Turkish Folk Music – Instruments and Traditions

This blog is dedicated to exploring the instruments and traditions of Turkish folk music. We’ll discuss everything from the history of the music to the modern day performers keeping the tradition alive.

Introduction to Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music is an important part of the country’s culture and heritage. The music is usually played on traditional instruments, such as the bağlama (a stringed instrument) and the darbuka (a percussion instrument). The music often has a catchy beat and is very danceable.

What is Turkish Folk Music?

Turkish folk music (Türk Halk Müziği) is the music of the Anatolian people. It consists of a combination of elements from Central Asian, Arabic, Persian, Byzantine, Ottoman and Turkish music. Turkish folk music has undergone a considerable degree of Westernization in recent years, but still retains many of its original characteristics.

Some important elements of Turkish folk music include theuse of improvisation, vocal techniques such as throat-singing, and the use of a wide variety of instruments. The most important instruments in Turkish folk music are the bağlama (a stringed instrument similar to a mandolin), the kemençe (a type of fiddle), and the zurna (a type of oboe).

Turkish folk music has a long tradition of oral history and is often passed down from generation to generation. This has led to a great deal of regional variation within Turkey itself, as well as between different Turkish communities around the world.

The Instruments of Turkish Folk Music

While the music of Turkey has taken on various forms over the centuries, the one constant has been the use of traditional Turkish instruments. These instruments have remained largely unchanged for centuries, and their use is still an important part of modern Turkish music.

The most common Turkish folk instruments are:

-The kabak kemane: a bowed string instrument with a large gut body and a long neck. It is often used in folk ensembles.
-The bağlama: a fretted string instrument with a long neck and three or more strings. It is the most popular instrument in Turkey and is used in both folk and classical music.
-The zurna: a double-reed wind instrument that is often used in folk ensembles.
-The ney: an end-blown flute that is used in both folk and classical music.
-The darbuka: a hand drum that is often used in folk ensembles.

The Origins of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music has its origins in the music of Central Asia and the music of the Ottoman Empire. Central Asian music was brought to the Ottoman Empire by the Turks who migrated to Anatolia in the 11th century. The music of the Ottoman Empire was a fusion of Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Byzantine music.

The Ottoman Empire

Turkish folk music is the music of the Turkic peoples of Anatolia, the Balkans, Central Asia and Russia. It often consists of vocal and instrumental pieces performed by small ensembles, although some forms can be sung or danced solo. The pieces often have a characteristic meter and rhythm, as well as elements of Turkish classical music. The instruments used include keyboards, guitars, violins,ika drums (a type of drum with two heads) and cymbals.

The Ottoman Empire was a vast Islamic empire that lasted for centuries. It was a hub for the arts and sciences, and its music tradition was no exception. Turkish folk music flourished under Ottoman rule, with various regional styles developing over time. Instruments from Persia and the Arab world were introduced to the region, contributing to the evolution of Turkish folk music.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Turkish folk music underwent a period of transition. Many traditional instruments fell out of use, and new styles emerged. However, some elements of Ottoman Turkish music remained intact, providing a link to the past for modern performers.

The Republic of Turkey

Turkish folk music has undergone something of a revival in recent years, with a new generation of musicians eager to keep the traditions alive. In this article, we’ll trace the origins of Turkish folk music and explore some of the country’s most iconic instruments and styles.

Turkey is a vast and culturally diverse country, with influences from both East and West. Its folk music reflects this diversity, with regional styles that range from the Arabian-influenced music of the southeast to the Pontic traditions of the Black Sea coast.

The roots of Turkish folk music can be traced back to the Central Asian nomads who settled in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) during the 11th century. These Turkic tribes brought with them a rich musical heritage, including traditional instruments like the kemenche (a type of bowed string instrument) and the daf (a large frame drum).

Over time, these Central Asian traditions mixed with local Byzantine and Ottoman influences to create distinctive regional styles of folk music. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in these traditional styles, with many young musicians learning to play the traditional instruments and keeping the folk music traditions alive.

The Traditions of Turkish Folk Music

Traditional Turkish folk music has its roots in the music of the Ottoman Empire. It is often characterized by its use of Ottoman instruments and its unique melodies. Turkish folk music is still popular today and is often performed at weddings and other celebrations.

Wedding Music

During a typical Turkish wedding ceremony, the music played is an important part of the festivities. It is not unusual for guests to spend hours dancing to traditional Turkish tunes. The most popular instrument used in wedding music is the saz, a stringed instrument that dates back to the 13th century. Other instruments commonly used include the ney, a flute-like instrument, and the darbuka, a type of drum.

Wedding music in Turkey tends to be very lively and upbeat, often featuring fast-paced rhythms. This is partly due to the fact that many of the traditional songs are about young love and romance. In recent years, however, more and more modern pop songs are being incorporated into wedding ceremonies. This has led to a slight change in the overall sound of wedding music in Turkey, but the traditional tunes still remain popular among both guests and musicians alike.

Funeral Music

In Turkish folk music, there is a specific type of music known as funeral music. This type of music is played at funerals in order to help the soul of the deceased person cross over into the afterlife. The music is traditionally played on stringed instruments, such as the saz or bağlama, and often features a slow, mournful melody.

Work Songs

In addition to being an expression of culture and tradition, folk music in Turkey also serves an important social function, particularly in the form of work songs. Singing while working has long been a tradition in many cultures as it helps to ease the burden of tedious or difficult tasks and also provides a sense of camaraderie among workers. In Turkey, work songs are sung by farmers while ploughing fields, shepherds while tending their flocks, fishermen while casting their nets and women while performing household chores such as spinning or weaving. These songs often take the form of call and response, with one singer starting a phrase which is then repeated by the others.


In conclusion, Turkish folk music is a very rich and diverse tradition that has been passed down through the generations. The music is closely linked to the culture and history of the people, and it is an important part of their identity. The instruments and traditions vary from region to region, but they all share a commonality that makes them uniquely Turkish.

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