Traditional Turkish Folk Music – A Brief History

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Traditional Turkish folk music has a long and complex history that is intertwined with the country’s social and political development. In this blog post, we explore the origins and evolution of this unique musical tradition.

Traditional Turkish Folk Music – A Brief History

Turkish folk music is the folk music of the Turkish people. It has its roots in Central Asia, specifically the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, and developed under the influence of Turkic, Persian and Mongolian music. Turkish folk music is often divided into two main traditions: rural music and urban music.

Rural music is typically more simple and often more repetitive than urban music. It is usually sung by men, either solo or in a group, and often features string instruments such as the saz or bağlama. Urban music is typically more complex, with influences from Ottoman classical music and European classical music. It is usually sung by women, often in a group, and often features instruments such as the piano or violin.

Traditional Turkish folk music has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, with many young Turks rediscovering their musical heritage. This has led to a new wave of traditional Turkish musicians who are bringing their own unique spin to themusic. If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Turkish folk music, there are many great resources available online.

The Origins of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music can be traced back to the central Asian steppes. It is thought that the first Turkic people who settled in Anatolia came from Central Asia and brought with them their musical traditions. The first Turkic state in Anatolia was the Seljuk Empire (1071-1243), which was followed by the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). During both of these empires, music flourished and new musical traditions were born.

After the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923. One of Ataturk’s reforms was to encourage Turkish people to take pride in their cultural heritage, including their music. Thus, Turkish folk music experienced a revival in the 1930s and 1940s.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Turkish folk music underwent yet another revival as a new generation of musicians began to experiment with traditional sounds and create new styles of music. This trend continued into the 21st century, and today Turkish folk music is more popular than ever both inside and outside of Turkey.

The Development of Turkish Folk Music

Turkey has a rich and varied musical culture, which has been influenced by a number of factors including geography, history and religion. Turkish folk music is an important part of this musical heritage, and has undergone a number of changes over the years.

The first Turkish folk music can be traced back to the Central Asian Turks who migrated to Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) in the 11th century. This music was based on the pentatonic scale and was influenced by the music of the Byzantine Empire and the Arab world. With the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 13th century, Turkish folk music began to take on a more Arabic sound, with instruments such as the oud and ney becoming more prominent.

In the late 13th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered Anatolia and established their capital in Istanbul. Over time, Ottoman court music began to influence Turkish folk music, particularly in terms of instrumentation and repertoire. For example, stringed instruments such as the kemenche (a type of fiddle) and rebab (a bowed string instrument) were introduced into folk music via the Ottoman court orchestra known as the mehteran. Similarly, Ottoman classical music forms such as the short instrumental piece known as a saz semai were also adopted by Turkish folk musicians.

During the Republican era (1923-present), Turkish folk music underwent something of a revival thanks to figures such as Zeki Müren and Müzeyyen Senar. More recently, traditional Turkish folk songs have been adapted for use in commercials, movies and television shows, helping to keep this important part of Turkey’s musical heritage alive for new generations.

The Characteristics of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music is clearly a very diverse genre with many different regional styles and influences. However, there are some characteristics which are common to most, if not all, Turkish folk music. Firstly, Turkish folk music is often based on old, Islamic poetry which has been passed down orally over the generations. This poetry often contains themes of love, nature and religion, and is often quite poetic and lyrical in style. Secondly, Turkish folk music is usually based around a minor key, which gives it a characteristic ‘sad’ or ‘mournful’ sound. This is in contrast to the major key which is used in much Western pop music, and gives Turkish folk music a very different feel. Finally, Turkish folk music often uses instruments such as the saz (a kind of lute), the ney (a flute) and the kanun (a type of zither), which again gives it a very distinctive sound.

The Instruments of Turkish Folk Music

Traditional Turkish folk music uses a variety of instruments, many of which are common to Central Asian and Middle Eastern musical traditions. The most important instrument is the bağlama, a type of lute with seven strings. Other common instruments include the kabak kemane (a small fiddle), the ney (a type of flute), the def (a type of tambourine), and the zurna (a type of oboe).

In recent years, traditional Turkish folk music has beenincreasingly popular, both in Turkey and abroad. This resurgence in popularity has been accompanied by a renewed interest in the traditional instruments used to play this music. As a result, there has been a growing market for bağlamas, kabak kemanes, neys, defs, and zurnas.

The Structure of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music is characterized by its use of a particular type of maqam, or melodic mode, as well as a unique rhythm called usul. The most common usul in Turkish folk music is 9/8, but other rhythms such as 12/8 and 7/8 are also used. Folk songs typically follow a AABA structure, with each section (A) having its own unique melody. The B section (which is usually in a different maqam than the A section) provides contrast and helps to create tension and release.

