"Zurna" and "kaval" in various sizes.


Forms of Turkish Folk Music

Turkish folk music can be divided into two most basic groups:

1) Folk songs (with lyrics)
2) Instrumental folk melodies

Even though such a division is valid, the Turkish folk music tradition is founded on songs. Consequently 95% of the existing repertoire is comprised of songs with lyrics.  The instrumental melodies occur mostly in the form of dance pieces.  From this standpoint, despite this division, the vocal pieces' formal structures and genres must be addressed together, because these genres contain the fundamental elements that determine the forms.  The word türkü, or "folk song," is a general term that applies to all melodies containing lyrics in the Turkish folk music tradition, with no distinction between forms.  Local terms are used for certain dance tunes and instrumental pieces.  Generally accepted to be derived from the word "Türk," the word türkü refers to the anonymous songs of the Turkish people.

Türkü lyrics generally concern a particular event; either one major enough to interest an entire people, or some local happening within a narrow environment.  Love, exile, death, going off to war, flood, wars, etc. are some chief examples.

In this light, it is possible to divide Turkish folk songs into two main forms and these are only translations of the literal terms in Turkish, and don't necessarily reflect length, or "brokenness" in a piece.

1) Uzun Hava ("Long air")
2) Kirik Hava ("Broken air")

1) Uzun Hava ("Long air")

Uzun Havas are free rhythm (parlando) pieces.  This form shows no regular rhythm, but rather is sung according to certain traditional patterns.  The term "uzun hava" is not in common folk use; more common are the names of particular forms of uzun hava, such as hoyrat, maya, bozlak, elezber, müztezat, tecnis, baraka havasi, gurbet havasi etc.

Types of Uzun Hava

HOYRAT:  Hoyrats are a form of uzun hava built on quatrains which often contain allusions and plays on words.  They are sung throughout Eastern Anatolia, Southeast Anatolia and Kerkük, which today lies within the borders of Iraq.  Hoyrats are referred to by a variety of names, some of which include gelin (bride) hoyrati, nöbetçi (watchman) hoyrati, muhalif (contrary) hoyrati, kesik (cut) hoyrat and muçula hoyrati.

MAYA:  The maya is one of the most common types of uzun hava in Turkish folk music, and is found in almost every region.  The uzun hava is sung in free form after an instrumental introduction, which may be rhythmic.  In between verses, the same instrumental break is played.  Most common in the east and southeast of the country, Mayas can concern any and all natural social events.

BOZLAK:  The word "bozlak" means to wail, to cry out, and bozlaks are a musical crying out, that does remind one of a wail.  In addition to being common in Central Anatolia, they are also sung in the provinces of Maras and Antep.  Taking A as the fundamental, their second degree is B-flat (half tone) or B 3-komas-flat (quarter tone).  The most common types of bozlak are: Avsar bozlagi, Türkmen bozlagi, Kirsehir bozlagi, Sekerdagi bozlagi, Kirat bozlagi, Katircioglu bozlagi and Aydost bozlagi

GURBET HAVASI:  The style of uzun hava sung and played in the "teke region" of southwest Turkey is called gurbet (exile) havasi, because the lyrics of these songs have to do mostly with exile and longing.  Some of the best known gurbet havas include: Avsar Beyleri (The Avsar lords), Güllük Dagi (Rose mountain), Ne Dönersin Kahpe Felek (Double-crossing fortune, what do you have in store for me?), Çiktim Gurbet Ele Geri Gelinmez (I've gone to exile abroad, there's no return).

DIVAN:  Divans constitute a special form, in terms of prosodic as well as syllabic meter.  Divans are sun in the metric pattern (in Turkish terms) "failatün / failatün / failatün / failün," or the syllabic pattern 11-15.  In most cases, a rhythmic instrumental introduction is followed by a verse of the uzun hava, and the piece continues with alternate instrumental and vocal sections.  Divans with free-rhythm (parlando rubato) instrumental sections also exist.  Though divans are performed in many areas of Anatolia, they occur mostly in Central and Eastern Anatolia.

AGIT:  Laments.  These are uzun havas that deal with natural as well as certain personal events which have left deep scars on the collective consciousness.  In the character of their melodies, agits display a strong regional character.  Examples of their subjects might be a natural disaster such as a flood or earthquake; the early death of a bride, or the loss of a young man at war.  They are mostly sung for one who has died.  In almost every region of Anatolia, well known professional female lament singers sing laments for the deceased, the words of which deal with the events surrounding his/her death.  Agits may be in kirik hava as well as uzun hava form.

2) Kirik Hava ("Broken air")

Kirik Havas are pieces of a definite rhythmic character and meter.  Along with a regular rhythm, they are also sung within traditional patterns.  Many kirik havas are also dance pieces as well.  Like the term "uzun hava," the term "kirik hava" is also not much used in the folk context; as above, local terms describing particular forms are more common.  Some of these include karsilama, halay, bar, horon, bengi, zeybek, semah and teke zotlatmasi.

Types of Kirik Hava

Kirik havas, which as mentioned above are rhythmic pieces, are found in all parts of the country.  They do not always have lyrics; they also include purely instrumental tunes.

