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3.3.1 The Turkish Folk Music


The Turkish Folk Music

 The historical evolution of the Turkish folk music

Turks have their music of their own as old as their history. However, studies which display this reality through some historical means are rather new. Today, since there was no guiding reference for the periods before the second century, we can only briefly know about miniatures, reliefs, music and musicians and are confined to some limited information about the music of that period through the findings obtained from the excavations.

Therefore, the Turkish folk music is to be studied under the following three groups:

  1. The period before Islam which was rather based on interpretations.
  2. The period after Islam when musical documents, for the first time, began appearing.
  3. The Republican period.

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 Pre-Islamic folk music (From the beginning up to the 11th century)

The oldest form of the Turkish music is the kind with fascinating tunes performed with a musical instrument called "kopuz" used by the witch-poets.

These were the tunes what the Tonguzians called "Saman", the Altay Turks called "Kam", Yakuts called "Oyun", Kirgizs called "Bahsi" and, finally, the Oguz Turks called "Ozan".

These personalities were highly respected in the public, for they were thought to be quite competent in witchcraft, dancing, music, poetry, medicine etc.

They ranked differently according to their costumes, musical instruments etc, at the places where they attended.

Again, the same personalities were intensively occupied in activities such as: sacrificing animals for various purposes, for Gods high in the limitless sky, sending the spirit of the deceased down to the deep under the earth, spelling cast on the evil spirits which were thought to be carrying various illnesses and death, improving the conditions of the patients, ascending the spirits of some of the dead people to God, and helping to keep the memories of the dead people alive.

Naturally, various religious ceremonies were performed for such purposes and occasions. Although part of these past ceremonies have been forgotten, some are still practiced in a changed form by the Kirgiz and the Altay Turks today.

While "Bahsi"s and "Ozan"s have danced in utmost ecstasy, they also recited poems which had fascinating impact on the audience and sang them as well in company of the musical instruments they carried in their hands.

While "Saman"s of the Tongus Turks played drums in such religious ceremonies, "Bahsi"s of the Kirgiz Turks played an instrument called "Kopuz" which was played by a bow on two trings made of a horse-tail.

Although bow-kopuz is still used today by the Altays, there is no doubt that it was used without a bow in the beginning of the Middle Ages, particularly, in Uygur times(1).

"Bahsi"s, apart from their main musical instruments, carried a rod or a stick too (2).

They, firstly, sang a song in company of their kopuz regarding the sorcery and then, they spindled the rods like a weather-cock, by means of which a roaring noise was produced during the dancing performance.

The above-mentioned ceremonies were performed mostly by two "bahsi"s. While one sang songs with his kopuz, the other danced springing with a rod in his hand. In such religious ceremonies these Bahsis had terrifying skills in exercises such as: grasping a red hot piece of iron, pricking long sharp needles into their flesh, licking a white hot iron metal, or stepping on it with bare foot.

After Islam was adopted by the Turks, these terrifying skills have, in a modified form and style, been exercised still in the near past.

In all the social activities of the primitive communities, there is a kind of essence which appeals to the sense of beauty of the human-beings, right from a religious ceremony to a semi-religious or a totally non-religious one.

People, at the religious ceremonies, are seen affected commonly by the same feelings and gay moods such as springing, revolving, dancing, shouting and singing. And, certainly, these were not the concepts in the seek of a beauty. The first signs of a concept of beauty, in the primitive societies, are in the form of "dances".

Fine arts which comprise dancing, poetry, music, painting, sculpture etc. were, primarely, emerged in the religious ceremonies and this character remained unchanged for a long time.

In human societies, mental activities of humans transform from religious forms into non-religious forms. The religious ceremonies, later, turn into religious plays and eventually, activities which create the beliefs, help fine arts emerge.

Poetry, after being separated from music, kept its closeliness with the music for a long period of time. Poetry, often, went in company of a tune or a musical instrument. This harmonious togetherness may also, be seen today.

The early vocal works of the Turkish music did not belong to the individuals but they were the common productions of the whole tribe. Most of these had a religious or a witch character.

The first Turkish vocal musicals are: the poems which expressed the existence and the greatness of God, heroic deeds of the rulers, stories of the old legendary heroes, and melodies where Oguzhan and Karahan legends were narrated.

These were practiced mainly in three big religious ceremonies. The first one was called "Sigir", a ceremony of a chasing hunt, the second one was called "Sölen" or "Cesn" or "Toy", a sacrificial feast, and, the third one was called "Yug", a funeral ceremony.

"Eulogies" or "Ölengs", a kind of folk songs, in "Sölens", "ballads" in "Sigir"s, "Sagus" (elegies) in "Yugs" were, in the beginning, kind of hymns with a religious character and devotion to God.

Later, they changed into a non-religious form.

Poets who, in the beginning, have recited the heroic deeds of the dead chiefs and heroes, have gradually found themselves in praising the living chiefs, rulers and queens. It is, literally, impossible to determine the beginning of this art, a music-poetry compound, which lived ever since the birth of the Turkish language spreading from mouth-to-mouth among the people.

The old Chinese travellers mentioned that Tufan people loved music so much that even they carried their musical instrument's while they were travelling; they also underlined the fact that, regarding the music love cherished by the Turks, a military band existed during the time of "Tu-kii" and the "Uygurs" (4).

The existence of a military band (Turkish adapted) is the strongest proof that musicians have dealt with folk poetry and the music within the army during times or post-Islam Turkish states like Gaznelis, Seljukis, Harzemsahs and Ottomans as well as pre-Islam ones. (5)

By the way, the impact of the Ottoman music on the music of the Balkan countries has to be dwellt upon.

The impact of the Turkish music on the Balkan's has, increasingly, been significant with the passing of the Turk to Europe towards the end of the 14th century. It is scientifically proved in 1900's that the folks songs of the Christian Turks (Gagauz) in Romania were quite identical to those of the Anatolian Turks (6)

The expression "Kol ca Elçe" used when dancers danced hand-in-hand in Gagauzs, the expression "Karsilamaca" used when men and women danced in pairs and finally, "Zeybek", danced by the aged, are the clear signs of the Turkish influence on the Balkan music. We also learn from Cl. Kvetka that there is a Turkish influence also on the folklore of the Ukrainas (7).

