The Beauty of Turkish Folk Music

Discover the fascinating history and vibrant culture of Turkish folk music, from its origins to its modern interpretation.

The Origins of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music is the music of the Turkic peoples, which includes the Turks, Azeris, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Uyghurs, Tatars, Turkmens, and others. The music has its roots in the Turkic Folk music of Central Asia, which was subsequently adopted and further developed by the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire

During the Ottoman period, Turkish folk music was created by the interaction of two cultures: the Turkic culture of Central Asia, which was initially dominant, and the Persian culture of the Middle East, which had a significant impact from the 16th century onwards. In general, Turkish folk music has been absorbs various influences from other cultures.

Ottoman Court Music
Ottoman court music is probably one of the most well-known and influential genres of Turkish folk music. It developed in the royal courts of the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century, and reached its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries. The main instruments used were the lute (ud), reed flute (ney), and percussion instruments such as the davul and zurna. This type of music was usually performed by professional musicians called “müzendis”.

An important aspect of Ottoman court music was its ceremonial role: it was often played during state occasions such as royal births, military victories, and religious festivals. One of the most famous pieces from this genre is a composition called “Muallim Naci’s Semai”, which was written by an 18th-century composer named Muallim Naci for Sultan Mahmud I.

Turkish Folk Music in Anatolia
While Ottoman court music was spreading through the empire, folk musicians in Anatolia were developing their own traditions. Although some elements from Ottoman court music were adopted, Anatolian folk music remained largely separate from it. One difference between the two genres is that while Ottoman music tended to be highly ornamented, Anatolian folk music is generally simpler and more direct.

Anatolian folk music is often divided into three regional subgenres: Aegean, Central Anatolian, and Black Sea. Each region has its own distinct musical styles and instrumentation. For example, the Aegean region is known for its lively rhythms and use of winds instruments such as clarinets; Central Anatolia is home to a wide variety of stringed instruments such as the bağlama (a type of lute) and kemenche (a type of violin); while in Black Sea region musicians often use a four-stringed instrument called a çumbus along with accordions and violins.

The Turkish Republic

Turkish folk music has its roots in the music of the Ottoman Empire, which was a blend of Turkic, Arabic, Persian, and Byzantine influences. In the early years of the Turkish Republic, music was used as a tool to promote Turkish nationalist sentiment, and folk songs were collected and adapted for this purpose.Transmission of folk music was also inhibited by the fact that most professional musicians belonged to the urban elite, and rural people had little access to musical training or instruments.AsTurkey became more modernized in the 20th century, traditional music began to lose its popularity; however, there has been a recent revival of interest in traditional Turkish folk music

The Instruments of Turkish Folk Music

The saz is a family of long-necked, fretted instruments. They have been played in the Ottoman Empire since the 13th century. The saz is a very versatile instrument and is used in a wide variety of music, from folk to classical. The saz is also used in Turkish folk music.

The Bağlama

The bağlama is a Turkish folk instrument from the stinged instrument family. It is also referred to as the saz, which is its Persian name. The bağlama has a long neck and consists of seven main strings with between two and five sympathetic strings. The strings are played with the fingers and thumbs of both hands. The bağlama originated in Central Asia and spread to Turkey in the 13th century.

The Kanun

One of the most important instruments of Turkish folk music is the Kanun. It is a flat, trapezoidal zither with seventy-two strings that are divided into groups of four. The player sits with the Kanun on his or her knees and plucks the strings with both hands. The right hand plucks the melody while the left hand sets the rhythm by plucking the drone and harmony strings. The Kanun is used in a wide variety of music, from simple folk tunes to complex classical compositions.

The Ney

PopularTurkish folk music often involves the use of a wide variety of traditional instruments. One of these is the Ney, a flute-like instrument that is often used in combination with other instruments to create a lively, upbeat sound. The Ney has a long, thin body and usually six fingerholes. It is traditionally made from the stem of a reed, but other materials such as bamboo or plastic can also be used.

The Ney has a soft, mellow tone that is distinctive and immediately recognizable. It is an essential part of many traditional Turkish folk music ensembles and can also be played solo. The Ney is often used to accompany singing and dancing, and its unique sound creates a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere.