The names of different types of kirik havas change according to region, as well as context and purpose for which they are performed, and usually accompany a dance, giving rise to the term "oyun havasi" (dance tune).  However sung oyun havasis also hold a significant place Turkish folk music.  Every region has its own special characteristics of playing and singing, as well as literary, musical and stylistic characteristics.  This is a reflection of characteristics such as the region's social life, geographical features and economic situation.

DEYIS:  This is a term used in almost every region of Anatolia in the sense of any song with lyrics.  A more specific use though, is to designate songs sung among the Alevi-Bektasi societies which are based on the poetry of a specific asik.  Deyis may have mysticism as their subject, as well as various social issues.

NEFES:  Mostly sung in Bektasi society, these are musical ilahîs (hymns) with either mystical or social content.

ILAHÎ:  Ilahîs are songs/hymns sung during the rituals in the lodges where mystic Islam is practiced, in nearly every region of Anatolia.  There is no limit from the standpoint of melodic character.  But the themes of ilahîs are mostly of a mystic character.  Alongside these, there are also ilahîs which are sung during rituals such as henna nights and weddings.

HALAY: The halay is a dance form prevalent in eastern and southeastern Anatolia.  Though usually composed of just one section, halays sometimes appear with several sections as well.  When they contain more than one section, the sections are generally played end-to-end as in a western style medley, and with increasing tempo.  Occurring in both song and purely instrumental forms, halays are usually danced in the open air, accompanied by davul and zurna.  The main halay regions are Kirseyir, Sivas, all of Southeast Anatolia, and Yozgat and its environs.  Halays and their sections are known by particular regional names such as agirlama (welcoming/greeting), yanlama (listing/leaning), sikistirma (sqeezing together), ikileme (doubling), yeldirme (causing to run) etc.

BAR:  Bars are dance tunes that are sung and danced in Northeastern Anatolia, starting from the region of Artvin in the north, through Kars, Erzurum, one section of Erzincan, Agri and Van.  As in halays, if there are sections, they are played end-on-end.  There are bars with lyrics as well as without.  In addition, there are women's and men's bars, with different characteristics.

Women's bars:
Çift Beyaz Güvercin (A pair of white pigeons), Asaktan Gelirem (I'm coming up from below)

Men's Bars:
Bas Bar (Main bar), Ikinci Bar (Second bar)

SEMAH:  These are dance songs, played and sung in the context of religious ceremonies of the Alevi and Bestasi communities. The name changes according to region, with variants such as semah, zemah, zamah, zamak, etc.  The distribution of semahs over the country is a subject that has not yet been addressed, but wherever there are Alevis or Bektasis, there are sure to be semahs.  Semahs may be "turned" (danced) by men and women together, as well as only by men or women.  They are performed by a minimum of two people, though there may be many more.  Semahs are generally accompanied by baglamas of varying dimensions.  In addition, they may be accompanied by kabak kemane (gourd fiddle) in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions; and in Eastern and Central Anatolia, they are sometimes accompanied by violin.  Though semahs occur in a variety of different rhythms, most of those collected at present are in meters of 9.  Semahs are played and danced during the final sections of religious gatherings known as cems.  They may contain only one or several sections.  Below are several classifications of semahs:

Semahs referred to by the names of provinces, districts or towns:
Erzincan semahi, Keskin semahi, Siran semahi

Semahs referred to by the names of birds and animals:
Turnalar (Cranes) semahi, Kirat (gray horse) semahi

Semahs referred to by the names of people and groups of people:
Hizir Pasa semahi, Koyun Baba semahi, Kirklar semahi, Hubyar semahi

ZEYBEK:  The zeybek is a form of dance tune, either with or without lyrics, that is sung and danced throughout the Aegean region and parts of the Mediterranean region.  Men and woman dance it separately.  The men's zeybeks have a heroic air to them.  Zeybeks are danced first and foremost to the accompaniment of davul and zurna, but also to instruments such as the baglama family, kabak kemane (gourd fiddle), darbuka (vase-shaped drum) and kasik (wooden spoons).  They occur in slow, medium and quick tempos.  Zeybeks are also encountered in some other provinces of the country, including Ankara, Çankiri and Kastamonu.

TEKE ZORTLATMASI:  Played and danced in the Teke region of southwestern Turkey, these are lively and quick dance tunes.  Teke zortlatmasis are in meters of 9.

HORON (Horan, Horom): This generally lively dance form is concentrated in the eastern Black Sea region.  They are sung and danced chiefly to the accompaniment of the local three-string fiddle, the kemençe, but are also accompanied at times by davul and zurna, kaval, or tulum (double-bore bagpipe).  Besides the 7 and 9 meters which are most common, mixed meters also occur within the horon group.

HORO:  Performed in Thrace, these tunes are mostly in meters of 2 and 4 as opposed to the karsilama form.

KARSILAMA:  Derived from the word karsi, meaning "across, opposite," this dance form occurs mainly in Thrace and the Marmara region, as well as in the provinces of Giresun and Ordu.  Mostly 9-meter, these are known in various parts of Anatolia as "karsi-beri" (across-and-hither) and "var-gel" (go-and-come).