It is a fact that "Central Asian Pentatonism" was spreaded all over Europe by way of tribes which migrated from the Central Asia (8).

The source of pentatonism in old Hungarian music is Asia itself. It, even today, exists between the Asian Turks and the Mongolian people. This Central Asian heritage has been safeguarded with an utmost care.

The new phase of modal systems which has, initially, come into formation after the assimilation of the Arab-Persian cultures, has further reached the Inner Asia, Southern and Eastern Europe following the Islamic conquests. The Turks (Ottomans) have carried this music wherever they went (9).

It has always been this particular music when Flamenco was introduced in Endülüs, Dumy in Ukraina, Alaturka in Turkey, Crimean songs in Russia, eventually, Gitina in Provens and Katalonia (10).

Prof. Dr. Dobrescu, a Romanian music specialist, says the following: "I have been studying the Romanian and the Balkan folk dances and songs for the last fifteen years. I am trying to find out their main source. But, until now, I have not had the opportunity to study your dances (Turkish folk dances). If the source of the Balkan dances and the Turkish dances and the music are studied, it will, easily, be seen that they have one single source and that is the Turkish influence. I fully support this view". (11)

This influence does not cover the period when Turkish political sovereignty was dominant on the Balkans but it goes even further back than that.

As seen, the Turks have their own national music different from those of the Arabs, and the Persians.

Within this musical system Turks called the instrumental musical works a "Gök" and the vocal musical works a "Ir, Yir Duk".

The number of Göks were 366 as to fit the days of a year. They were played in the presence of a ruler each day. Of these, there were 9 which were played every day by tradition.

"The Great Turkish Glossary" of Kasgarli Mahmut, written in the 2 nd century, is the source of present information which we have obtained about the Turkish music and its literature.

If we consider the fact that very little has changed in folk poetry since the 2 nd century, it would be right to believe that this Glossary has given a comprehensive and healthy information on the poetical ano musical life of the Turks, at those times before the Glossary was written.

The main musical instruments of the Turks before Islam were: drums, bronze-made Kus, various kind of Kopuzs with or without bows, various pipes and organs known to be adapted from the Chinese.

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 Post-Islamic folk music

The Turkish music was of tribal and national character until the Turks have adopted Islam. But, after that, a different kind of music began to emerge which, distinctly enough, separated itself from the above-mentioned category.

It did not happen all at once that the Turks totally adopted Islam. This transformation continued for four centuries from the 7 th to the 11 th centuries.

Within this period, the western-bound migrations have further increased. The Turks have established great states in Iran, Egypt, Iraq and India preserving their own music, traditions, languages and specialities. Ultimately, they settled in Anatolia.

The people of the Seljuk and Ottoman States, the latest ones established in Anatolia, have always preserved their own traditions and music whereas the intellectuals of the Palace have done the same for their own traditions and, consequently, the Turkish folk music has been able to come to our present time without being spoilt.

People, according to intellectuals, protected their customs and traditions better.

People, according to intellectuals, protected their customs and traditions better.

People held tight to the Turkish folk music, whereas intellectuals diverted from the national character on pursue of a different fashion and air.

While intellectuals, influenced by the Islamic religion, pretended the Arabs and the Persians after having been affected with their language, poetry and music, people have continued to produce vocal work in their own traditions.

People have praised the heroes who have helped Islam spread rather than the old idolators or the pagans.

Particularly, mysticism and the life in the dervish lodges have progressed among the Turkistan and the Horasan Turks during the period of the Grand Seljuki Empire (1040-1207).

Melodies which were based on the religious and mystic poetry, have created a kind of music which was called "The Turkish Mystic Music" or "Tekke (lodge) Music" in order to spread the Islamic beliefs among the people in a traditionally simple style. And, part of the poetic works produced by the artists playing kopuz, have formed "Anonim Folk Music" and the other part formed the basis of "Asik Music" which is still practiced to-day.

(This category of music will further be studied in the Classical Music section)

A new combination of old traditions, tribal merits and the old Anatolian civilisations can be seen assimilated in the Turkish culture after Turks have settled in their new homeland, the Anatolia.

This way of combination has differed in some respects from the Central Asian Turks and the other Islamic nations.

5000 year past of the Anatolia and the Mediterranean has created a conquering spirit, a new nation and naturally, a new type of music.

The Turks who have moved to villages from tents and from there to big cities, have led a way of living in the cities like Bursa, Edirne and Istanbul after they have Turkified the cities like Erzurum, Sivas, Konya, Harput, Urfa and Diyarbakir.

Intellectuals who have gathered in Palaces, mansions and religious schools, have created a sort of poetry and music best suited them. I new kind of music emerged what was called the "Palace" or the "Divan" music.

Some musicologists have confused the Turkish music with the Byzantion, Arabic or the Persian music's because of the facts that the terms in the Turkish music were based on the old Greek or the Arabic or the Persian languages, and the books written on this subject were mostly in Arabic or Persian, finally, the 19th century Byzantine music very much resembled the Arabic and Persian music's to which Europeans had been quite familiar.

As a matter of fact, the above-mentioned view proves to be wrong in many aspects such as the Europeans have used Latin as a language of science until the 19th century and a large number of scientific and technical terms, even to-day, are adapted from Greek and Latin rooted words and suffixes.

On the contrary, taking into consideration the facts that Arab countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia Algeria and Egypt have lived as part of the Ottoman Empire from the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century and the Byzantian church existed on the Turkish soils since 1453, it is easily understood as how identical the music at those places with the Turkish music (12).

On the other hand, a folk music-based religious-mystic music was created within the circles of dervish lodges where the great saints of religion and sects attended.

Folk poets who, travelling traditionally from one place to another, singing and playing "saz" in their hands, have created a folk music-based "Lovers Music" by inheriting the works of the preceding poets.

