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International Music Resources by Country: Turkey

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Panoramic photo of Turkey

Citation (1) 

Flag of Turkey

Turkish Flag

Citation (2)

Books about Turkey

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music-Turkey

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Cover Art

Music of Turkey

Bazaar Istanbul: Music of Turkey Album Art

Traditions of Turkey: Huseyin & Günay Turkmenler  Album Art

Discover Music From Turkey Album Art

Ensemble Hüseyin Türkmenler: Traditional Songs From Turkey Album Art

Facts in Brief

Map of Turkey


The Republic of Turkey lies partly in south-eastern Europe and partly in western Asia. The European and Asian portions of the country (known, respectively, as Thrace and Anatolia) are separated by the Sea of Marmara, linking the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. Turkey has an extensive coastline: on the Black Sea, to the north; on the Mediterranean Sea, to the south; and on the Aegean Sea, to the west. Most of Turkey lies in Asia, the vast Anatolian peninsula being bordered to the east by Georgia, Armenia, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (part of Azerbaijan) and Iran, and to the south by Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. The smaller European part of the country is bordered to the west by Greece and Bulgaria. In the Asian interior the climate is one of great extremes, with hot dry summers and cold, snowy winters on the plateau. Temperatures in Ankara are generally between −4°C (25°F) and 30°C (86°F). On the Mediterranean coast it is more equable, with mild winters and warm summers. The principal language is Turkish, spoken by 90% of the population. About 7% speak Kurdish, mainly in the south-east. In 1928 the Arabic characters of the written Turkish language were superseded by Western-style script. Islam is the religion of 99% of the population. The national flag (proportions 2 by 3) is red, with a white crescent and a five-pointed white star to the left of centre. The capital is Ankara.

Citations (3 and 4)

Turkish Music

The music practised in what is now Turkey has manifold roots. For the pre-Islamic period see Anatolia. Following the Arab conquests of the region in the 8th century, Near Eastern music history became closely intertwined with that of the Arabs and Persians (see Arab music. In the 11th century, groups of Turks made their way westwards from Central Asia, occupying virtually all of Anatolia and founding the Seljuk dynasty. The Turks’ adoption of Islam contributed to a cultural metamorphosis. The development of Turkish art music was further affected by impulses from Persian and, above all, Byzantine culture. Over the centuries, urban and rural Turkish music forms disseminated through the Near East and Balkans; this is especially evident in the present-day musical practice of rural Greece.

Through the frequent association of Near Eastern music with the Arabs and Persians, the Turks have often been considered not to have an independent style. This is partly because theoretical treatises on music (as on all subjects) were generally written either in Arabic or Persian, even if their authors were Turkish. The Arabic form of personal names has also served to obscure contributions by non-Arabs, e.g. the composer, performer and theorist Periodicals, [ibn Ghaybī al-marāghī] (Turkish spelling: Abdülkadir Meragi), one of the most influential theorists of the Systematist school (see Arab music). Turkish was his mother tongue, and he is traditionally considered a founding father of Turkish music.

Anatolian Turks played a leading role in the musical life of the Ottoman empire (seeOttoman music), which dominated most of the Near East and the Balkans from 1453until the mid-19th century. This important epoch of musical activity culminated in the ‘Tulip period’ (‘Lale Devri’: 1718–30), with its elaborate artistic harem culture. In Ottoman society trained slave-girls (odalık or odalisk) were significant as instrumentalists, singers and dancers.

The numerous reciprocal influences that developed over several centuries make it impossible to give a precise date for the beginning of an independent, indigenous Turkish musical life in Anatolia, particularly with regard to Turkish art music. The Mevlevi order of Sufis (‘Whirling Dervishes’) was founded in the 13th century in Konya, in Central Anatolia, by the mystic Celaleddin Rumi (Arabic spelling: jalāl al-dīn Rūmī ). This order began cultivating art music no later than the circumscription of their ritual by Celaleddin’s son, Sultān Veled (1226–1312). Two especially old pieces, a peşrev and a saz semaisi, which have survived until the present, are ascribed to Sultān Veled. Should this ascription prove to be correct, the two most important contemporary instrumental forms in Turkish art music already existed by about 1300.

However, the overall form of contemporary Turkish art music, with its characteristic melodic and rhythmic modes, formal and modulatory schemes, and succession of instrumental pieces, taksim improvisations and song forms, began to emerge in the mid-17th century. During this period Ottoman song and instrumental collections began to reflect the musical life of Istanbul, the Ottoman capital, and not that of Arab and Persian poets, composers and theorists known to have been active elsewhere. The history of contemporary Turkish art music properly begins only in that period (see §IV below).

Given the centuries of cultural interchange, it is impossible to assess the impact of interaction with Arab and Balkan peoples. It is also difficult to identify the origin of any specific features within Turkish music today. Inner Asian elements can be recognized within Turkish folk music, as can influences of other peoples with whom the Turks came into contact in the course of their early migrations. Generally speaking, it is apparent that the Turks never fully adopted the melodic and vocally conceived music of their Arab neighbours. The evidence lies in the abstract forms of melodic development found in Turkish urban art music songs, the prevalence of pentatonicism, use of drones, occasional uses of polyphony and the importance of purely instrumental forms in some rural folk music.

For many Turkish musicologists, the distinction between rural ‘folk’ (halk) and urban ‘art’ (sanat) music is axiomatic: the former is considered to reflect the culture of the Turks’ Central Asian homeland, while the latter is considered to reflect the cosmopolitan culture of the urban Near East. Under the impetus of nationalist modernism, from the establishment of the republic in 1923, rural music was systematically privileged as the basis for a contemporary Westernized national musical culture, and urban music was condemned for its association with the hybrid and ‘Islamic’ cosmopolitanism of the Ottomans. (For a broad discussion of these issues see Central Asia.)

Citation (5)

Streaming Video: Music & Dance-Turkey