Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Turkish Classical Music - A Brief Introduction

Turkish classical music / Ottoman classical music (Klasik Türk Musikisi, Sanat Musikisi, Saray Musikisi) developed in palaces, mosques, and Mevlevi lodges of the Ottoman Empire. Above all a vocal music, Classical Turkish Music traditionally accompanies a solo singer with a small instrumental ensemble. In recent times instruments might include tanbur (lute), ney (flute), kemençe (fiddle), keman (Western violin), kanun (zither), oud or other instruments. Sometimes described as monophonic music, the variety of ornamentation and variation in the ensemble requires the more accurate term heterophonic.
As the Empire grew, musics of conquered peoples of the Balkans and the Mediterranean were incorporated into an increasingly diverse Ottoman music. The Ottoman Empire was a multi-ethnic state, and cultural influences, including music, were shared by groups including the Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds, Arabs, Persians, Assyrians and Jews.
With the beginning of the decline of the empire in the early 19th century, one branch gradually evolved from serious artistic music to "urban entertainment music". But the essence of classical Turkish music— a refined aesthetic, a vast repertoire, a sophisticated makam system of melodic modes, a variety of usul rhythmic modes, a rich body of Ottoman poetry—survived throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and continues in the 21st century.
Though similar to today's classical Arab music, classical Turkish music has a broader repertoire, utilizes a wider range of makams and usuls, and enjoys a strong following of audiences, performers, and students.
Three of the best known composers of Turkish classical music are Buhurizade Itri, Dede Efendi, and Haci Arif Bey. Even though the Republic of Turkey has a considerably less multiethnic character than the Ottoman Empire, important performers and composers like Yorgo Bacanos, Aleko Bacanos, Tatyos Efendi and udi Hrant Kenkulian came from minorities, while favourite Turkish composers and instrumentalists include Sadettin Kaynak, Selahattin Pinar, Münir Nureddin Selçuk, Tanburi Cemil Bey (tanbur), Şükrü Tunar (klarnet).
Modern Turkish singers of neo-classical music include Münir Nureddin Selçuk, Müzeyyen Senar, Zeki Müren, Bülent Ersoy and Emel Sayın. Safiye Ayla ranks as one of the great secular classical singers of the early 20th century.


Makam & Usul
In Turkish classical music, Mevlevi music, and some Mosque music, a system of melody types called makam (pl. makamlar) provides a complex set of rules for composing. Each makam specifies a unique intervalic structure and melodic development. Whether a fixed composition (beste, şarkı, peşrev, âyin, etc.) or a spontaneous composition (gazel, taksim, Kuran-ı Kerim, Mevlit, etc.), all attempt to follow the melody type.Turkish makam's closest relatives include maqam in Arab music and echos in Byzantine music. The rhythmic counterpart of makam in Turkish music is usul.

Intended to introduce, prepare the way or warm up for the makam, these are played with a single instrument, within the makam, yet not linked to any rhythmic pattern, and are either free-form or improvised.

Works composed within the same melodic structure (makam) , or mode, set out and played in a particular order. In a genuine fasıl, there will be works for voice and for saz. The basis of the fasıl is that the works should have the same melodic structure, and they are then ordered according to shape or form. There must generally be two ‘Beste’ (poetic forms) and five ‘Semai’ composed to count as a complete fasıl. These are accompanied by lyrics.

Oyun Havası
Instrumental pieces composed for dancing.


As the Greek population in Istanbul, Izmir and parts of Asia Minor constituted a significant portion of the population of the Empire until the early 20th century and as the Greek community, in particular, consisted of many prominent singers, composers and instrumentalists, Ottoman music emerged as a sharing process between the Turks and the Greeks, along with the other minorities as well. It is a synthesis that reveals a mixture of cultural and historical riches. Therefore, it is only natural that both Greek and Turkish immigrants retained and carried this common musical heritage with them during the immigrations starting from the late 19th century until the forced population exchange in 1923 and that we can now find some pieces of Turkish Classical Music in Greek Music (particularly in Rebetika & Smyrneika) with Greek lyrics as well.

Some examples are:
San pas ta ksena – Ada sahillerinde bekliyorum
Hariklaki – Darıldın mı cicim bana
Eskutari – Üsküdar
Aeroplano tha paro – Telgrafın tellerine kuşlar mı konar

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