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 Lovers' music

Lovers' music, in fact, is part of the Turkish music being the oldest, the purist and the most national. Because it is directly based on the ethnically music before Islam and is founded on the oldest traditional form. It is a continuation with some style modifications of the early period music.

Anyhow, in early period music (Old Ages), there was not such a music type where folk basic was separated from the group music as was the case in poetry.

Because, tribal societies have not formed different classes from one another as far as the culture and way of living was concerned.

The basis of the Lovers' music is the traditional anonim folk music and the religious-mystic Tekke music. The lover sang new folk songs (kosuk, kosma) with melodically models which were already present in the tradition of the regional anonim folk music.

Among these melodically models (Blocks) it is the folk songs which have long lasted. Their modification, in fact, require quite some time.

The main musical instruments of this type of music are baglama, kemençe (played in western part of the east Anatolia and Black Sea region) and Kaval and lute (played in total East of Anatolia).

Lovers have poetical and composing capabilities. This singing and playing custom simultaneously is a historical evolution. For music goes together with poetry in the primitive societies. This is the custom of the old poets. Kam and Bahsis.

Lovers, Saz in their hands, have sung their own songs or the songs of the other poets what they called them as "Masters", and helped these songs spread among the people. However, it is practically not possible to preserve these songs just as they were literally song.

Although the wordings of those tunes were jotted into the books called "Cönk" by the lovers, it has not yet been possible to prevent them from alteration, detoriation and being an insignificant pieces of production of the Anonymous Turkish Folk Music.

Lovers perform the ready melodical blocks. Lovers who, until recently, were raised with the tradition of "Master-Apprentice", did not know how to read and write or at the most had a primary-school education, had difficulty in orienting themselves to the new melodical blocks and styles since their visions of life were very narrow.

The slow-going of this tradition has been speeded up by way of possibilities such as means of communications, tape-recorders and travelling facilities. Lovers have begun using melodical blocks and the performing styles of the regional lovers, too.

Lovers are loved and respected by the people. They are thought to have almost reached a spiritual perfection. It is believed that God makes them sing. Lovers sing songs the words of which are usually about life rather than abstract and literary subjects.

They, sometimes, gave advice too. They inspired virtue, bravery and courage. They tell warning stories while talking on the religious and mystic topics. Namely, up to a certain degree, they played roles of the old Samans and Ozans.

Lovers, gathering in big cities, have got organised among themselves. They had their own syndicate and officious meddler in the 17th and the 18th centuries. They received compliments not only from Beys and Pashas but, also, from Ministers and Sultans.

Lovers who implyingly exchanged songs mutually gathering in Semai Kahveleri (Coffee-houses where Semai singers gathered together) from all corners of the country, help this tradition continue only in Erzurum and Kars (North-eastern Anatolia) today.

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 Religious and Tekke (Lodges) and Anonymous folk music

Tekke music (music of the dervish lodges) forms the basis of the Anatolian music.

Different ways of thoughts and beliefs have appeared what were to be called as "Religious Orders or Sects" within the framework of Islamic philosophy.

Sect is a means to join with God in the spirit. They are the material and moral groups composed of dervishes (Sufi) who have sympathised in the interpretations and attitudes of one great mystic leader (pir).

Supporters of a sect implement the basic view and the mysticism according to their own traditions (religious ceremonies). They get together in Tekkes or Dergahs. They pray under the guidance of a head-preacher called "Sheyh".

That is why the music performed during the ceremonies was called the "Tekke Music" a religious and a mystic one.

The Anonymous Folk Music

Basic structure of the Turkish music such as the melody and rhythm can be found in this type of music. This, from all aspects, is the most important branch of the folk music. The Anonymous Folk Music is inspired by the slightly modified "Lovers Music", the "Tekke Music" and the "Palacial Music" which was created by the then intellectuals.

The technical aspects of the Turkish folk music which contains the Lovers' Music, the Tekke Music and particularly, the Anonim Folk Music, will be further studied after the termination of the evoluation of the Folk Music.

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 Samples of folk music with their first notations

The first written reference in regard with the notation of the Turkish Folk Music is "Mecmua-i Saz ü Söz", a book prepared by Ali Ufki (1610-1675)

Ali Ufki, a linguist, a poet, a translator, a diarist and a composer, has also been in the service of Mehmet IV, the Ottoman Sultan, as his translator/interpreter.

While his above-mentioned book was preserved in the library of the British Museum, London, until 1948, its microfilms were also brought to Turkey by the Turkish Ministry of Culture in the later years and ultimately, a book of almost the very same to its origin was printed in 1969.

This encyclopedia which is considered to be an important reference for the history of the Turkish music, has a tremendous value from the viewpoint that it provided detailed informations about the songs composed up to the 2nd half of the 17th century, samples of the Turkish folk music, poets of that period and so on.

The samples of the 17th century musical notes, exerted from the book of Ali Ufki, are given below:


"Notation System" which was used by Ali Ufki is identical to the Western Notation System of today. However, it is written from left to right.

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 Studies on folk music during the republican period (After 1920)

The Turkish folk music of this period does not constitute a dissimilarity in either Tekke and Lovers' Music or in Anonymous folk music as fas as its structure and system are concerned.

Another important development in the history of music is that Darül-elhan, the Istanbul Conservatory, has been founded and it carried out its works systematically within its own capacity in 1916.

(We include the year 1916 into the category of 1920 because of the facts that it is near to the year 1920 and it consists of fresh ideas blossomed with the birth of the Republican Movement.)

This establishment begin to serve in the field of teaching the basis of the Turkish Folk Music, tonal particularities, musical instruments, repertories etc.

The above-described works that the Conservatory has undertaken were accomplished between the years of 1926-1929 with the participation of Yusuf Ziya Demircioglu, Rauf Yekta, Dürri Turan, Ekrem Besim, Muhittin Sadak, Ferruh Arsunar, Abdülkadir Inan, Mahmut Ragip Gazimihal and Surg, Remzi Bey.

