ceza, Dr.Fuchs (formerly "Nefret") and Sagopa Kajmer, Sansar Salvo, Pit10, Şehinşah, Hayki, Saian, Allâme are popular figures of contemporary rap music in Turkey.

Anatolian rock[edit]

The Turkish rock scene began in the mid- to late 1960s, when popular United States and United Kingdom bands became well-known. Soon, a distinctively Turkish fusion of rock and folk emerged; this was called Anatolian rock, a term which nowadays may be generically ascribed to most of Turkish rock.[1] Barış Manço, Cem Karaca and Erkin Koray are the best known performers; Moğollar and Kurtalan Ekspres are the best known groups of older classical Anatolian rock music.

Islamic anasheed[edit]

Islamic anasheed are also very popular among some of the Turkish people. The most popular artist in Turkey is the British Azeri, Sami Yusuf, a concert in Istanbul drew an audience of over 200,000, his biggest concert so far around the world.[28] He is one of the most notable singers of anasheed, and can speak in many different languages, which includes Turkish.[citation needed] To date he has performed at sell out concerts in over 30 countries across the world from Istanbul to Casablanca, United States to Germany. Some albums selling more than a million copies in comparison to western music. In Jan 2009 Sami travelled to Turkey where he was invited by Emine Erdoğan, wife of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to attend a rally in support of peace in Gaza.[29] Another popular Turkish singer is Feridun Özdemir, who mainly sings of God and true faith. His records are most successful in the anasheed genre.[30]

Heavy metal and industrial[edit]

Heavy metal and industrial groups from Turkey include Pentagram (known as Mezarkabul outside Turkey) and Almora.[31] Individual musicians in these genres include Ogün Sanlısoy and Hayko Cepkin.

Underground black metal and death metal[edit]

Underground black metal and death metal bands known from Turkey are Witchtrap, Ehrimen, Satanized, Godslaying Hellblast, Burial Invocation, Deggial, Decaying Purity.

Turkish Trance[edit]

Trance is a rare musical genre in Turkey but it also has specific listeners. This genre gained when the first Turkish trance music composed by Murtaza Khojami and the song named for Yalnızlık Düşünceler[32] with mixed criticism.

Pop-rock and rock[edit]

As a singular phenomenon amidst popular currents since the mid-1970s, Bülent Ortaçgil appeared as an urban songwriter/musician with a distinct musical quality, and became a role model for aspiring young musicians.[citation needed] He was the only Turkish musician for whom a tribute album was compiled that included several prominent performers from a wide gamut of different genres.

Other recent rock bands with a more Western sound who have enjoyed mainstream success include maNga, Duman and Mor ve Ötesi. Şebnem Ferah, Özlem Tekin and Teoman are examples of individual rock artists with substantial fan bases. Turkey also boasts numerous large-scale rock festivals and events. Annual rock festivals in Turkey include Barışarock, H2000 Music Festival, Rock'n Coke, and RockIstanbul.

Underground and club music[edit]

There are many clubs across Turkey, especially across its Aegean region. The alternative music scene however is derived mostly from Istanbul's thriving underground club scene that sees DJs merging the past with the present, using traditional motifs with new age sounds and electronic music. Mercan Dede is one of Turkey's most successful DJs, mixing trance with historical and mystic Sufi songs. Another worldwide recognized name from the underground music scene of Turkey is Mert Yücel. Yücel was responsible for the first house music album to be released in Turkey. He also had worldwide acclaimed and respected releases on US and UK dance labels.[33] He is one of the key names defining the underground house sound emerging from Istanbul.[34][35]

Musical influence of Syrian refugees and other immigrants[edit]

The influx of immigrants and refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Central Asian, and African countries has affected the Turkish musical landscape, particularly in Istanbul.[36][37] Bands such as Country for Syria, and Saktat explicitly blend the music of different refugee communities in Istanbul to create a mix of Turkish, Arab, Greek, Persian, and Western influences.[38] Busking has played an important role in the development of this style.[39]

Music industry[edit]

The Turkish music industry includes a number of fields, ranging from record companies to radio stations and community and state orchestras. Most of the major record companies are based in Istanbul's region of Unkapanı and they are represented by the Turkish Phonographic Industry Society (MÜ-YAP).[40] The major record companies produce material by artists that have signed to one of their record labels, a brand name often associated with a particular genre or record producer. Record companies may also promote and market their artists, through advertising, public performances and concerts, and television appearances.

