Music of Turkey


The modern Turkish state was proclaimed in 1923, and was immediately followed by a campaign to create a pan-Turkish cultural identity. These efforts have been only partially successful, and regional varieties of music and other expressions remain. Turkish classical music was the country's best-known musical export at the time, but was considered too Arab by Kemal Atatürk's government. He restricted Arabic language musical films and promoted Western style classical music and halk music, a generic term for multiple varieties of Anatolian folk music. Again on Atatürk's order, a wide-scale classification and archiving of samples of Turkish halk music from around Anatolia was launched in 1924 and continued until 1953 to collect around 10,000 folk songs.


Roma are known through Turkey for their musicianship. Their music is called fasil and is often associated with the underclass of Turkish society, though it also can be found in more respectable establishments. Many of the most popular Roma performers come from Tarlabasi and play the klarnet and darbuka. Mustafa Kandirali is the most famous fasil musician.


The Mevlevi (whirling) dervishes are well-known outside of Turkey, in spite of frequent state oppression during the 20th century. Their music consists of long, complex compositions called ayin, which is both preceded and followed by songs using lyrics by the founder and poet Jelaleddin Rumi. Internationally well-known musicians include Necdet Yasar and Kudsi Ergüner.

Folk music

Most of Turkish folk music is based around the saz, a type of long-necked lute. Saz orchestras, sometimes with imported guitars, bass guitars and drums, are the basis for a type of folk music called Türkü. The most influential performer of Türkü and other urban popular folk music was mid-1980s superstar Belkis Akkale. Akkale's format include the saz orchestra with soulful vocals singing a type of folk song.

The zurna and davul duo (shawm and drum) is popular in rural areas, and play at weddings and other celebrations, while elektrosaz and darbuka duos, often with electric keyboards, are also popular. Other varieties of folk dance music include çifte telli, karşılanma, zeybek and halay.

About a third of the Turkish population are Alevis, whose folk music (performed by travelling bards called aşik) is well-known. These songs, which hail from the central northeastern area, are about mystical revelations, invocations to Alevi saints and Mohemmed's son-in-law, Ali, whom they hold in high esteem as Shia Muslims. Many of these songs were written in the 16th century by Pir Sultan Abdal, a martyr who rebelled against the Ottoman Empire. Ruhi Su, an outspoken leftwing massace, led a roots revival of asik music in the early 1970s. Many of the biggest stars of the 1990s, including Muhlis Akarsu, were killed in a fire started in 1993 by Sunni extremists. Some aşiks included socio-politically active lyrics, especially Mahsuni Şerif, Aşik Veysel and Ali İzzet, who were well-regarded by the Turkish left. Western Anatolia is home to bozlak, a type of declamatory, partially improvised music, especially known for Neset Ertas. Around the city of Kars, aşik music has a more spiritual bent, and also features ritualized insult contests.




  • (cordofoni) saz

  • (aerofoni) zurna - klarnet

  • (ancia libera)

  • (membranofoni) davul - darbuka

  • (idiofoni)

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