Tunes which were collected, have been published in 14 books, each of them put into musical notes.

A States Conservatory House has been founded in Ankara with a western understanding in 1936. Collecting works (gathering local tunes from every corner of the country) were undertaken for nine years, uninterruptedly, from 1937 to 1945 from all over the country.

The works were carried out with the participation of Muzaffer Sarisözen, Halil Bedi Yönetken, Ferit Alnar, Necil Kazim Akses, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Nurullah Sevket Taskiran, Mahmut Ragip Gazimihal, technician Arif Etikan and Ali Riza Yetisen. In the end, about 10.000 local folk tunes were collected.

Similar activities were launched also by TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Cooperation) within the cities of Gaziantep, Burdur, Van, Erzurum, Izmir, Trabzon, Balikesir and their surroundings between September 1-15, 1067. In the end of such works 1738 local folk tunes were also collected.

Valuable services in this regard were rendered by musicologists and specialists like Gültekin Oransay, Melahat Oransay, Ülkün Aydogdu, Sarper Özsan, Cenan Akin, Muammen Sun, Erdogan Okyay, Nurhan Büyükgönenç, Veysal Arseven, Isik Duygu Gülöksüz, Talip Özkan, Ilhan Baran, Cengiz Tanç, Suzan Koldas and Kemal Ilerici.

With the foundation of the Istanbul State Conservatory in 1975, the Turkish music was placed on a firm ground, for it gave a vocal and instrumental education based on the tonal system.

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 Form, kinds and styles

The Turkish folk music is grouped into two by its structure which consists of "Uzunhava" and "Kirikhava" and by its melodical forms consisting Instrumental and Vocal.


It is a recitative tune sung in the free form on a certain melodical line. Although, generally, it is sung by a single vocalist, it is, also performed by the duo-singers, the tunes of which express the nostalgia.

As for their melodically styles which differ from region to region, they take the forms what are called as Maya, Bozlak, Hoyrat, Divan, Yol Havasi, Gurbet Havasi, Yayla Havasi etc.


The most striking part in Maya is the text beside its special kind of melody. It is sung in 4-line couplets written in 8+3=11 syllabic mater. They are a kind of Uzunhava sung in the eastern Anatolia. Mayalar hava other kinds like "Düz maya, "cilgali maya,"


It is a kind of Uzunhava which is performed in an area that stretches from the western part of the Eastern Anatolia out to the western Anatolia.

They are composed of 4-line couplets inter-connected. Bozlaklar hava other kinds like Avsar Bozlagi, Türkmen Bozlagi, Bulanik Bozlagi etc.


It is a kind of Uzunhava which is popularly performed in the province of Erzurum, Urfa, Elazig, Diyarbakir in the Eastern Anatolia and by Turks in the Kerkük and Erbil provinces which are with the frontiers of Iraq.

They have too many kinds as far as their melodies are concerned, which are known as Muhalif, Düz, Besiri, Mazan and Yolcu. One thing is common in them and that is the Cinasli Mani, a form of singing.

Cinas means the "Pun" which makes listeners feel emotional. Let's take the word "yar", for example.

It means both "Sweet-heart" and Cliff. It is also the imperative mood of the verb yarmak, for example:

Yar içerden,
Kes bagrim, yar içerden
Gözüm kapida kaldi,
Çikmadi yar içerden


Although they are the poems written in the models of failatün, falatün, failatün, failün of Aruz, a poetic meter in the Arabic language, later on, folk poems became known as Divan which are written and sung by a special melodical line and by 15-model syllabic mater.

Today, they are all called Divan, since the poems of the poets who used the Aruz Meter, have been compiled in an anthology which is called a Divan. Although the kinds Kalenderi, Semai and Müstezat differ in poetic form and melody, they are all known as Divan (Example Notation No: 32)

Kirik Hava:

It is a kind of tune which moves on a certain melodical line. They have other kinds like Zeybek, Bengi, Güvende, Bar and Horon depending on what kind of atmosphere and now they are sung. The Turkish folk songe rather the tunes are grouped into two: the instrumental and the vocal.

The Instrumental Tunes (GÖK):

They are tunes in the form of a Kirik Hava and a Uzun Hava which are played with one or more musical instruments, not in the company of vocal music.

Oyun Havalari, Pasrevlet, Güres Havalari, Cirit Havalari and the Uzun Ayaklari (Zemin, Temel, Yol Gösterici melody) are the Kirik Hava kinds of instrumental tunes.

The tunes known to be with the names of Köroglu, Kerem, Garib, Lavik, Delal, Gezal and Karakoyun which narrate the life-stories of various folk heroes, are played with wind-instruments for the reason that the wordings of them might have been forgotten by the passage of time. They are the Uzun Hava types of the instrumental tunes.

The Vocal Tunes (YIR):

They are the tunes which are solely performed vocally in the folk poetic forms whether or not they are accompanied by musical instruments.

The most popular form in the vocal folk tunes is, after the "Bent" models, Baglanti (Nakarat, Kavustak, Dönderme) and this is called türkü. Türkü, in general, tells us about a subject and is consists of Bents which are inter-bound, in meanings.

1st Stanza Hüseynik'ten çiktim sehir yoluna
Can agrisi tesis etti koluma

Yaradanim merhamet et kuluna

Baglanti-Yazik olduk yazik su genç ömrüme
Bilmem su felegin bana cevre ne

2nd Stanza Telgrafin didekleri sayilmaz
Ati hanim baygin düsmüs ayrilmaz

Böyle canlar tenesire konulmaz

Baglanti-Yazik oldu yazik su genç ömrüme
Bilmem su felegin bana cevri ne

3rd Stanza Lütfü gelsin telgrafin basina
Bir tel çeksin musulda kardasima

Bu gençlikte neler geldi basima

Baglanti-Yazik oldu yazik su genç ömrüme
Bilmem su felegin bana cevri ne

The above-written Türkü is about the death of Mr. Akif, a young postman, when he was trapped and killed by his enemies. Pleading God's mercy by Akif, distress felt over the death incident in such a young age, deep sorrow felt by his friends like Ati Hanim, communal sense of pity, Akif's occupation and all that are plainly narrated in the Türkü.