The Performance of Turkish Folk Music

Most Turks are born into a particular social class, profession, or ethnic group, and this tends to determine the kind of music they will grow up listening to and playing. For example, folk songs associated with weddings are different from those sung by shepherds while working. Turkish folk music is strongly influenced by the music of Central Asia, Persia, and the Arab world. It is usually performed by small ensembles consisting of stringed instruments such as the bağlama (a kind of lute), wind instruments such as the zurna (a double-reed woodwind instrument similar to an oboe), and percussion instruments such as the davul (a large drum). Vocalists may also be accompanied by a solo instrumentalist or by a chorus singing in unison.

Turkish folk music was probably first recorded in the late 19th century on wax cylinders, although it had been performed long before that. One of the earliest performers of Turkish folk music was Nazım Hikmet Ran, who was born in 1902. Ran wrote many poems about workers and peasants that were set to music and sung by popular artists such as Zeki Müren and Müzeyyen Senar. In more recent years, performers such as Neşet Ertaş and Aşık Mahsuni Şerif have become well-known for their interpretations of Turkish folk songs.

The Repertoire of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music is an integral part of the country’s culture and has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. The repertoire of Turkish folk music is incredibly diverse, with songs and tunes originating from all corners of the country.

Much of Turkish folk music is based on the pentatonic scale, which gives it a distinctive sound that can be recognized instantly. Another characteristic of Turkish folk music is its use of improvisation – both in the lyrics and in the melodies.

Turkish folk music has been influenced by a number of different cultures over the years, including Arabic, Persian and Central Asian. In more recent times, it has also been influenced by European music, particularly in the 20th century.

Today, Turkish folk music is enjoyed by people all over the world, both inside and outside of Turkey. It is often played at weddings and other special occasions, as well as being performed in concert halls and on television.

The Significance of Turkish Folk Music

##Keywords: Turkish Folk Music, music, culture, heritage
Folk music is an important part of Turkish culture and heritage. It is a genre that has been passed down through the generations, from parent to child and from community to community. Folk music is significant because it represents the traditions and values of a particular group of people. It is a way for people to connect with their past and to express their identity.

Turkish folk music has a long history and has been influenced by many different cultures. The first folk songs were probably sung by the turkish nomads who traveled across the steppes of Central Asia. These songs were used to help pass the time on long journeys, and they were also used as a way to communicate with other members of the tribe. As the Turks began to settle in different parts of the world, their music began to change and evolve. Over time, Turkish folk music has been influenced by Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman music.

Today, there are many different types of Turkish folk music. Some of the most popular genres include Alevi music, Anatolian rock, and arabesque. Alevi music is often characterized by its use of traditional instruments such as the saz (a type of lute) and the ney (a type of flute). Anatolian rock is a modern style of Turkish folk music that combines elements of rockabilly, punk, andtraditional Turkish folk music. Arabesque is a type of pop music that emerged in the 1970s and is still popular today. It combines elements of Arabic, Greek, jazz, pop, and traditional Turkish folk music.

The Future of Turkish Folk Music

Turkey has a long and rich musical tradition, but what does the future hold for traditional Turkish folk music? In a rapidly globalizing world, where technology and Western influences are increasingly commonplace, will traditional Turkish music be able to survive and thrive?

There is no doubt that the traditional music of Turkey is under threat. In a country where pop music dominates the airwaves and folk music is often seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant, it can be hard for young people to appreciate the value of their musical heritage. However, there are still many passionate advocates of Turkish folk music, both in Turkey and abroad, who are working to ensure that this important part of Turkey’s cultural heritage is not lost.

One of the biggest challenges facing traditional Turkish music is the lack of young people who are interested in playing it. In a society where most children grow up listening to pop music or watching American movies, it can be hard to persuade them to pick up a traditional instrument and learn to play Turkish folk songs. However, there are some organizations working to change this. The International Folk Music Festival, which takes place every year in Istanbul, is one example. The festival offers workshops for young people interested in learning about Turkish folk music, as well as performances by some of the best-known folk musicians in the country.

Another challenge facing traditional Turkish music is the negative attitude of many Turks towards their own culture. In a country where Westernization is often seen as positive and modernity is equated with progress, traditional culture can be seen as backward and old-fashioned. This can make it difficult to convince people of the value of preserving Turkish folk music. However, there are some signs that attitudes are changing. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in traditional Turkish culture among younger Turks, with more people attending festivals and cultural events such as the International Folk Music Festival. This suggests that there is still hope for the future of Turkish folk music.

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