In recent years, the music industry has been embroiled in turmoil over the rise of the Internet downloading of copyrighted music and general piracy; many musicians and MÜ-YAP have sought to punish fans who illegally download copyrighted music.[40] On 13 June 2006 it was reported that MÜ-YAP and The Orchard, the world's leading distributor and marketer of independent music, had reached an agreement on digital global distribution, representing approximately 80% of the Turkish music market.[41]

There is not a substantial singles market in Turkey.[1] It is album orientated, although popular singers such as Yonca Evcimik and Tarkan have released singles with success.[42] Most music charts not related to album sales, measure popularity by music video feedback and radio airplay.[43]

Turkish radio stations often broadcast popular music. Each music station has a format, or a category of songs to be played; these are generally similar to but not the same as ordinary generic classification. With the introduction of commercial radio and television in the early 1990s ending the monopoly of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), a multitude of radio and TV stations were opened by newspaper media moguls.[1] These media chains sponsor award ceremonies such as the Kral TV awards for music, but most accredited music awards are based on sales given out by industry societies such as MÜ-YAP and the Magazine Journalists Society (MJS).[44][45]

Though major record companies dominate the Turkish industry, an independent music industry (indie music) does exist. Indie music is mostly based around local record labels with limited, if any, retail distribution outside a small region. Artists sometimes record for an indie label and gain enough acclaim to be signed to a major label; others choose to remain at an indie label for their entire careers. Indie music may be in styles generally similar to mainstream music, but is often inaccessible, unusual or otherwise unappealing to many people. Indie musicians often release some or all of their songs over the Internet for fans and others to download and listen to.[3]

Perhaps the most successful Turkish name associated with indie music outside of Turkey is Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records. His promotion of some of the most famous R&B and soul artists in North America and his contribution to the American music industry has earned a place in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, together with his brother Nesuhi.

Music education[edit]

Music has a place in education in Turkey, and is a part of most or all school systems in the country. High schools generally offer classes in singing, mostly choral, and instrumentation in the form of a large school band or social clubs and communities for Turkish classical or folk music, known as cemiyets.[1] Music may also be a part of theatrical productions put on by a school's drama department. Many public and private schools have sponsored music clubs and groups, most commonly including the marching band that performs Mehter marches at school festivals. However, class time given to music in schools is restricted, and a large proportion of Turkish children and adults seem to have limited musical ability, e.g. they are unable to join a melody singing at the same pitch.

Higher education in the field of music in Turkey is mostly based around large universities, connected to state music academies and conservatories. A conservatory is usually a department of a university, not a separate institution. While many students join conservatories at the usual university entrance age, some conservatories also include a 'Lise' (Lycee), in effect a specialist music school for children aged 14 to 18 years. Conservatories often have a musicology department, and do research on many styles of music especially the Turkish traditional genres, while also keeping a database of sounds in their sound libraries.[1]

Holidays and festivals[edit]

Children's folklore ensemble from Turkey during a festival.

Music is an important part of several Turkish holidays and festivals, especially playing a major part in the springtime celebration of Newroz and religious festivities such as Ramadan.[1] New year is a traditional time for the belly dancer and weddings are celebrated with upbeat tunes, while funerals are mourned with musical laments. Patriotic songs like the national anthem, "The Independence March", are a major part of public holiday celebrations such as National Independence & International Children's Day celebrations on 23 April and 30 August Victory Day celebrations, a holiday that marks Turkish independence.[1] Music also plays a role at many regional festivals that aren't celebrated nationwide, for example a music and dance parade and festival in Zonguldak.

Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir are also home to numerous music festivals which showcase styles ranging from the blues and jazz to indie rock and heavy metal. Some music festivals are strictly local in scope, including few or no performers with a national reputation, and are generally operated by local promoters. Recently large soft drink companies have operated their own music festivals, such as Rock'n Coke and Fanta parties, which draw huge crowds.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Stokes, Martin (2000). Sounds of Anatolia. Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0., pp 396-410.
  2. ^ a b "History of music in Turkey". Les Arts Turcs. May 1, 1999.
  3. ^ a b "Istanbul Music Scene". Yildirim, Ali. Tarkan DeLuxe. Retrieved May 16, 2005.
  4. ^ Karabaşoğlu, Cemal (2015-02-12). "Tradition of Notation in the History of Turkish Music". Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. International Conference on New Horizons in Education, INTE 2014, 25–27 June 2014, Paris, France. 174: 3832–3837. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.01.1121.
  5. ^ a b c "The Ottoman Music". Tanrıkorur, Cinuçen (Abridged and translated by Savaş Ş. Barkçin). Archived from the original on December 15, 2006. Tanrıkorur argues that the perceived differences between the traditional music genres stemmed from the cultural clash between the East and the West that emerged during the Tanzîmat Era (1839-1908).
  6. ^ "The Fasil". Ottoman Souvenir. Retrieved April 15, 2004.
  7. ^ a b c "Male belly dance in Turkey". Jahal, Jasmin. Retrieved February 2, 2002.
  8. ^ "Ottoman Military Music". Archived from the original on February 22, 2003. Retrieved February 11, 2003.
  9. ^ "A Levantine life: Giuseppe Donizetti at the Ottoman court". Araci, Emre. The Musical Times. Archived from the original on December 20, 2005. Retrieved October 3, 2002. Famous opera composer Gaetano Donizetti's brother, Giuseppe Donizetti, was invited to become Master of Music to Sultan Mahmud II in 1827.
  10. ^ Bellman, Jonathan (1993). The Style Hongrois in the Music of Western Europe. Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-169-5. pp.13-14; see also pp.31-2. According to Jonathan Bellman, it was "evolved from a sort of battle music played by Turkish military bands outside the walls of Vienna during the siege of that city in 1683."
  11. ^ "BETWEEN EMPIRES 'Orientalism' Before 1600". Araci, Emre. Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge. Archived from the original on July 20, 2001. Retrieved July 15, 2001.
  12. ^ Woodard, Kathryn. "Music in the Imperial Harem and the Life of Ottoman Composer Leyla Saz". Sonic Crossroads.
  13. ^ Woodard, Kathryn (2007). "Music Mediating Politics in Turkey: The Case of Ahmed Adnan Saygun". Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 27 (3): 552–562. doi:10.1215/1089201x-2007-032. S2CID 143740608.
  14. ^ Bartok, Bela & Suchoff, Benjamin (1976). Turkish Folk Music from Asia Minor (The New York Bartok Archive Studies in Musicology, No. 7). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09120-X., p 50
  15. ^ USTA, Nazlı. "The Transformation Of Music In Early Republican Period In Turkey.", July 2010, .
  16. ^ a b TUNÇAY, Çağlar. "Musical Implementations of Atatürk's Term." 9 Eylül Üniversitesi, Atatürk İlkeleri Ve İnkılap, 2009, pp. 54–95.
  17. ^ ADIGÜZEL, Adnan. "WESTERNIZATION OF TURKISH (CLASSIC) MUSIC FROM OTTOMAN EMPIRE TO TURKISH REPUBLIC AND PROHIBITED YEARS OF TURKISH MUSIC." Eskişehir Osmangazi Üniversitesi, Eskişehir Osmangazi Üniversitesi, İlahiyat Fakültesi, İslam Tarihi Ve Sanatları Bölümü, 0AD, pp. 4–10.
  18. ^ Karşıcı, Gülay. "MÜZİK TÜRLERİNE İDEOLOJİK YAKLAŞIM: 1970-1990 YILLARI ARASINDAKİ TRT SANSÜRÜ." CIU, Jan. 2010, pp. 170–177.
  19. ^ a b c Erderner, Yildiray (1995). The Song Contests of Turkish Minstrels: Improvised Poetry Sung to Traditional Music (Milman Parry Studies in Oral Tradition). Garland Science. ISBN 0-8153-1239-3., p 36
  20. ^ "Folk Music: Story of a Nation". Archived from the original on August 10, 2003. Retrieved November 10, 2003.
  21. ^ a b "Introduction to Sufi Music and Ritual in Turkey". Middle East Studies Association of North America. December 18, 1995. Archived from the original on April 8, 2007. The tradition of regional variations in the character of folk music prevails all around Anatolia and Thrace even today. The troubadour or minstrel (singer-poets) known as aşık contributed anonymously to this genre for ages.
  22. ^ a b c "Minstrel Literature". Turkish Ministry of Culture. Archived from the original on September 14, 2002. Retrieved March 28, 2005.
  23. ^ See the audio selection from Mevlit at External links below
  24. ^ "The Sema". Mevlana.Net Owned by Mevlana's family. Archived from the original on January 24, 2005. Retrieved January 11, 2005. The sema dance is very ritualistic and full of symbolism.
  25. ^ a b "Pontic Music Page". Cline, Leigh. Retrieved February 2, 2006.
  26. ^ Such as Holly Valance with the "Kiss Kiss" song.
  27. ^ "Migrant Workers in Germany - "The Lowest of the Low"". Retrieved October 10, 2005.
  28. ^ "Awakening Music - YouTube". Retrieved 9 June 2022 – via YouTube.
  29. ^ "Sami in Turkey". Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  30. ^ " - Islamic Pop Music in Turkey - Combining Rock Music with an Islamic Message". Archived from the original on 2008-04-03. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  31. ^ tr:Almora
  32. ^ "Günün albümü: Trance müziğe 'Yalnızlık Düşünceler".
  33. ^ "Yurtdışında 16 albüm".
  34. ^ "Aksam Gazetesi - Cumartesi - 'Herkes kendine DJ demesin'". Archived from the original on 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  35. ^ "Mert Yucel". Discogs.
  36. ^ "Refugee musicians play in Turkey's camps - MUSIC". Hürriyet Daily News | LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  37. ^ "This Syrian Composer Is Now a Refugee Writing Music on the Street - VICE". Vice. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  38. ^ "'Country for Syria' band uses music to highlight refugee woes". 21 November 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  39. ^ "Meet the migrant musicians bringing new sounds to Istanbul", BBC News, 2016-05-21, retrieved 2017-02-09
  40. ^ a b "Turkish Phonographic Industry Society". MÜ-YAP. Retrieved April 10, 2005. They are part of the IFPI National group. The first long-term punishment for piracy distribution had been handed out in 2006.
  41. ^ "The Orchard Signs Global Distribution and Marketing Agreement With MU-YAP". PR Newswire (Press release). Retrieved June 13, 2006.
  42. ^ See information on his domestic singles "Kuzu Kuzu" and "Hüp".
  43. ^ "Powerturk Charts". Powerturk TV. Retrieved December 8, 2001.
  44. ^ "Kral TV Music Channel". Kral. Retrieved June 11, 2001.
  45. ^ "Magazine Journalists Society". MJS. Archived from the original on June 6, 2004. Retrieved December 18, 2005.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]