The productions of the Turkish folk music are shaped up by the natural conditions, the climate, the geographic specialities, their way of living, the socio-economic and cultural structures. For this reason, different folk tunes are produced in different regions of Anatolia which represent varied characteristics.

For example, the people who deal with fishing in the northern Anatolia, the people who does animal husbandry and, finally, the Central Anatolian people who are occupied in agriculture have produced music but each being different in the expression of tunes in their structure of melodies.

The tunes of the regions which were, once, the cradle of the Anatolian civilisations are different from those of the places which have developed in technique, agriculture and industry.

Another popular kind is the form which is obtained by Mani Dörtlükleri.

There is no unity of expressiveness in them.

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 Folk dances music

Dance music is exclusively important in the instrumental Turkish folk tunes. Dance, since the early Ages, is a treasure of culture which has taken an important place in the lifes of humans and pertained with its various branches, traditionally, in the Turkish Society throughout Ages.

In the Turkish folk dances, as in Türküler, there is a varied colorfuliness which change from region to region as far as the music and figures are concerned.

In view of this definition, they may be grouped as Bar, Halay, Horon, Sallama, Zeybek, Bengi, Mengi, Kasikoyunlari, Hora, Karsilama etc.

Dance music is to be studied in seven regions in the whole Anatolia.

1) The Bar region: It is the northern Anatolia.

2) The Halay region: It is a large area which covers Eastern and Southastern Anatolia and eastern part of the Central Anatolia.

3) The Horon and Sallama region: Central and eastern part of the Black Sea Coastal line.

4) The Zeybek region: It is the western Anatolia.

5) The Bengi-Mengi region: It is the south Anatolian coast.

6) The Kasik Oyunlari region: It is the Central Anatolia and the Southern Anatolia.

7) The Hora and Karsilama region: It is Thrace and coastal line of the Marmara Sea.

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 Musical performance

The Turkish folk tunes are performed either instrumentally or vocally or combined, depending on what kind of atmosphere they are performed.

Uzunhavalar are performed in solo but the Kirikhavalar in chorus. Sometimes, Bar, 9 Halay type of tunes are sung in solo first and that sung portion is repeated in chorus which is called a "Deme Çevirme".

Although human voice can be grouped as tenor, baritone, alto and soprano in collective singing performances, mostly thin-voiced singers perform the whole or part of a tune on one octave thin pitch where the duo-singing is thought necessary.

The tradition of playing various folk instruments all-together is not widely popular at all. It is not more than 80 years that this tradition was established.

Those instruments which produce sounds in all-harmony, form the duos or the trios, respectively.

In the playing performances of Drum-Zurna or 2 drums-2 zurna: mey-tambourine or 2 tambourines: mey-nagara, shepherd's pipe-tambourine: Sephard's pipe-drum: cura-sipsi-dümbelek (Darbuka) and 2 zurna or 2 may; one instrument plays or whistles the main tune while the other does the accompaniment on the fundamental tone.

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 The Turkish folk music instruments

The Musical Instrument: The word instrument is produced from the verb "to play". The other international names for instruments are Saz (Persian), instrument (French, English and German), strumento (Italian), instrumento (Spanish).

The Turkish Folk Music Instruments:

1)Stringed musical instruments:
   a)Plectrum instruments: (Baglama group) divan, baglama, cura, tar, etc.
   b)Bow instruments: Iklig, kabak kemane, Karadeniz kemençesi, etc.
2)Wind musical instruments: Zurna mey, tulum, kaval, sipsi, düdük, çigirtma etc.
3)Repercussion musical instruments:
   a)Skin covered musical instruments played beating: Drums, darbuka, tambourine, nagara etc.
   b)Musical instruments played striking: Kasik, zil, zilli masa, çalpara, etc.

Stringed Musical Instruments:
a)Plectrum instruments:

Baglama Group: (Musical instruments like divan, baglama, cura etc, are known as "Baglama Group" in the Turkish Folk music).

Firstly, we must know about kopuz, the fore father of instruments, in order to find out what Baglama Group musical instruments are. At the outset of the history of music, human beings were attached by the sounds that the reed pipes have produced, subsequently, bows and arrows which they have used for hunting animals were created as musical instruments as well.

Those people have rubbed the arrows onto the bows and thus, produced a certain kind of sound which they have called "oklug" later, they attached a white gourd to the Oklug which took the name of "Iklig". They have played these instruments with bows made of horse tail hair.

They have, also, tightly stretched thin skins onto the white gourds and added a handle to it. Thus, they have obtained more distinct sounds by stretching strings on the bound skin.

It is understood from the historical documents that those instruments which were played by bows were called "Iklig" and the others which were played by plectrums were called "Kopuz".

Iklig is known to be the fore father of the bow musical instruments and Kopuz of the plectrum instruments.

Kopuz has been played in the later years as musical instrument which was made out of an hollowed oval tree-trunk, covered tightly with sheep's skin and catgut strings stretched over it.

In the later periods, that skin was replaced by a thin plate of fine wood and the catguts by metal strings.

Kopuz has gradually been forgotten towards the end of the 17th century and the term "Baglama" replaced it.

It is an accepted fact that "Baglama" was first created by the Central Asian Turks. Although we do not exactly know where the word "Baglama" originates from, it is most likely that the frets on the handle of it might have given the people the inspiration to call it with that name.

This assertion is further confirmed by the fact that Kopuz actually did not bear any frets in its earlier stages.

Various size baglamas with various names given to them in various regions prove that Baglama Group is not just a small one.

Baglama Group is consists of the following musical instruments:

Divan Sazi:

It has nine strings three in one group. Some performers use it with seven strings, three in the lower part, two in the upper part. "Divan sazi" is one of the basic instruments of the Turkish Folk Music. It carries 30-32 frets on its handle. Its thinnest strings are 0.40 mm thick. Its lower strings are tuned to the key "Re". The tunes of the lower strings in the Baglama Group musical instruments generally do not change.