The Styles of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music is incredibly diverse, with a wide variety of styles that have been developed over the centuries. The music is often based on the pentatonic scale, which gives it a unique sound. Turkish folk music often features instruments such as the baglama, zurna, and darbuka.

Classical Turkish Folk Music

Classical Turkish folk music (Turkish: Klasik Türk Halk Müziği) is a genre of music expressing the traditions and beliefs of the ethnic Turks. This art form quickly rose to popularity after being codified for the first time in the 1920s by composers such as Necip Fazıl Kısakürek and Özdemir Asaf. The Kokles, which is a type of zither, and the çifte telli, which is a type of fiddle, are both popular instruments in this style of music.

Alevi Turkish Folk Music

Alevi music is unique to the Alevi community of Turkey and is primarily performed at Alevi cultural events such as funerals, weddings, and circumcisions. The music is based on the davul (a type of drum) and zurna (a type of flute), and is often characterized by its use of improvised lyrics.

Alevis are a heterodox Muslim group who practice a form of Shia Islam. Alevi music has its roots in Central Asian Turkic music, and is thought to have been influenced by the music of the Persian Sufis.

Alevi music is an important part of Alevi identity, and is often used as a tool for political protest. For example, during the Gezi Park protests of 2013, Alevi musicians played at rallies to show solidarity with the protesters.

If you’re interested in learning more about Alevi music, there are a few great resources available online. The website “Turkish Music Portal” has a section devoted to Alevi music, with articles and videos about the history and style of the music. The YouTube channel “Aydın Müzik” features videos of Alevi musicians performing traditional songs.

Roma Turkish Folk Music

Roma Turkish folk music is characterized by its use of Roman (Byzantine) modes, singing style and instruments. Roma music is often accompanied by dance and features a wide variety of instrumentation, including the violin, oud, tar (a type of lute), zurna (a type of wind instrument) and qanun (a type of zither). Lyrics often deal with themes of love, loss and yearning, and are often sung in a mournful or longing tone.

The Legacy of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music has a long and rich history, dating back to the Ottoman Empire. For centuries, folk music has been an integral part of Turkish culture, and has even influenced the country’s pop music scene. Folk music is still enjoyed by many Turks today, and is considered an important part of the country’s heritage.

The Modern Turkish Folk Music Scene

Modern Turkish folk music is a vibrant and ever-evolving scene, with new artists constantly emerging and bringing new sounds and styles to the genre. Turkish folk music has its roots in the music of the Ottoman Empire, but has been heavily influenced by Western music in recent decades. These days, Turkish folk music is a mix of traditional and modern sounds, with artists blending traditional instrumentation and melodies with modern influences.

One of the most popular and influential modern Turkish folk musicians is Orhan Gencebay, who is credited with helping to bring Turkish folk music to a wider audience. Gencebay’s musical style combines traditional Turkish folk music with elements of jazz and pop, and his work has been hugely influential in the development of modern Turkish folk music.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional Turkish folk music, with many young musicians rediscovering and reinventing the genre. This new generation ofTurkish folk musicians is keeping the tradition alive while also bringing fresh sounds and ideas to the genre.

The Influence of Turkish Folk Music Abroad

Though Turkish folk music has its roots in the Turkish people, its reach extends far beyond Turkey’s borders. Turkish folk music has been a significant influence on the music of other cultures, particularly in the Balkans and the Middle East.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, there is a type of music called sevdalinka which is strongly influenced by Turkish folk music. Sevdalinka developed in the Ottoman era, when Bosnians were exposed to Turkish music and culture. The lyrics of sevdalinka are often about love and loss, and the music is usually slow and melancholic.

Turkish folk music has also had an impact on Arabic music. In fact, some of the most famous Arabic songs are based on Turkish folk songs. For example, the popular Arabic song “Ya rayah” is based on a Turkish folk song called “Düştüm yollara”. Arabic musicians have also been known to use Turkish instruments such as the oud and the ney in their music.

The influence of Turkish folk music can also be heard in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and other countries in Southeast Europe. Greek rebetiko, for instance, is a genre of music that was heavily influenced by Turkish folk music. Rebetiko developed in the early 20th century, when Greeks were exposed to Turkish music and culture during the Ottoman era. Like sevdalinka, rebetiko lyrics often deal with themes of love and loss.

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