A story of negotiation and restriction…the unity of Arabic and Turkish music in the twentieth century

Music is a reflection of the patterns of life and thought and reflects the close acquaintance of Arabs and Turks and the influence of each on the other.

These two ancient nations co-existed for centuries in many regions from southern Anatolia to Egypt and from Iraq to Lebanon, where they influenced each other musically.

In his book “The Unity of Arabic and Turkish Music in the Twentieth Century”, recently published by “Al-Kalima Publications” for translation, translated by Malak Deniz Özdemir and Ahmed Zakaria, Turkish researcher Murat Özeldirim discusses the mutual influence between the Arabs. Has traced the history of. and the Turks, who lived together for 400 years.

It should be noted that the Turkish original of the book came out in 2013, and it traces the history of mutual musical influence and influence between Arab and Turkish cultures, before the establishment of the Ottoman Empire.

Researchers point out that the interaction between Arabs and Turks during the last century was based on Istanbul, which influenced many Arab countries musically. Istanbul was also influenced by Arabic music, and this influence is proven by the similarity of Arab and Turkish maqams and musical instruments.

Özeldirim deals with the issue of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's ban on classical Turkish music on radio, the Turks' reactions to it, and their attachment to the voices of Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab and Umm Kulthum. This led to an exchange of visits between the Arabs. And in addition to the visits of musicians, Turkish singers such as Abduh al-Hamouli, Munira al-Mahdiya and others visited Istanbul. Turks in Arab countries.

constant link

The author says that oriental music, performed by Arabs and Turks with similar maqams, appeals to the common musical tastes of Arabs and Turks. The performance of similar songs in Turkish and Arabic is one of the proofs of this common interest.

It tracks the course of musical relations in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, and reminds us that Arab and Turkish musical relations continued even after the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Ahmed Zakaria - Malak Deniz
Translators Ahmed Zakaria and Malak Deniz Ozdemir (Social Networking Sites)

The author believes that there was no complete rift between the Arabs and Turks at the musical level. One of the most prominent artists of that time was Zaki Muren, who was an icon of Turkish singing during the last century, as he never hid his influence by Arab icons such as the singer Umm Kulthum.

The author also mentions some names of Turkish artists who participated in the conversation about Arab-Turkish musical relations, including: painter Javidan Yül Arten, Nazif Aksarli, Sabiha Nazli Kalali, and Fakhr al-Din Aregali. Özildirim talks about the artistic and personal friendships that brought together Arab and Turkish artists such as Berihan Altındag Sözeri and Munir Nur al-Din Selçuk.

The book's translator says, “The borders drawn by Westerners in the twentieth century cannot eliminate cultural accumulation between Turks and Arabs.”

He said in his interview with Al Jazeera Net, “Despite the change in the nature of relations between the two countries after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, music stands out as an artistic branch that brings together works that Both societies hear the same sentiments.”

interaction between two cultures

Given the close historical ties between Arabs and Turks, the author believed that they are the true owners of the Middle East, as the two peoples have lived together for over a thousand years and are very similar culturally.

The author discusses the development of the art of singing in both countries, their interaction in classical music, and the artists' relations with each other, especially from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. He mentions that the real Turkish interaction and influence, which appeared strongly on Arabic music, began during the era of the Seljuk state (1037). -1194).

He affirmed that for this reason, with the Seljuk dominance of Baghdad in the middle of the 11th century, it became known that Turkish music had an influence on Arabic music.

The author points out that Turkish music was also influenced by the music of Arabs and other groups, and it is known that Sultan Murad IV (1612–1640) – returning from his campaign against Iran – brought musicians with him from Baghdad to Istanbul. .

Music also developed during the reign of Sultan Mehmed IV (1642-1693 AD). Artistic friendship has developed between Arab and Turkish musicians.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, the translator said, “The reason for musical interaction between Arabs and Turks was friendship, which was visible, for example, in the relationship of Turkish composer Munir Nur al-Din Selçuk with Muhammad Abdel Wahab. Selçuk played an important role in musical relations in the Arab world generally. “In Musical Relations between Arabs and Turks.”

historical unit

The author shows that at the beginning of the 20th century, Turkish and Arab peaceful coexistence became within the framework of historical unity. According to the author, this influence strengthened cultural unity and relations between them.

He emphasizes that classical Turkish music was influenced by the strong musical traditions of Iran, the Greek Orthodox Church, the ancient Syriac Church, and Arabic music. The author believes that the expansion of the empire's borders brought a common or similar musical taste among the countries living there under the same rule.

According to the author, this is why Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Arab composers, singers and theorists remained within the framework of deeply rooted Ottoman music for centuries.

story of ban

The author says, immediately after the proclamation of the Republic, many difficulties were being faced in teaching oriental music in Turkey.

According to the researcher, the most prominent phenomenon is the ban on broadcasting classical Turkish music on Turkish radio. In a famous concert held in Istanbul on the night of August 9, 1928, Atatürk (1881–1938) was invited to Saraya Bornu, in which the famous Egyptian singer Munira Mahdiya (1835–1965) and her band performed Arabic poems and Songs were performed. On the stage. Also included is a Turkish band and a foreign band performing jazz music.

The author shows how the Egyptian singer paid tribute to Atatürk, and then began to perform a selection of his famous songs, including a song that Atatürk loved to listen to when he was fifth in Syria between the years (1905 and 1906) Was in the army. The most interesting thing is that he sang a poem in praise of Atatürk, for which he received loud applause from the audience. After the ceremony Atatürk invited Mahdiya and advised him to learn Western music, saying, “With this voice the whole world listens to you, may your fame be complete.”

western model

The author says that as early as November 1934, the theme – which was mentioned by Atatürk in the opening speech of the National Assembly's fourth legislative year – was like an official victory for fans of Western music, as Atatürk initiated a change in the Western style. Was announced. music.

Regarding the inclination of some Turkish intellectuals towards Western music, the author says, “Some intellectuals following the Western model wanted to insult classical Turkish music at every opportunity.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, he said, “Turkish music was never music that was only heard in bars.” He adds, “This discourse has become merely a tool used by Western intellectuals to criticize and denigrate Turkish music.”

On the morning of November 2, 1934, the Turks woke up to the shocking news that Interior Minister Shukri Kaya had issued a circular completely banning the broadcasting of oriental music on radio programs, and allowing only Western music to be played. The musical pieces were broadcasted.

The author says in his speech, “Turkish audiences no longer interacted with Western classical music broadcast continuously on the radio, and began to follow Egyptian radio broadcasts, which often included works by Turkish composers such as Massoud Jamil Bey. Were shown.” That year.”

He continued, “The Turks resorted to Arab radio stations that broadcast the music that seemed closest to them. Although they do not understand the language, the style of compositions and instruments used are similar to Turkish music. “


The author states that the ban on classical Turkish folk music was lifted after 7 months, on September 6, 1936. Atatürk said the following following the decision to lift the ban: “Unfortunately, they misunderstood my words. I meant that we should do this.” Find a way for them (Westerners) to listen.” “For Turkish musical compositions which we listen to with pleasure. I didn't say we should get rid of Turkish tunes, but let's take Western music and make it our own.”

In his speech, the author believes that “Turkish-Arab musical relations will become stronger through extensive research and remembrance of the accumulation of layers of the past.”

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