No.3 July/August 2000

Oh, This Music

Home

Contact Us

Hotels

Tours

Shops

Restaurants

 

The folk traditions of Turkey are exceedingly rich and as varied as the Turkish people.  The topic of this months column is the music which emerged from out of those traditions, often referred to as halk music.; that is, the music of the people.  Dont expect an analytical overview, though.  There are numerous books approaching halk music in that way, although as far as Ive been able to determine, theyre all written in Turkish.  Here Im simply trying to set down something about my own experience of this music, only that.  What follows are not the insights of an expert, but rather, the impressions of a devoted amateur, an amateur in the orignal, non-perjorative sense of the word meaning someone who loves something they have a passionate interest in.   

My first exposure to halk music was during an exceedingly hot and (as it proved to be in retrospect) exceedingly fateful Istanbul summer.  I had just met the man who was to become my partner and in our early weeks together he brought me to dozens of places throughout the city where halk music was played and danced to.  Drunk as I was, on rak and love, both, I felt the music drawing me into the very heart and soul of Turkey.  My sense is that the real center here is not the Akmerkez/Vakko/holding company set; rather, it is a deep, rich, resonant, vibrant,  multilevelled, multivalent core thats somehow managed to survive in spite of all thats been done to try and finish it.   

What is it about this music that had such a profound effect on me?  I think it must have something to do with the minor key.  The first time I heard the minor key was when I was a child.  My father was a pianist, and while I was growing up there was always music in the house.  We had a baby grand in the living room and often a group of musicians and singers would come and perform for each other.  I would hide my pajama-clad self in a corner near the hallway and watch.   Anyway, I remember my father playing records and among them was a recording of Middle Eastern music.  Of course, I didnt know what it was at the time; all I knew is that when the notes came they were a shock and it felt as if I was being enfolded and carried far, far away.  Aeons later, when I heard the same music during that summer here in Istanbul this childhood memory came flooding back.  I am convinced that the minor key has profound physiological and spiritual effects on the human being.  While all music allows us to change our consciousness, music in the minor key (or at least some of it, because Im certainly not including Arabesque music or the latest pop hit from Tarkan or Sibel Can in this category) seems to promote not only changing but developing consciousness.  In fact, Id go so far as to say that there is something about its most excellent forms that can carry us simultaneously outwards towards the farthermost reaches of the universe and inwards to encounter successively deeper levels of our self.

Just listening to the music is a powerful experience in itself.  I remember once, when a renowned dervish musician brought me to a Sufi tekke to listen to music that I was so taken by it I unconsciously started to move my hands and feet in time with it.  This just isnt done.  Possibly the only Sufis who include dance in their rituals are the whirling dervishes (all male) of the Mevlevi order and the Alevi who have a ritual dance called sema that couples perform.  This tekke didnt belong to either of those orders.  I felt eyes on me and it was the dervish, who had cocked his head to one side and was shaking his finger at me in soft admonition.  Later I asked him How can anybody not move to this music?  He answered by saying that there were other ways of moving besides using your body.  Hmm.  In the sixties a lot of people would have said that was heavy.  I wonder what they will say now that weve arrived in the 21st century.  I wonder if weve lost or gained . . .       

The music and the dance originated about 1000 years ago in the steppes of Asia.  Traditionally, the lyrics werent written down but instead were passed down through the generations by wandering poets, called klar, not at all unlike the medieval troubadours of Western Europe. Only some of these songs are mystical; others treat political and national events, still others deal with the entire gamut of personal human experience and emotion:  life transformations,  everyday events, romances (those that have gone well and those that have gone badly), being in exile, the loss of ones home, or ones beloved, or a family member; finally, there are whose which tell about the cycles of the earth:  the flourishing of crops, famine, flood, fire, and drought.   

