Turkish music – More than just belly dance

There’s another very helpful way to learn Turkish or any other foreign language which I use to do and which I already introduced in many blog articles before. If you started to learn Turkish try to listen to some Turkish music. When coming to Istanbul visit some Music events and check out what the Turkish music has to offer. And believe me there’s much more than only belly dance which is a typical tourist attraction in the hotels of Side or Alanya. In this article I want to introduce to you some facts about Turkish music. On the picture you can see the beautiful Dolmabahçe Palace which you will also get to see when making a boat trip through the Bosporus. And the sultans palaces are a kind of birth place of Turkish music indeed.

Türkü – The real Turkish thing

There are more than 500 different melodies and the classic Turkish music which has been played in the palaces is called türkü. For European or American ears this very kind of music might sound a little bit yawning. And I have to tell you that you can’t measure it with our common tone scale system used in the American or European pop music or even in the classical music. But try to concentrate on it and try to pay attention if you can understand some words sung in Turkish. The singers of the türkü were called aşık or in the plural form aşıklar. In Turkish aşık also means to be in love and that’s what their songs usually were about. And while singing they were using an instrument you will still see in the streets or in the bars and night clubs of Istiklal Caddesi. It’s the Turkish guitar called saz or bağlama. By the way the Istiklal Caddesi is the main street of Istanbul right behind the famous Taksim Square and probably the most modern and most West European street in whole Istanbul.  And this here is a typical Turkish musician playing the saz at Eminönü Pier.

Istanbul 2018 026

Turkish influences in other music cultures

And if you remember my article I wrote about the Greek music a few months ago you will know that the bouzouki is not that typical Greek as we use to think. After Atatürk drove out the Greek inhabitants from Turkey in the 1920s they brought the Turkish musical influences to Greece. They created the rebétiko which is a Turkish inspired Greek music. Originally it has been played in the poor barriers of Athens and Thessaloniki and the lyrics were about poverty and misery. The bouzouki is actually nothing but the Greek version of the saz you can see on the picture there. It was Mikis Theodorakis who made it famous all over the world as typical Greek instrument. Many Greeks dislike this kind of music as they say that it’s too Turkish. However if you take a look at the music cultures in the Balkan region you will find many more examples of Turkish influences like chalga in Bulgaria, kiq and shund in Albania, turbofolk in Serbia or the famous manele in Romania which have been sung in the poor barriers of Bucharest.

Turkish music in the recent past

But let’s get back to Turkish music which also gained a huge polularity all over Europe thanks to Sezen Aksu which is the queen of Turkish pop music. Her songs are inspired by the French chansons but sung in Turkish. You will certainly also remember Tarkan with his summer hit of 1999 Şımarık. Another example when Turkish music and culture became popular in Europe is Sertab Erener who won the Eurovision Song Contest with Everyway that I can for Turkey back in 2003. It was a huge scandal as she was the first Turkish representative to sing exclusively in English. Furthermore she was singing about a topic women were not allowed to sing. The song was about a woman living in a harem trying to win the sultans attention which was underlined by the choreography. If you want to listen to Turkish music to improve your language skills just go for it and listen to Sezen Aksu, Mustafa Sandal or Burhan Öcal. And believe me it really helps to learn a new language!

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