Only the middle and the upper string tunes change. Middle strings are tuned to the key "Sol" and upper ones to "do".


It is the basic musical instrument of the Baglama Group. It is tuned four times thinner than the Divan Sazi. It has nine strings, three is in one group. Lower strings are tuned to the key "Sol" middle strings to "Do" and lower strings to "Re".

Baglama is the most decent and widely played instrument in the folk music. It is often considered very identical with a human-being. Namely, the top of the handle is called as "the head" tuning keys as " the ears ", surface of the body as "the chast" and the bulky box as "the body".

The body of Baglama is either made out of a mono block of an oval tree-trunk or of wood slices which is then called a "yaprak saz".

The body of a baglama can be made of any type of tree. But the chest of a baglama is made of pine and fir trees. There are 13 to 30 frets fitted on its fairly long handle.

Catgut strings were used on Baglama in the early stages. Today thin copper wire threads are wound around steel or brass strings. A plectrum made out of a cherry-tree bark is used while playing, it is also called "Bozuk" in some areas. "Bozuk" contains 15 to 18 frets. This musical instrument is also fitted by sittings, 3 in one group. "Bozuk" is practiced generally in the southern parts and the Aegean Region of Turkey.

Lower strings one tuned to the key "La" the middle ones to "Re" and the upper strings one tuned to the key "Sol".

A smaller type of baglama is called "Tambura" which is one octave thinner than the "Divan sazi". It is not much different from Baglama. It produces 5 sounds thinner than a Baglama does. Six strings are fitted on it, 2 in each group.

Lower strings are tuned to the key of "Re" the middle ones to "Sol" and the upper strings are tuned to the key of "Do". The strings are made of steel.


It is the smallest of the Baglama Group. It contains 7 to 16 frets. They are generally with 6 strings and sometimes with 3 too.

"Cura" is tuned in the same order like "Baglama" and "Bozuk".

Two-String Curas are tuned to the key of "Re" on the string and to the key of "Sol" on the upper strings.

Three-String Curas are tuned from the lower to the upper strings.

"Cura" is played by fingertips instead of a plectrum in the Burdur, Denizli and Mugla Regions.


It means strings. It is the developed form of "Kopuz". Azerbaijani tunes are generally performed with this musical instruments. This instrument which is played by placing it on the man's chest, is widely practiced in Iran and Soviet Azerbaijan.

It produces a beautiful sound peculiar to its own. The body of a Tar is made out of hollow tree. Its chest is tightly bound with a fine sheep's skin.

Frets are fitted on its rather long handle. It carries nine strings on it. The steel strings of a Tar are tuned by intervals of 4 and 5. The lower strings are tuned to the key of "Do" the middle one to "Sol" and the upper strings are tuned to the key of "Do". Its plectrum is made out of an animal's horn.

Bow Musical Instruments:

It is the oldest bow musical instruments of the Turks. It is a three-string musical instrument which is, in some areas, made out of a white gourd, the chest being covered with a fine animal skin.

Although these bow musical instruments the strings of which are made of horse tail hair and the strings made of horse tail hair and the strings made of catgut are called Iklig, another similar instrument with 3 strigns.

Practiced in the Aegean Region is also called "Tirnak Kemanesi".

Ikligs whose bodies are made out of coconut tree bark are called "Rebabs are performed in the Southern Turkey under the very same name.

It is ascertained that a five-string bow musical instrument, Ravza, has been performed in Istanbul in the middle of the 17th century.

Ravza which is played with a plectrum, is called "Irizva" in the Southern Anatolian Region.

Kabak Kemane

It is also called "Iklig" since it is believed that Kabak Kemane is the developed form of "Iklig". Its strings are made of steel. The body is usually made out of a white gourd. This musical instrument which is basically with 3 strings, was also made in such a form that 4 strings may also be fitted on it.

Diameter of body : 14-15 cm.
Depth : 10-12 cm.
Height of handle : 30 cm.
Length of strings : 33 cm.
Range of sound : 4-5 octaves

According to the Turkish music According to the western music

1.Strings RE ……………………….. ……………………FA
2.Strings LA …………………………………………….. DO
3.Strings RE ……………………….. ……………………FA
4.Strings SOL ………………………. …………………..SI(flat)

"Kabak Kemane" is played while sitting and it is placed on the left knee. It has its special bow. The bow is made of horse tail hair. A slightly large size of this instrument is called "Kemençe" in the Eastern Anatolian Region. Kemençe is performed together with a "Tar".

Karadeniz Kemençesi

Two separate kinds of Kemençes are used in the performance of the Turkish music. The popular folk instrument used in the Black Sea Region is called the "Karadeniz Kemençesi" and the one used in the Classical Turkish Music is called the "Klasik Kemençe". The Black Sea kemençe is played by applying the finger-tips on the steel strings. Three-string kemençe is tuned in the order of RE, LA and SOL. Kemençe which was spreader over to Asia and Europe has, also, been very popular among the Seljukees and the Iranians.

The Black Sea Kemençe is performed in solo. Its body is made out of walnut and mulberry trees.

1,5-2 mm chest is made of pine and fir trees. The bow is applied on the three strings at the same time. The Black Sea kemençe can be characterised as to jollify and motivate the audience.

Length of instrument : 55,5 cm.
Length of form : 40 cm.
Length of string : 33 cm.
Length of handle : 9.5 cm.
Bridge : 16 cm.
Length of clavier : 14 cm.
Width of upper form : 6 cm.
Width of lower form : 9,5 cm.
Depth of form : 3, 5-4 cm.

Wind Musical Instruments

It is a wind musical instrument which produces the thinnest and the strongest sounds. This particular instrument was played, in accompany of drums, at the wedding-parties and festivities, battlefields as well as at the old Ottoman Military Bands.

It is also performed at the Seljukçe and Ilhanli courts, the Ottoman Military Band Concerts and the Ceremean Nakkare Han (place in a palace where the drums are beaten at Stated intervals.)