Some examples?  Well, theres the early music of Zlf Livaneli, much of which comes under the heading of political and national and became associated with groups concerned with freedom and brotherhood during the 60s.  Joan Baez sang one of his songs, Leylim Ley, when she came here in 1986.  Then theres the genre to which Ak Veysels music belonged, one of his most memorable songs being Kara Toprak, which describes a near mystical connection with the earth.  There was Ruhi Su and now Rahmi Saltak, Tolga Chandar, Arif Sa, Skriye Tutkun, and Sadk Grbz, to name only a few.   .

Clearly Im on the side of those who like to move when listening to music, but here it must be said that dancing to Turkish music is decidedly not  like dancing to Western music.  Im not talking about slow dancing here, but the kind of dances we do to pop, rock, reggae and metal.  We tend to dance using jerky, staccato movements and our shoulders tend to be very, very stiff.  Turkish dance involves movements of the body, especially the arms, belly, and hips, that Westerners, particularly  women, dont feel  they can decently do outside the bedroom, if they do it there.  However, learning how to move that way is a profoundly freeing experience.  To learn how to move this way pushed my being way beyond what I once thought were ts limits and brought me into contact with aspects of myself Id never encountered before.  Ive also learned that dance can be an exquisitely nuanced way of expressing emotions that otherwise might never, ever have been manifested. 

Dance, when you are broken open.

Dance, if you have torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance in your blood.

Dance when you are perfectly free

(Jalahuddin Rumi, d. 1273.  Translated by Coleman Barks)

Lo and behold, here we are again.  More insight into the nature of being, and all because we find ourselves in Istanbul.   Theres got to be a meaning here.  Now, if only we can find it . . .  

No.1- April 2000 No.11 April 2001 No. 20 July 2002 No 29 April 2003
No.2 June 2000 No.12 May 2001 No. 22 September 2002 NO 30 MAY 2003
No.3 July/August 2000 No. 13 June 2001 No. 23   October 2002  NO 31 JUNE 2003
No.5 October 2000 No.14 July 2001 No 24 November 2002 NO 32 JULY 2003
No.7 December 2000 No.15 August 2001 No 25 DECEMBER  2002 NO 33 August 
No.8 January 2001
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Trke tercume
NO 16 September 2001 No 26 January 2003 No 34 September 
No.9 February 2001 No. 17 April 2002 No 27 February 2003 No 35 October 
No.10 March 2001 NO 19 JUNE 2002 No 28 March 2003 No 36 January 2004

No 37 February - March 2004 No 38 April 2004

 

Home

Contact Us

Hotels

Tours

Shops

Restaurants

Istanbul Life.Org : Ishak Pasa Caddesi No: 6 Floor : 2 Sultanahmet / ISTANBUL - TURKEY
Tel :
+ 90 (212) 458 13 19 Fax : + 90 (212) 458 13 19 - 458 13 18 E-mail : [email protected]

Istanbullife.ORG Suggested Links ;
Hotels in Istanbul,Turkey  : Charming hotels, 5 star hotels in Istanbul , 4 star hotels , 3 star hotels, 2 star hotels in Istambul Guest Houses in Estambul ,Hotels in Princess Island,Apartement ,Hotels in Adana,Ankara,Antalya,Kusadasi,Bodrum,Bursa , Cappadocia ,Pamukkale,Fethiye,Marmaris,Izmir
Tours in Istanbul ,Turkey : Package Tour in Istanbul , Bosphorus Tour in Estambul , Whirling Dervish Ceremony,Aegean 6 days tour , Cappadocia Tour , Daily Cappadoca Tour , Sivas Kangal Doctor Fish,
Rent A Car in Turkey : Rent A Car in Fethiye,Marmaris,Izmir,Adana,Bodrum,Kusadasi,Istanbul,Konya,Alanya,Side,Antalya,Bursa
Rent A Flat /Aparts  in Istanbul : Rent A Flat in Besiktas ,Sultanahmet,Yesilkoy,Taksim, etc...
Turkish and Ottoman Art Center :Online Shopping Center,Les Arts Turcs ,Art Gallery,Music in Turkey,Turkish Tiles,Home Decor