Turkish Music & Music in Turkey

Last Updated on May 2, 2019

Turkish music is one of the world’s great undiscovered artistic treasures.

From the mystical flute music of the whirling dervishesthrough Ottoman classical court compositions, Anatolianfolk tunes and the driving rhythm of the bellydance, to the latest multi-track techno-pop, Turkey is alive with sound. First-time visitors to Turkey used to marvel at the delicious cuisine, but the new surprise is the music. Be sure to open your ears when you go—you’re in for a treat!

Most traditional Turkish music is based on quarter-tone modes or scales which makes the music sound strange and many notes sound flat to Western ears familiar with half-tone scales.

They aren’t really flat, they’re quarter-tones (the tone between two half-tones). Once you’re used to them, they sound fine, and give an entirely different color to the music.

This perceived discord of quarter-tones has kept many people from appreciating Turkish music, however.

Classical Ottoman court music does sound slow, ponderous and lugubrious to me, but many kinds of Turkish folk music (such as Türkü) can be sprightly, upbeat, rhythmic and tuneful.

Music for Turkish bellydance is upbeat and driving by nature! More…

The slow, mournful, mystical music of the whirling dervishes is completely appropriate to the gravity of the Sufi sema (religious ceremony) at which it is performed.More…

Then there’s Turkish popular music. When I first arrived in Turkey in 1967, most young Turks favored European and American pop musicians (especially the Beatles) because offerings of Turkish pop music were few and somewhat behind the times.

Today, the Turkish pop music industry is rich in talent and sophistication, with hundreds of great bands, singers, composers and arrangers, and the music vies in sophistication with the best in Europe. CD shops abound on city shopping streets and Turkish music download services on the Internet.

Turkish pop music boasts a rich variety of crossover sounds, blending traditional Turkish sounds with the latest from Europe and America. There’s even Turkish rap!

You can even go on Turkish music tours. One such tour is organized by Dore Stein‘s Tangents world music radio program broadcast on KALW (91.7 FM, San Francisco CA).

I can’t imagine a better way to explore the richness of Turkish culture than through its music. The Tangents Turkey Music Tour led by World Music expert Dore Stein is unforgettable. Dore opens doors that music-lovers who travel on their own don’t even know are there. More…

—Tom Brosnahan

Tangents Turkey Music Tour

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