It was a tradition for the Asian Turkish Khans to gift drums and zurna to friendly clams.

The word Zurna comes from a Persion word "Surnay". "Sur" means the wedding and "Nay" means the reed.

It is also used with various other names in the other in international languages.

Zurnas became bigger in size as one move from the East to the west in Turkey. They care groupedin to three catagories:

1.Kaba Zurna
2.Orta Zurna
3.Cura Zurna (Zil Zurna)

As a Evliya Çelebi, an internationally renowned Turkish Traveller, zurnas may be grouped as follows: Kaba Zurna, cura zurna, asafi zurna, sihabi zurna, Arabi zurna, Acemi zurna and Sebati zurna.

It is called the Turkish "Obua" in Europe. But, Obua is the developed form of zurna.

Zurnas are composed of the following parts:

2.Top and nezik (nazik)
3.Avurtlak or Tablu

On the body which is made of a plum-tree are 7 sound holes in the front and I sound hole at the back. The body gradually gets larger uptilt the mouth piece of the instrument which is also called "Kabak".

The top part which is made of boxwood is fitted in normal tightness.

The reed which is as thin as on the obua, is tightly fixed onto the mouth piece of the instrument after it is softened and dually tempered.

The reed of the zurna is guide different that of the obua as far as its position in the performers mouth is concerned.

It does not have a wide range of diapason like Ney and Kaval.


It is an old Turkish musical wind instrument. It is mainly practiced in the Eastern part of the country. Evliya Çelebi mentions the Asian name of Mey as follows:

"Belbam or Balaban was first discovered in Shiraz.

It does not have a "Kalak" like in Zurna. It is widely used by the Turks "100 people played it".

That is to say that these instruments were practiced in Istanbul in the 17th century.

Türkmens beyond the Casbean Sea use "Mey" even today with the same original name. (V. Belaier 1937: Fitret page:48)

Lower point of the "Mey" body is not as large as in Zurna. It comes down straight as in Kaval (pipe). "Mey" is composed of three parts:

3.Reed claws which help sounds to be produced accurately.

The best meys are those which are made of plum-trees. They also vary in size; the body lengths are 40 cm in Ana Mey, 35 cm. in Orta Mey and 30 cm. in Cura Mey.

It has one octavo sound range. These exist 8 sound holes, 7 on the top of the body and 1 at the bottom. 9-10 hole mey is still practiced in Azerbaijan and Türkistan under the name of "Balaban"

Tulum (Bagpipe)

It is generally played in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey even today. "Tulum" was also called "Tuluk" by the old Turks. After the hairs are cleaned out on the sheep's skin, the leg parts are cut. The holes other than those on the front right and rean left legs, are toed up firmly so that no air is let out. A small wooden pipe is fitted on the front foot and two other pipes on the rear foot with some holes on them. Thus "Tulum" takes its fundamental shape. The bagpipe in blown through that wooden pipe which also acts as a mouthpiece 7. When the bag is filled up with air then the music sounds are produced automatically.

It is composed of three parts: Skin nav and mouthpiece. Skin (Bag): Air reservoir. Nar: Keyboard with holes.

Mouthpiece: The part from whore the air is blow in to the bag for storage purpose. There are 5 pairs of parallel holes on the Keyboard. As finger joints are skilfully used, not only two parallel tunes can be performed but also on accompaniment to a time may also be obtained.

New Air should be blown into the bag with short intervals as to keep the consistency of the music produced.


"Sipsi" is made of bones and reeds, 20 cm. in length and 1 cm in diameter. There are 5 sound holes in the front partion and 1 in the lower partion. It is a primitive folk instrument. Wind instrument learners, generally, start by using this particular instrument. Today it is widely played in the western Mediterranean region of Turkey. Six sounds are obtained through six sound holes. The 7th and 8th sounds are obtained by giving strength to the air blown in.


Düdük (Düllüce, Kaval), the simplest in playing, is widely played in the country side. It is the same as black-flute. There are 7 sound holes on the top and l at the bottom its diapason is as high as nearly 2,5 octave.

Çigirtma (Dilsiz düdük)

It is made of wing-bones of an eagle, straight and hollow inside. It is know as "Örtkeçin" in the old Turks.

It is 20-30 cm. in length and has 5-7 sound holes on it. Recently, they came to be produced out of wood, reed and metal. Its diapason is a high as nearly 2.5 octave.

Kaval (Shephard's Pipe)

The word is produced from "Kav" which means a hollow thing. It is also called Guvval, Goval and Gaval. It is considered as a holy instrument among the Southern Anatolian inhabitants and the tribesmen. The German Curts Sachs has declared that "Kaval" is a Turkish originated instrument. Again, in a tomb unearthed during the archeological excavations in 1933's in the area of Jinoshid, Zulhak, Hungary, Öt "Ötkeçin" was traced which was believed to have belonged to a Turkish Avar Stepland.

They vary between 50 cm.-80 cm. in length. They are made of reed, bone wood and metal. The best ones are made of plum-trees. "Kavals" are classified into two; dilli and dilsiz. They carry sound holes, 7 on the upper portion and l in the lower. They have a diapason of 2,5 octave.

"Kaval" has the chromatic and diatonic octaves although other musical instruments such as düdük, zurna, çigirtma etc, have sound holes which produce only full notes.

Besides, there is another musical instrument, "Çifte" which is formed by the attachment of the bone or reed made of two blocks side by side and the sound is obtained through a special part called "cukcuk" fitted to the top part of the instrument.

Çiftes are grouped into two; demli and demsiz. On the demli "Çiftes" are 1-2 sound on one of the blocks and they produce bass sounds.

On the demsiz "Çiftes" are 5-7 sound holes on both of the blocks.

Repercussion Instruments

It is the oldest repercussion instrument that Turks have played for thousands of years. It may also be defined as one of the first repercussion instruments that was ever played by the human-beings. The origin of it, is the Central Asia.

The oldest inscriptions ever written about drums were in relation with Huns of Asia.

A bride, a Chinese who was also a poetess, to a Hun Chief described the attitudes of Huns in the following prose:

They beat drum unrepeatedly every night.

Uptill dawn they whirl. (200 B.C.)

It is understood that the old Turks have used the large drums, in the army and the emperor's accompaniment and the smaller ones in Saman.

Drum which is the symbol of sovereignty and the national instrument of the Turks, is known together with other elements like Tug, Sancak Bayrak (banner flag), hutbi, sikke. The large drums are called Kös. Drum which are amount the most important repercussion instruments in the Ottoman Military Band, have had great role in the victories that the Turks have achieved in the history.

Because, the sound that the drums produced went too far distances with roaring tone, the enemies were discouraged as they thought that this sound was cannon firings.

Drums were not only played in the Military Bands but also were played in the jazz and the symphonic orchestras.

Turks play drums generally in company of Zurna. Both of them are the musical instruments of the significant days. It is always thought there is something important going on where drums and zurnas are played together. For instance; a festival, a wedding ceremony, a horse-race, oil wrestling of Kirkpinar, a kind of sports competition. If drums are played in solo, then it means that something is to be made public.

Drums are in two kinds in Yörük. One is small and the other is large. The large ones are called "Kaba Davul" and the small ones are called "Cura Davul" or "Davulbaz".

Davulbaz is not practiced nowadays. It is rather used as an instrument for warning of something to the people and inviting them to collect.

It is traced among the folk songs; davulbaz was played in the early days under the names of "Dabinlaz" and "Dabinbaz". Although drums are generally played with a mallet and a stick in some regions, they are played with finger-tips, placing the drum under the arm and this kind is called "Nagars" or "Koltuk Davulu". Their diameters are rather short and not so deep inside as compared with other kinds of drums. Their diameter is about 40 cm. and depth is 40 cm. Where as the diameter is 50-60 cm and the depth is 30-40 cm. in the large drums.

Among Turks, playing drum is literarily an art. The Virtuous of drums who is known as "Karayilan" is a Turk too. Drums are made of curved wooden hoops with animal hide stretched on both sides of them. Hides are tightly Stretched on durum by means of "kaytan or sirim" on the special ceremonial performances like Ramadan. In the Military and Kettle drums, hides are tightly stretched mechanically.

Drums are composed of the following parts: the Hoop, the Hide, the Rim, the Kaytan or Sirim, the Shoulder-Belt, the Mallet and Stick.


Darbuka is originated from a Persian word "Darb" that means "Strike". It is a repercussion instrument. The body of it is either made of wood or metal and the hide atop is stretched by means of sorrows. It is not much different from other instruments such as dümbelek, dümbek, cümbek, and küp which are played by women at the wedding ceremonies in Anatolia. They are rather played in folk dances and also practiced in the classical Turkish music.

It is, in dümbelek, placed on the knee and played by striking of the finger-tips. There are many professional darbuka players in the Turkish folk and classical music. The one who plays darbuka is called a "Darbuke".

Dümbelek is what the old Istanbul residents termed "Çifte nakkare". In the weddings of the Aegean region, the woman Dümbelek Players practice, for instance, "dümbül, dümbül, dümbül, dümbüldek" in order define the 9 rhythmic form. In some villages of the same region, people call it Dümbek. The body of darbuka is made of matured earth, mouth part is covered with a fine hide and tripe which are tightly stretched. Stretching process is done by way of Kaytan or Sirim as in Kudüms.

Dümbelek is also called debelek, debildek, deplek and devlek. Deblek is the mere instrument of the Türkmen women in all, living in the south. It is in the shape of a darbuka. An animal hide or a tripe is stretched on it. Being different from Darbuka two strings are stretched right under the hide crosswise. Sometimes small bells are also fitted to those strings and it is played by finger-tips as to conform with the rhythm of the music.

Def (Tambourine)

It is rumoured that tambourine was first played at the wedding ceremony of H. Süleyman and Belkis.

It has spreaded to Spain by the Arabs and to the Central Europe, Hungary, Romania and Poland by the Turks.

Tambourine is the most important instrument of the fasil music. Fasil without a tambourine can not be imagined. Tambourine player is called "Hanende" or "Defzen". Fasil is conducted by musicians who played this instrument.

It is played with finger-tips, the sound produced through the bells fitted in the hoop of its added colour and rhythm to the music.

Hoop of the tambourine, 25-30 cm. in diameter and 5-6 cm. in width, is stretched with a fine animal hide. Around the hoop there are 5 pairs of brass bells.


They look like exactly eating spoons and generally are made of boxwood and wild pear-tree. Handles are sometimes short. Sound is produced by holding two spans in one hand and striking them together simultaneously.

It is extensively used as an instrument of rhythm in the music of the cities like Konya, Balikesir, Eskisehir, Bilecik, Çankiri, Zonguldak, Içel and in Western Anatolian Region.

Zil (Bells)

They are made of brass or copper. They are round and 2 cm. in diameter. It is played by fingers, a pair fitted on each finger. It is called Halile in the religious music which is large and 30 cm. in diameter. These are not often played today. These instruments are almost what cymballs are in Europe.

Zilli Masa

It is in the shape of a two or three fork tongs. It carries a total number of 4 eyeballs, two attached on each fork of the tong. It is played by striking to the fingers of the other hand while one hand holds the tong. The other names for Zilli Masa are Masa and Saksak.

Çalpare (Çarpare)

It is composed of 4 pieces of wood in the shape of a spoon, generally, made of boxwood. They are attached to each other with a string or another substance. It is played like Zilli Masa. Two are held in the palm of one hand and the other two in the palm of the other hand and sound is produced by striking both of them.

This was popular in the Iranian music. It was later adapted by the Arabs and from them the Spaniards and eventually, "Kastanyet" were shaped up. Some of our proverbs are also assimilated with Çalpare. For instance; "Çalparasiz oynamak", "Etegi çalpara çalmak" means to be very joyful.

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